There is just too much confusion about so-called “Boolean search” so I’d like to clarify a few basic things:
- Booleans are simply three LOGICAL OPERATORS: AND OR NOT. In search engines you don’t need the AND because its always assumed by default, so forget about it. That leaves you with two: OR and NOT. The The OR is called a logical disjunction, sometimes an inclusive disjunction or alternation in mathematics. In English grammar or is a coordinating conjunction, and in ordinary language it sometimes has the meaning of an exclusive disjunction. Bottom line is that when you use OR the result is “true” whenever one or more of the words are matched. There, now you know Boolean search.
- When recruiters talk about “Boolean search” what they are really talking about is creating search strings, sometimes using advanced commands or complex search syntax to query specific fields inside of databases.
- Well, that’s the end of my list.
Search syntax has been around since the beginning of databases. Each “database” (lumping in Monster, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook under that term) has its own set of field search commands. When searching a database what we search are “fields;” for example, “Company Name, ” “Email Address, ” and so on.
You use fields to search your Outlook when you ask for people with a specific name or when you query by “job title” on Monster or LinkedIn. The “big search engines” also use fields and they share some in common, such as intitle, inurl, site, and filetype. That’s what recruiters and sourcers often misconstrue as “Boolean search.” In fact, the only Booleans used are the assumed AND between every search term, the occasional OR as with (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume), and the rare use of the NOT or AND NOT when applying negative search terms such as -jobs or -submit.
Search can be as simple or complex as we want it to be, but at the end of the day we are limited only to words in the fields of a database. That is, until the promise of Semantic Search.
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