CV Database Techniques: Using Boolean Logic For Applicant Searches
What is Boolean Logic?
Developed by mathematician George Boole in the mid-19th century, Boolean logic is the basis of modern computer logic and is used to build logical expressions.
There are three basic operations in Boolean logic: AND, OR and NOT. You can also use brackets ( ) to partition a search. These can be used to create search queries that allow you to search a CV database more effectively. For example, you might use Boolean logic to search for candidates who have certain skills or qualifications.
How Boolean Logic Can Help Search a CV Database
Here are a few examples using AND, OR and NOT:
- To search for candidates who have specific skills, use the AND operator. For example, enter “software AND developer” to find candidates who have both “software” and “developer” listed on their CVs.
- To search for candidates who have one of several skills and to allow for alternative spellings, use the OR operator. For example, enter “accountant OR bookkeeper OR book keeper OR book-keeper” to find CVs containing “accountant” or “bookkeeper” and allow for spelling variants.
- To exclude candidates who have a specific skill or qualification, use the NOT operator. For example, enter “sales NOT manager” to find candidates who have “sales” but not “manager” on their CVs.
Using ( ) can help you partition search queries. For example:
- Search for “software AND (developer OR engineer)”.
- Streamline a query, for example “accountant OR (bookkeeper OR book keeper OR book-keeper)”.
- Similarly, enter “sales OR telesales NOT (manager or management)”.
Be Careful When Using Boolean Logic
By combining operators in various ways, you can create complex search queries that allow you to find the most relevant candidates in a CV database. However, bear in mind the following:
- There can be false positives. These are cases where your keywords are contained in CVs that aren’t actually relevant. For example, after searching “sales manager” a CV might come up because it contains the phrase “reporting to the sales manager”.
- You expect jobseekers to include all relevant information on their CVs. But they may use synonyms you hadn’t thought of or leave out relevant experience because it was a long time ago.
- It’s easy to make a mistake. The input fields are often small, making it difficult to review queries (I recommend writing them in a document then copying and pasting over). Boolean search queries are sensitive: one operator in the wrong place and the results won’t be what you think you asked for.
Boolean logic could save you time in refining search queries in CV databases. But if you’re not used to it, you may be left with a nagging feeling that you might have done it wrong. If that’s you, forget about Boolean logic and instead use broad keywords and phrases. For example, instead of “software developer” search for “developer”.