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- Recruiters are routinely looking up keywords using “and,” or,” or “not” in their searches to track down prospective job candidates on LinkedIn. This is known as boolean logic.
- Three recruiters shared with Business Insider how job seekers can optimize their profiles for the boolean methodology.
- They suggested including keywords on your profile and resume that are relevant to your experience and roles you’re interested in.
- If you’re stuck on finding the right words, select three to five words from job descriptions and brainstorm different ways recruiters might search for specific titles.
- It’s possible to do too much when it comes to optimizing your profile, so avoid keyword stuffing and using dated, useless terms.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Boolean logic — if it sounds like a phrase straight out of an algebra textbook, that’s because it is. Developed by a 19th century mathematician, this research method allows people to seek out information using “and,” “or,” or “not” phrases and is widely used among recruiters as a way to filter through job candidate profiles with efficiency and speed.
And job seekers who want to increase their visibility — making sure their information shows up among the results when filters meant to narrow the field of candidates are applied — can benefit if they take the time to learn the ins and outs of this approach.
“Most recruiters use boolean logic, which is essentially advanced keyword searching, to track down prospective candidates on LinkedIn,” said George Atuahene, founder and managing director of Kofi Group, an executive search firm that helps VC-backed startups funded by investors like Andreessen Horowitz hire technical talent.
The three three words mentioned above — “or,” “and,” and “not” — along with quotation marks, brackets, and other symbols help define what shows up in search results on LinkedIn, company databases, applicant tracking systems, job boards, and more, and helps recruiters single out candidate profiles that contain specific desired keywords.
“LinkedIn alone has over 706 million users, so it would be nearly impossible to sort through the thousands of potential candidates without advanced keyword searching,” he said.
“Candidates who want to get more attention from recruiters should intentionally include skill-based keywords on their LinkedIn profile that have relevance to their area of expertise,” he added.
Candidates Atuahene has advised to make this kind of change have increased their inbound messages from recruiters by over 300%.
“In fact, we’ve had some of our candidates increase their inbound messages from recruiters and hiring managers by 10X just from adding one keyword,” he said.
Recruiters use boolean searches to find candidates with the right titles and skills
Atuahene shared a real example a recruiter on his team used to search for a software engineer on LinkedIn:
(“engineer” OR “developer”) AND “node” AND “react” AND (“aws” OR “gcp”)
“This means that LinkedIn will return search results for profiles that contain the keywords ‘Node’ and ‘React,’ along with the various titles and cloud-related keywords that are in parentheses,” he said.
Other variants of the above Boolean search string might include keywords like “computer science” and “product development,” he added.
For another position, such as a data scientist or machine learning engineer, Atuahene shared that a potential search string could look like:
(“scientist” OR “engineer”) AND “python” AND (“machine learning” OR “decision tree” OR “regression”)
And for a high-performing SaaS sales position, his team would use the following:
(“account executive” OR “sales” OR “business development”) AND “saas” AND “quota” AND “presidents club”
“This is precisely why it’s crucial to make sure your LinkedIn profile and resume contain specific keywords that are both relevant to your recent experience and the job opportunities you are interested in,” he said.
“If multiple skills are required for a position, we might use ‘and’ to make sure that only candidates who have each of those skills listed appear,” added Amanda Daering, who worked in recruiting and HR for Northwestern Mutual, Compuware, and Centare before launching her own boutique HR and recruiting firm, Newance, which has helped place candidates at high growth startups and VC firms. “We might use ‘not’ to eliminate a common word that might not apply to a given role. For instance, if I see too many recruiters rather than engineers appearing in the search I might add in ‘NOT recruiter’ to remove them from the results.”
Jim Goldfarb, the senior vice president of Atlantic Partners Corp, a recruiting agency used by Fortune 500 companies, who has more than 25 years of experience and has placed candidates at Prudential Insurance, Morgan Stanley, WebMD, and UBS, said that his company uses “and” and “or” the most. “Or” helps his company expand the pool of potential candidates, while “and” helps them “weed out” profiles that don’t match the key criteria they’re searching for.
Where job seekers can get ideas for what keywords to include on their LinkedIn profiles
Take a look at the keywords used in the job descriptions for the positions you’re interested in, Atuahene said. Select three to five to start, and see if you can identify any patterns in the keywords.
“Focus on the ‘required experience’ and ‘preferred experience’ sections,” he added. If certain keywords show up multiple times across all three to five job descriptions — and they’re relevant to your experience — then work them into your LinkedIn profile and resume, including details about how and where you’ve used these skills.
Daering added that it can help to think about the different ways a recruiter might search for a given job title.
“For example, a job description may list ‘project management’ rather than ‘PM,'” she said. “A good boolean search might include ‘project manag* AND PM,’ but making sure to check for those discrepancies will help a job seeker be found without relying on the recruiter’s boolean skills. That spelling on project manag* is intentional, as an asterisk helps search partial words like manager or managed.”
Goldfarb recommended that candidates who’ve used a technology, system, or program in the past include them on their resume or LinkedIn. While any web developer can say that they’ve created “beautiful websites utilizing the latest technology,” that won’t match what recruiters are searching for.
Keyword placement, frequency, and endorsements matter
LinkedIn ranks results higher based on how often a given search keyword is used, how high up the keyword is on the profile, and how many people have endorsed someone for that skill, according to Atuahene.
Given that, he recommended that candidates evaluate which keywords will best fit in their LinkedIn headline as well as the descriptions for each position listed under “experience,” and which skills to add to (and seek out endorsements for) their “skills and endorsements” section.
For example, software engineers who have worked with Node and React for several years may consider changing their headline to read: “Software Engineer | Node and React.”
“This alone will give you a huge advantage when it comes to appearing on the first page of search results,” Atuahene said.
But nobody benefits from irrelevant keyword stuffing
While it certainly helps to use the same keyword or phrase more than one time, it only does so if those words are relevant to a candidate’s experience.
“For example, if you started your career working with C++ and now work with Node, assuming you want to continue working with Node it would be best to either not mention C++ at all or only mention once toward the bottom of your profile,” Atuahene said.
“As long as the keywords you use are supported by actual work you’ve done and are incorporated into complete sentences on your profile, then there’s such a thing as having too many keywords,” he added.
Include samples and recommendations that support the keywords you’ve used and avoid dated information and jargon
“Adding a portfolio with recent projects, a link to a website with your bio, a cover letter, or letter of recommendation can go a long way in converting your profile views into real job opportunities,” Atuahene said.
Having 10 to 20 keywords in your LinkedIn summary may help you show up in search results and lead to profile views, but this approach won’t necessarily translate into interview opportunities.
“Many hiring managers have started using a term called ‘alphabet soup’ for the section at the top of resumes where many candidates seem to indiscriminately list any and all keywords they’ve heard of which could pertain to the job they’re applying for, but most of the time candidates who do this only have strong experience with less than half of the keywords on their resume,” Atuahene added.
For a more strategic approach, candidates should focus on five to 10 of the most popular and relevant keywords. And, according to Goldfarb, including out-of-date technologies or programs no one has ever heard may be seen as red flags by recruiters.