advanced sourcing

I regularly run free recruitment software and technology webinars. Yesterday’s webinar on Advanced Internet Sourcing for Recruiters proved more popular than most. Above is the video, with my notes on what happened.

I wanted to convey the sheer scale of the subject of recruitment sourcing while also focus on some useful techniques that can give an immediate benefit. It’s really mind-blowing the number of sources of information available to recruiters. Resources like their own database, Job boards, Social media sites, every other internet site, the dark web, and all those other places that aren’t even on the internet.

As a developer of recruitment software, I may be a little biased. But I do firmly believe that the most important of all of these is a recruiter’s own information management system. It should have the best quality of data. The people in it are the easiest to contact and happiest to speak to you. And it should provide the very best search tools. If it doesn’t, then you are doing something wrong and that is a problem that needs fixing long before you start to think about clever Boolean strings to try out on Google. Glen Cathy, the Boolean Black Belt, wrote a great blog post about this topic called ‘Is your AST a black hole or a diamond mine’.

Simple Boolean Search
My first demonstration keeps things as simple as possible. I simply typed ‘Accountant Belfast CV’ into Google to see what would come up. No surprise – I got a lot of results. This is the much-overlooked problem of search. The difficulty is not finding useful stuff, and getting rid of the other stuff that you just don’t want.

I’m running the risk of moving from an advanced webinar to a basic one. But there are a few fundamentals to Boolean search that it is always worth focusing on.

Google assumes the word AND between each of your words, so my original search could have been written
Accountant AND Belfast AND CV
Strangely if you try this, Google does give slightly different results, I have no idea why this is.

It may be obvious, although easily forgotten, but there are very many alternatives to each of these keywords. I can improve my search using the OR operator.
(Accountant OR Accountancy OR Accountants OR ACCA OR CIMA)
(Belfast OR “Northern Ireland”)
(CV OR Resume OR Vitae OR Vitea)
Most important in this phrase are the brackets. If you are using the OR operator you will almost certainly need brackets. The ANDs are assumed by Google to be between each set of brackets.

Notice my deliberate spelling mistake,. I make this mistake all the time, so there is a good chance there are accountants out there who do the same. Also, notice the characters around Northern Ireland. This tells Google that I want that exact phrase and not simply the words Northern and Ireland

I could at this stage use the ~ character in front of any of my search terms to tell Google to include any other words it thinks are similar or related.

This type of search is designed to get as many results as possible. Generally, it works best to start as wide as possible and then start to reduce the list down.

First off, a lot of the results were job adds. To remove some of these I can add
-job –jobs –recruitment
into my search string and immediately I see an improvement.
If I really want to cut down the results, I can be very focused and use the intitle: Google operator to just look for web pages where the page title refers to a CV, rather than the body text.
(intitle:CV OR intitle:Resume OR intitle:Vitae OR intitle:Vitea)


One of my favourite ways to find people is to switch to the image search on Google. There is a refinement on the search to only find faces but often this is not necessary. I first started looking at this for the South African recruitment market. Recruiters in South Africa are in the unusual position of having to select a candidate by race early on in the process, and photographs are a good way to do this. That said, photographs are a great way to find sites that reference real people. Clicking on the image, or even hovering over this image is often enough to tell me if there is something worth further investigation.

X-Ray Searches

I’ve often spoken about using the site: operator in conjunction with LinkedIn searches. In the webinar, I wanted to show how this operator can be used for any site and give really interesting results. I chose to show a Google Plus search which in hindsight was not that adventurous but at least if gave some instant results. Accountant Belfast
Using the site: operator is really very powerful and can be used on any web site. I’ve often used it on job boards as very many of them have profile pages for each of their clients and this gives me quite in interesting prospect list.

Used in conjunction with the inurl: operator it is very effective at returning a very clean set of results.

inurl: tells Google to return only pages with certain text in the URL of the web site. Putting a sign in front of it asks Google to give you everything other than that text. For my initial search, therefore, I can remove career pages by adding
-inurl:career –inurl:careers
For users of Bing, the other main search engine. I had long thought that there was not an equivalent to the inurl: operator, however, I was recently at Geoff Webbs Radical Planet event in Toronto and there Johnny Campbell of Social Talent, told me about the operator instreamset:(url): which seems to work really well.

File Type Searches

Perhaps of all my webinar examples, it was the use of the filetype: operator that received the most reaction. It really is quite amazing what some people put on the internet and when you look for excel spreadsheets, in particular, there is almost a sense of “am I really supposed to be seeing this?”.
I wanted to find lists of people and tried this search
filetype:xls email (surname OR “last name” OR Name) (“job title” OR position
Adding in a few keywords to focus my search and I can pull down thousands of names and contact details. Is it any wonder there is so much spam in the world.

Of course, this is only the most basic use of the filetype: operator it can be used for any type of file. Other common file types include
(filetype:xls OR filetype:xlsx) for MS Excel
(filetype:xls OR filetype:xlsx) for MS Word
(filetype:jpeg OR filetype:gif OR filetype:tif) for images
(filetype:mp3 OR filetype:raw OR filetype:m4p) for music (these techniques don’t have to be used just for recruitment)

Martin Lee, of the LinkedIn Group Cool (free) tools for recruiting, suggested I look at filetype:com This seems to return web pages within web pages so there really is no limit to the uses of this type of search. Martin is an expert sourcer and an inspiration to me in learning sourcing techniques. I have not been able to find any practical application for this particular search but I have no doubt that Martin has.

Google Custom Search

Finally, I wanted to talk about something that really is for the advanced sourcer. Not that Custom Searches are difficult to use but just that they are not commonly used. This is a pity, as it is a really good way to share clever searches and make complex searching very easy and very repeatable.

I used a Google Custom Search when I was investigating the problem of finding new vacancies before everyone else. I first created a search to give just Linkedin profiles and then added a refinement to find just the profiles of people who had just changed jobs. My theory is that their previous employer is now in need of a replacement employee. In this way, I can very quickly run quite complex searches, but I can also allow anyone else to use this complex search without them needing to know the detail of the Boolean search string I am using.

For a demonstration of how easy it is to create a custom search, please watch the video of the webinar. If you’d like to try my LinkedIn/Vacancy search, you can try it here.

Google Custom Search can be a very simple tool, however it provides a platform to do really clever things.

Share and Sign up for future webinars

If you like this blog or any of my videos, I would be very pleased if you share this with your community. Please share on Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and anywhere else you can find. Please connect with me on Linkedin, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. I run regular webinars so if you’d like me to notify you of the next one by email, please let me know.

I earn my living developing recruitment software systems for recruiters. If you feel that sourcing techniques give you an edge on your competitors, then you are very likely to feel my software system will also give you a very significant advantage. If you’d like to learn more about Intelligence then please call me at any time and I’ll be delighted to talk.

My next free webinar in on Thursday, July 19th, 2012. If you would like me to email you the details of this and future webinars, you are welcome to subscribe to my mailing list here.

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