Do you really need capital letters to make Boolean search work?

searching

When were you last nagged about using capital letters? Probably when you were in Primary school.

That won’t be the case if you have recently been in a training session with me! I am always nagging recruiters to write OR in capital letters in their searches.

The truth is, you don’t always need to write AND, OR and NOT in all capital letters. In fact, you don’t even have to type the words most of the time. It gets a bit complicated when I try to explain all the rules and exceptions to the rules.

The concepts of AND, OR and NOT are used to query every database whether it’s Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, a job board CV database, or your ATS. How you actually type your query may need to be different though.

My tips for getting your search to work anywhere:

AND

What you should do: Don’t bother typing it, just leave a space between your keywords.
Note: A few job boards require you to type it in, but it doesn’t take long to click a help button on the search page and find out. Reed.co.uk will even type the ANDs in for you if you forget them.

OR

What you should do: Type OR in capital letters.
Note: Some job boards will accept both lower and upper case  ORs. Tools like Google and LinkedIn need you to type OR in capital letters, although they are getting a little better at guessing what we mean and helping us out if we make a mistake. Capital ORs will always work though.
The exception: When I say always… the Twitter search tool Followerwonk requires you to use the pipe symbol (|) in place of OR. Google will also understand that too. e.g. uk|england|london

NOT

What you should do: Use the minus sign (-). Type it right up against the term you don’t want to see in your search results. e.g. -jobs or -site:linkedin.com
Note: LinkedIn tells us that NOT (typed in capital letters) works more reliably than the minus sign. I have not seen this to be the case, both seem to work intermittently for me.

My best advice is to know what you are expecting to see in your search results. That way, if your results don’t look right, you can attempt to diagnose your search string. This is good advice even if you are confident with the language used by a search tool, as they do sometimes change the way they work without telling us.

Leave a Reply