I get asked about X-Ray search all the time. The question cropped up again at the UK Sourcers meetup in Leeds this February.
It’s one of those terms that gets thrown around, along with search strings and boolean, to mean “whatever it is you do with Google to get those impressive search results that I can’t get”.
Well, all these terms do actually mean something.
A search string is just whatever you’ve typed into Google (or whatever database you are searching). Even if it’s just two words, that’s your search string.
Boolean is a type of mathematical logic. All databases use Boolean logic to return results for the search strings you enter. Boolean pretty much covers using the concepts AND, OR and NOT in your search strings.
An X-Ray search, sometimes called a site search, is a technique you can use on search engines like Google and Bing. X-Raying is a way to finding web pages from just one specific website.
If I type the search string site:sourcinghat.co.uk into Google, it will show me all the pages from this website that Google has indexed and has stored in its database.
X-Raying is actually very simple but don’t be fooled – it’s a ridiculously useful search technique that I use all the time.
My Top 5 uses for X-Ray search
Search company sites
If you have a list of target companies, why not run a quick X-Ray search on their websites? Look for job titles, contact details or news.
Search industry sites
Industry news sites can be a great source of names. Don’t forget associations and events too. Some of these searches can be useful when teamed up with Google Alerts.
Search sites with lots of user profiles
X-Ray searching LinkedIn is key skill for all recruiters and sourcers but you can X-Ray search any site with lots of user profiles like About.me, Branded.me, Github, Meetup, Stackoverflow, Viadeo, Xing.
Search for personal webpages
Did you know that you can also do a site search on a top level domain? Lots of people use .me domain names for their personal websites. Try searching something like site:me “download my cv” with some of your own keywords and see what you can find.
Taking sites out of your search results
I use this a lot when cross referencing a person I have found on LinkedIn. Sometimes LinkedIn is all over the search results I get on Google. To take them out and see what else is out there, we can use the minus sign with the site operator like this: