Limiting Factor


When conducting your searches, you are usually looking for a list of qualifications. You use these qualifications as your keywords. They may be “skills” on a job board. The “limiting factor” is going to be the skill or keyword that will return the least number of results. Identifying your limiting factor can help you return the optimum number of results in your boolean searches.

When you string together a list of keywords using the AND operator you are reducing the number of results. As you add in the OR operator, your number of results will increase.

Let’s say you only have 4 key search terms: A, B, C, and D. On their own, A will return 100 results, B 75, C 50, and D 25. When you string these keywords together using the AND operator, the most results you can get are 25 (since D is your limiting factor at 25). Most likely, you will get significantly less than 25 since you are looking for A AND B AND C AND D. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s look for someone with Java, Ruby, Python, and Perl experience in Abilene, TX: | “abilene tx” java AND ruby AND python AND perl


We get a message that there are NO results for our query. Then of course, Google suggests we use the search without the quotes.

Let’s do an experiment where we use the same string, but only one of the key terms at a time.

JAVA | “abilene tx” java


Using java, we get 90 results.

RUBY | “abilene tx” ruby


Using Ruby, we get 71 results.

PYTHON | “abilene tx” python


Using Python, we get 12 results.

PERL | “abilene tx” perl


Using Perl, we get 15 results.

Python and Perl are pretty close, but it looks like Python is our limiting factor in this search. We now know, FOR sure, that using this term will severely limit our results. We will not have as much trouble finding Java or Ruby folks, but the difficult part of our search is going to be the Python and Perl parts.

So, how is this going to effect your boolean strategy? We are going to use OR statements with our Python and Perl search terms.

You might look at your results with the Python search string and look at companies where that person worked. In turn, you could use those companies in an OR string with Python. You would be looking for someone who HAS the other skills, but WORKED in an environment that uses Python. Use the results for your limiting factor as clues. Maybe call THOSE 12 people and speak to them about where to go next. Maybe use keywords that indicate what Python is used for, like scripting or programming. That may not be 100% accurate, but you get the idea.

In a difficult search, identifying your limiting factor in the beginning is going to make your life much easier. Even in a simpler search, you are going to cut down the number of people you end up calling.

Another strategy using your limiting factor may be to leave it out of your search. It may be that people are not including this skill on their resumes or profiles. You may want to call people that have all of the other skills and just ask them about your limiting factor.

Finding a limiting factor on a job board is usually pretty simple. There will often be a drop down menu on the left hand side that lists several skills and includes the number of people in your list that have that skill set. I know I have seen it on CareerBuilder. Take the time to play around with this function!

What are we taking away from this posting?

1. The limiting factor on your search is the skill/keyword that will return the least number of results.

2. Using the AND operator decreases the number of results.

3. Using the OR operator increases the number of results.

4. Combine the OR operator with your limiting factor or even leave your limiting factor out of your search.

How have you used limiting factors in your searches?


Resumes on Personal Websites


Always know where your target candidates are! If you are sourcing for certain roles, they may be likely to have their own website with a resume. I have found that people on the front-end of web development and some marketers will have their own sites with personal information. Let’s take a look at how to farm out this information.

The challenge with this search is getting around sites that provide resume services.

To start, target your Boolean towards resumes. People may use “resume” or a similar word, such as curriculum vitae (cv), portfolio, or have an “about me” section. What other terms do you find people use? Always pay attention to the vernacular you see being used and incorporate it into your search string.

On Google, you can use the “inurl” designator; “intitle” is another option. Remember that the title of a webpage is that part that appears in the tab of the web browser. In many blogs the information will be redundant. For example, on WordPress (where this blog is written), the title of the blog will be incorporated into the title of the page and the url.

The base of my Boolean looks something like this:

inurl:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact | intitle:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact

This is the base, so it is replacing the xray or site search portion of my Boolean string. I will try and keep it towards the back of my Boolean string. We will need to evaluate if it is necessary to include spaces between the keywords. If so, the search string is going to be much longer:

inurl:resume | inurl:cv | inurl:vitae | inurl:portfolio | inurl:about | inurl:contact | intitle:resume | intitle:cv | intitle:vitae | intitle:portfolio | intitle:about | intitle:contact


Next, we will target the file the resume (or equivalent) is created in. This may not be necessary if you are targeting someone’s profile information. However, I have seen many times people load a pdf version of their resume onto the website instead of having the resume as a separate page. They may have both. What is more prevelant in the field you are sourcing? You will want to try the search with and without the following portion of the search string:

filetype:pdf | filetype:docx | filetype:doc

The operator “filetype” works on both Bing and Google.

Let’s put together what we have so far:

filetype:pdf | filetype:docx | filetype:doc inurl:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact | intitle:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact

As you can see, false positives, mostly about writing resumes, are returning.



For the location portion of the search string, I am going to use a zip code search and a city name search. For this example, I will use Nashville, TN. When searching zip codes, I like to use To find the appropriate codes, I use a site search coupled with the name of the city: nashville


Click on the top link and we get this list:


Zip codes are listed sequentially, and in this case, range from 37201 to 37250. The issue with this technique, is that it does not include the surrounding areas of Nashville. If you source within a specific field, you will want to invest the time to get a more accurate range of zip codes.

We might also include an area code portion to the search. The area code in Nashville is 615.

We will represent this portion of the search in our string with the following:

37201..37250 | nashville | 615

Add that to what we currently have:

37201..37250 | nashville | 615 filetype:pdf | filetype:docx | filetype:doc inurl:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact | intitle:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact


I am actually seeing “contact” more than I would like. I might remove that from my Boolean, as long as I am searching for resumes. I might leave it in if it is pointing me to appropriate people to contact!

You will notice that we already have a pretty long string, and we haven’t even added any keywords to our search! To shorten the string, I may remove the inurl or intitle portion.


And finally, keywords! For this example, let’s take a look at User Experience Designers.

uxd | ixd | “user experience” | “interaction design” | hci | “human computer interaction” 37201..37250 | nashville | 615 filetype:pdf | filetype:docx | filetype:doc inurl:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact | intitle:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|about|contact

This only has one section of keywords, yet we get some decent results:


It looks like some false positives are course material related to the term “human computer interaction.” Curriculum vitae is also commonly used for a course syllabus.

Also, since the base of my search string has moved so far down, it is not being weighted as much as I would like. I am going to rearrange the information a little and see if that helps with my results.

inurl:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|contact | intitle:resume|cv|vitae|portfolio|contact uxd | ixd | “user experience” | “interaction design” 37201..37250 | nashville | 615 filetype:pdf | filetype:docx | filetype:doc 

This is actually giving some pretty good results. We hit on someone’s WordPress site, a couple of personal websites named after the person, and our false positive is a doc file.


There are some tweaks I might make to the string: remove some portions , add some more keyword sections, perhaps only look for pdf files, but I think you get the general idea here.


To summarize, we want to include the following sections in our search string:

  • filetype
  • inurl or intitle target for resume
  • location
  • keywords

Remember, you can change the order of your sections depending on how the results are returning. If you want something weighted more, put it closer to the beginning of the search string.

Pay attention to your results. You want to match your search string to how people are using search terms. For example, I saw a few times that the term “vita” was being used instead of “vitae”. I would adjust my string accordingly. If this is something that people are doing in Nashville, I am going to search Nashville using the correct terms.

If you search a particular area frequently, take the time to uncover an all encompassing zip code and area code list. With our Nashville example, I know that the surrounding suburbs are not included in the list used. This is going to leave out a lot of results. Therefore, I would want to research the surrounding areas and their zip codes and area codes to include into my search.

Be creative; be perceptive; and adjust as necessary! Don’t be afraid to share; let me know how you personalize this type of search.

Happy hunting!

How do you X-ray LinkedIn?


X-raying LinkedIn refers to the use of a site search targeting LinkedIn via Boolean search techniques. Beginners may be figuring out how to target LinkedIn, and Advanced sourcers may want to review techniques. I know that I currently do not use the same target site search I first began with!  Let’s get started!

The most basic target of LinkedIn with a site search is to include the following in you Boolean:


As you can see, we are picking up on “,” but we are not finding PEOPLE. While adding more search parameters will populate people results, it is not the BEST way to utilize x-ray.

We often are looking to target profiles ONLY. Profiles have a specific URL. When you first join LinkedIn, your profile URL begins You have the option to change this setting. If you customize your URL, it will begin We use this knowledge to target profiles. (Please see instructions for customizing your profile at the end of this blog.)

When I first began x-raying LinkedIn, I used the following in my Boolean: inurl:in | inurl:pub

Now, I find this approach has two main issues:

1. “inurl” is not supported by Bing, so your target strategy will have to change with search engines.

2. “in” is most definitely in URLs that are not profiles. After all, LinkedIN has “in” in it! India’s country code is “in”, so those URLs are getting more weight as well.

*Note: | = OR. It can be used by pressing “shift” and the “backslash” key (found above “enter”).


As you can see, we have mixed up the results a bit. LinkedIn’s country page for India is our 3rd result! We are still not hitting on JUST profiles, however.

My preferred method now is to use an OR in my site search: |


Now you can see we are SPECIFICALLY targeting profiles. I haven’t even entered in any keywords, and I am pulling profiles! Now, this search will also bring up DIRECTORIES. You can remove them with -dir, or some variation thereof. However, there is a discussion on the utility of attempting to remove directories. With some of LinkedIn’s new features, it may be to your benefit to leave the directories in your search.

I would like to briefly discuss a phrase search associated with your site search. First, you should ALWAYS be thinking about the page you are trying to bring up. Usually, we are thinking about how a potential candidate would phrase their experiences on a resume. “I have 5 years of experience.”  A very popular phrase used by sourcers is “people you may know.” This phrase is thought to appear solely on profile pages. Let’s take a look.

I am going to start with one of my site searches that was not specifically bringing up profiles and add the phrase to it. “people you may know”


At this time, it does not seem to be explicitly targeting profiles. Let’s try it with the “inurl” search. inurl:in | inurl:pub “people you may know”


The results actually look a little similar. Several months ago, I think this strategy DEFINITELY worked. However, LinkedIn is constantly changing their programming BECAUSE they know these strategies work! They want to force you onto their search features and hopefully get you to upgrade your account.

As LinkedIn makes these changes, the cached version of the page will also change. When you are searching using Google, you are actually searching cached pages. So, if this phrase is removed from profiles, it will slowly become inoperable as Google crawls the web caching pages.

There are other phrases that you can use. Like I said, just pay attention to what the page you are seeking looks like! Other phrases I would try are: “people similar to” and “people also viewed”. I feel like I see these on most profile pages.

A few points:

1. You also want to think about the amount of space you are using when choosing your site search. Sure, you can “site” this, “url” that, throw in a phrase. But how much of your allotted space are you taking up just to target the profile? You would rather be using that space to identify locations, key words, and skills.

2. Where in your Boolean should you put the x-ray portion? Beginning? End? Middle? Out of habit, I put mine at the beginning. But I really want to break that habit and put it towards the end. More on WHY in another blog.

3. Try out multiple methods. Like I said, I do not use the same site search for LinkedIn as I did when I first began Boolean. Find what works for YOU! Watch out for changes in your results. Something you found that works may change over time. ALWAYS be evaluating your results. What did the search engine pick up on? What seems to be falling by the wayside?

4. Once you have your results, you get to choose how to view them! Clicking on the link is often unsuccessful unless you are at least a 2nd degree connection. You can log out of LinkedIn while performing your searches, OR you can view the cached version of the profile:

Hovering over the result with your cursor will bring an arrow to the right side. Hover over THAT arrow. You can now see the “CACHED” option and possibly a preview of the profile.


Now, just in case you are new or want to make a change, here are some instructions on Customizing Your Profile:

Go to the “Profile” heading on your LinkedIn account and select “Edit Profile.”










Directly under your picture is your URL. Select “edit.”


This will bring up some options on the right side of the screen. Scroll down to the heading “Your public profile URL” and click on “customize your public profile URL.”


That will pop open this box:


Now you can customize.

I hope all of this is helpful. Let me know how YOU are targeting LinkedIn through Boolean searches!

Happy Hunting!

Finding Phone Numbers


I am asked quite frequently how to find a phone number through Boolean searches. Finding that perfect candidate is not enough! We MUST be able to get in contact with them. Unfortunately, the days of having a home phone number listed in the Yellow Pages are behind us. Many people are using their cell phones as their only contact number. Of course, we can find where the person works and make the cold call into their place of employment, but many recruiters are uncomfortable with that notion. The best we can hope for is they will answer at their desk and give us their personal number.

Before we get started, remember, we can only find what is out there. Unless the candidate has listed their phone number at some time on the internet, we will not be able to locate it! But, there is a chance. I would like to share with you my process of finding a phone number. It does not always work, but it is always worth  looking!

First, I start my search with a simple Google search. From a LinkedIn profile, we know the person’s approximate location and name. Do a simple area code search for the location. I am going to use my own information for this example.  I am currently located in Huntsville, AL.

NOTE: You may also want to include the area codes of previous locations. I have lived in New Jersey and Texas. It is possible that I got a cell phone at one of those locations and never bothered to change my number when I moved.

I enter into Google:

huntsville alabama area codes


From this, I learn that the area codes in Huntsville, AL are 256 and 938.

My next Boolean will simply be the name of the person and an OR string of the area codes.

“erin page” 256|938


The very first result is a good result (sort of) for me. This was my last number on AT&T before I switched to Verizon. The address is on target as well.

Further down the list we see This can sometimes give you a bit of information. They have my work info.


I find something interesting on Page 4 of the results.


This is where I created a location on FourSquare for my mechanic. The phone number is his office number. However, we do know each other personally, and he just might get a message to me. You never know!

Also on Page 4, my work colleague has a listing with the office number.


That is a pretty simple search! I have a two other tactics I often use as well. ZoomInfo wants you to pay for their information. However, as we saw above, they will sometimes give you a few digits and X out the remaining digits. With just a few digits, you can search for the remainder.

I use 2 sites for X-ray searches on phone numbers: and Remember, only what is on the internet can be found, so this may be somewhat of a crap shoot. However, I have had SOME luck.

I know this does not work for my personal info, but my Boolean would look something like this: | “erin page” 256


As you can see, there are not any results for my number. But, I do want to open up one of the pages just so you can see what is on them.

This is from


As you can see, many numbers do NOT have a name associated with them. However, some DO. And you just might be lucky enough that that someone is who you are attempting to recruit.

Here is what the a link to looks like:


Finding a phone number can take some creativity. I was once able to find someone because his wife ran an in-home daycare. She listed their home phone. I first found them through ZoomInfo with several digits missing. I entered his name and the digits that were available. And BAM! Phone number. =-) You will be so excited to call the candidate at this point! I sure was!

Let me know what strategies YOU use to find phone numbers and how my techniques work for you!

Happy Hunting!



Boolean for Sourcing Emails


One very popular item Sourcing Specialists are asked to find are email addresses. I often start my sourcing process with an email search to network within the industry of the position I am staffing. What Boolean String is going to return email addresses?

The most obvious technique would be to include the term “email” within the string. However, this brings very limited results.


We could try to hit on the email address specifically. Remember, Google does not recognize the @ sign. It also is supposed to support the * only with spaces on either side of the asterisk. However, it appears that some versions of the @ sign are being supported. I did hear that it was being integrated due its use by Twitter.

* | *@*.com | @*.*


You are going to get some hits on this. However, you are likely to pull a lot of false positives as well.

We can target some specific, popular email addresses in our boolean. This will only be limited by how many root emails you can come up with. | | | nashville tennessee mechanical engineer


This is actually a pretty good strategy if you know the root for a company email. Email Format is a good source for this project. It will also provide you the format of the entire email, ie Let’s try out an email for Citibank. Their root is Pair it with a site search.


This technique is actually giving us pretty good results.

Next, let’s think more about the syntax people would include when writing their email address on a web page. This is actually one of my favorite ways to find contact information. What type of phrase might people use when giving out their email address?? What I have found to be popular: Contact me at, Connect with me, etc. In fact, it is my standard to use “contact me at” in a search when looking for contact information. This is not specific to emails.


In this example, we did not pull any emails! And it looks like “connect with me” may be somewhat of a dead end.

I want to take this one step further. Some strategies may be better than others depending on what you are trying to accomplish.  Are you looking for a specific person’s email address? Are you looking to network with a company or in a specific location/industry?

If you are building an email list, I suggest using an email grabber. There are many versions FOR FREE. I use Outwit Hub. All you have to do is plug in your boolean and let the software do the work. You can grab the emails and then export them to an Excel spreadsheet for further use.

Here, I have opened Outwit Hub and entered the Google search screen.


Next, I input my boolean string. I’ll use one from above and press search.


To see what emails are on the page, I select emails from the upper left hand corner.


From here, I make sure I am going to collect the information. I then begin to scroll through the pages of results and collect data.


Once I am happy with the number of results, or I have exhausted the search, I simply press export. Select Excel and save the spreadsheet to the appropriate location.


Whew…that was quite a bit to cover! As always, regardless of the strategy you use, make sure you pay attention to the results you pull. Tweak your search string to better serve the purpose you are currently sourcing.

Happy Hunting!




Order of Operations on Google

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When I found out that Google does not recognize parentheses, I was perplexed! I immediately had a flood of questions about syntax. I posed a question on LinkedIn concerning the topic. How does Google see the search: a b | x y?

Unfortunately, according to my poll results,  it appears that many of the participants  do not completely understand Google’s syntax either!

So how DOES Google view a b | x y? Is the string split in half by the OR symbol?

Google does not determine whether to OR or AND first. It simply reads the string.


b | x


So our desired results with this stringwould be:



That being the case, how could you produce results that present (a b) OR (x y)?

Attempt to get a results of
and NOT

A couple of suggestions were made in reference to the poll in the Boolean Strings group on LinkedIn:

“a * * * * * * b” | “x * * * * * y”

Theory: Quotations group the variables, asterisks allow for plenty of space between variables. However, this does bring up an issue of order of the variables. a and x will come before their counterparts in the search. If the b or y come first, it may not pick up.

x/y | a/b

Theory: Placing the / in place of a space will link the variables. It was pointed out that this gets the same results as “x y” | ” a b”. This is very limited.

Essentially, parentheses help us group our strings. Google ignores them, but the string still works since what is left after the parentheses are taken away is a string in a format that Google recognizes.

Let’s look at a string that has parentheses:

( | (xml | html | uml) (programmer | developer)

We are grouping by site, skill, title. This still works when the parentheses are removed. | xml | html | uml programmer | developer

The OR operator checks what is to the left and right of the operator. If there is a space, an AND is recognized and that is where the chain is broken. The results above are in the same order and appear to be the same with one exception. The string with the parentheses actually returned less results. I have yet to determine the underlying issue here.

Writing strings without the parentheses can be somewhat confusing at first, but I absolutely prefer it at this point. Thus far, I have not seen how including parentheses in your string hinders it in any way.  The most important aspect is that you keep your grouping correct, with or without the parentheses!

Happy Hunting!

Keyword Stemming

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Keyword stemming refers to the process of taking the root of a word and using all the different endings that exist for that word.  It is a very popular topic in SEO. That has some relevance for sourcing experts, since SEO is what drives results to the top of our search results.


For example, we want someone to MANAGE our business, we might search for: manage, manages, managed, managing, etc.  Instead of creating a search string that has manage | manages | managed | managing, there should be a simpler way, right??

Some job boards support a root word search. You can enter manag* to return manage, manages, managed, managing, etc. The only one that comes to mind that I have used is Dice.

I mostly use Google for my Xray and Boolean searches. Google does NOT support the root word format used above. The asterisk is ignored unless there are spaces on either side of it, and it represents a missing word or words.

Luckily, the major search engines have a built-in stemming function. If you enter manage into your search, results will be returned that include manages, managed, managing, etc. However, according to Google Guide, the stem words contribute less to the score of the result. I.e. manages, managed, managing will be lower on the list than manage.



You have to specify if you do NOT want to use keyword stemming by placing quotation marks around the word. “Manage” will only return results for manage.


In order to amp up the synonyms and stem words found, you can use the tilde in Google. ~manage




Hopefully this helps you makes sense out of your Google results! Happy Hunting!

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