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:

site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub “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.


site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub “abilene tx” java


Using java, we get 90 results.


site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub “abilene tx” ruby


Using Ruby, we get 71 results.


site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub “abilene tx” python


Using Python, we get 12 results.


site:linkedin.com/in | site:linkedin.com/pub “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?