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Sourcing Resumes Via Google: The Big Lie?

Let's go full disclosure today at the HR Capitalist.  I firmly believe that the hegemony (look it up people) of huge job sites like Monster and CareerBuilder is on the decline, and I think that has implications for lazy HR people and lazy recruiters.  The strength of the job sites traditionally has meant one thing - you had a one stop shop to post and pray (you post the job and do nothing else, and because the site was a destination for job seekers, you'd get some hits close enough to what you were looking for). 

But if you can't post and pray, where do you go?  The obvious answer is that you need to build networks viaDont_Believe_The_Hype-Vinyl LinkedIn and become proficient at using that tool in your sourcing and recruiting.  After LinkedIn, where do you turn?  To the untrained eye, most of us have read that there are thousands - no millions - of resumes floating around the Internet that can be harvested by Google. 

The key to harvesting those resumes has often been positioned as follows: you need to become proficient in writing search strings that yield the result you need.  If you can't write good Google search strings, you won't get the results.  If you're good at it, you'll unlock the potential.

I've had Boolean search on my list of training needs for a while to become a better source.  Could it be that the hype for resumes via Google is louder than the reality?   Consider the following experiment comparing quality of resume search results when using Google vs. the Monster resume database from Boolean Black Belt:

"If you are a source or recruiter I am sure that at some point in your career you’ve read somewhere or heard someone say how the Internet has 10X the number of candidates that can be found on the online job boards. I’ve always taken that for face value because, to be honest, it’s really tough to prove or disprove such a figure/statement.  So that whole “there are TONS more candidates on the Internet than the job boards” thing has been slowly eating away at me and I’ve decided to take a stab at dispelling the myth by pitting The Internet (via Google) vs. Monster.

I chose to go with 1 Internet search engine (Google) and 1 major job board (Monster). Yes – I know that there are resumes that you can only find using other search engines (hey – I do have a Black Belt in Boolean) - but I figured I would let the 800 lb gorillas of their respective niches battle it out. Plus, there are other major job boards – so we’re even.

Search #2 Java, Oracle, State of MD

Google – 182 results
(intitle:resume | inurl:resume) java oracle 20601..21930 (MD | Maryland) -~job -~jobs

Monster – 592 results @ 1 month, 1000+ @ 3 months
Java and oracle – in MD

Search: Accountant in the state of MD

Google – 19 results
(intitle:resume | inurl:resume) “accountant” 20601..21930 (MD | Maryland) -~job -~jobs
Monster – 711 results @ 1 month

WOW.  I'd encourage you to go out and read the whole post, fascinating stuff.  While you're at it, subscribe to Boolean Black Belt.  Trust me, it's an accessible voice that you need to hear.  The results above give you some perspective. Here are my thoughts - those search results indicate there is quite a bit of hype when it comes to the power of the raw Internet as a sourcing tool, so if you're trying to grow as a HR pro who recruits, I'd encourage you not to drink this glass of kool-aid, and instead invest all of your initial time in learning how to grow your LinkedIn presence and then learn how to use it effectively to source.

Don't read the results as proof you need to sign a five year contract with Monster.  Read the results as there are better tools for you to start your sourcing career with than the raw Internet.

You'll read things that advise you to take a Boolean class as you try to make the transition to become a better source of candidates. If you're just starting out, be like Flavor Flav and don't believe the hype.  Learn LinkedIn and prosper.



Really? People are still talking about sourcing resumes via Google? That seems very 2000 to me. In fact, I first did AIRS training in 2000, when that was all the rage. That's nine years ago.

I've sources resumes via Google, but not in a long time. If I were doing a search now, I'd use social networking, not my AIRS training (although I still use those AIRS techniques to find out more about candidates once I've identified them).

Years ago, people their resumes out there freely (like, on their AOL Hometown page, with the spinning smileys and flaming buttons). Now I think people are a little more cautious about putting their whole resume out for anyone to see, and if they're doing it, it's in a structured setting like LinkedIn.

Kris Dunn

Kerry -

Here's the issue - you're into it and did AIRS training in 2000. The vast majority of HR doesn't actively use LinkedIn, so they go to the AIRS site where the 3rd or 4th item that's being pitched is... wait for it... GOOGLE!

So you get it and that's good. The post is to advise those that have 3 connections on LinkedIn to spend their training time and money wisely if they decide to jump in, which they should...


laurie ruettimann

I took a suite of AIRS classes in Chicago circa 2001 and decided, right then and there, that boolean was a lot like math. There's a formula... and I didn't go into recruiting to do math (unless it was to calculate my bonus & commission).

There has to be a better way to find candidates than search strings and super-complex deep web diving. I mean, really, c'mon. This is 2009. Can't we do better?

HumanResources Pufnsfut

Here's my take (I am also a AIRS Alumni circa 2000), searching for resumes on google is stupid. Laurie is right that Boolean search can be impractical.
Here's the deal, google is an excellent recruiting tool, but not at producing resumes. Using simple search paramaters (ie VP Human Resources Chicago) will return a ton of info that you can use to recruit. It will identify people and accomplishments, and often time direct contact info. You give me that and I'm off and running.


Boolean search strings is not used only to source resumes on Google, but these techniques can be used to find candidates on other search engines and top social networks including LinkedIn. Boolean search can help you to search for candidates out of your network on LinkedIn and even to exceed the 300 search results limit. I agree that Boolean strings are not easy and time consuming, but now there are tools that automates this process such as ReferYes Sourcer:

Kelly Dingee

Boolean is Algebra. It's X+Y and order of operations, no big deal. Glen Cathey, the BooleanBlackBelt is a rockstar and underground sourcing hero, and one of the few that can boast being a self taught sourcer. He's passionate about what he does and invests time in it every day. His boolean might look like Greek to you, but he's mastered it and knows how to leverage to successfully draw talent out of the online ocean of talent.

I have quite often said while blogging or training, that you can master the basics of internet search, boolean too, if you practice. And I typically suggest practicing 15 minutes per day to nail the skills you need to be successful.

I work at AIRS. Prior to working at AIRS, I was a customer...for 9 years. The training worked for me, I'll make no bones about it. Our 8 hour classes focus on teaching people how to source, using a variety of techniques and multiple search engines. I do believe we are the only ones in this biz to train people on how to successfully leverage Exalead when searching. And I will say, the class in 2000 is certainly NOT the class we teach today. Searching changes and our classes and trainers are always on their game.

We do have a Google class, and our past attendees will tell you that the class goes beyond the search box. There is so much more on Google to leverage as a recruiter, and that class does it, and it's very in much in demand by our clientele.

As for LinkedIn, it is a great resource. Recruiters should use it, personally I like to use as much on it as I can for free. I have a full appreciation for the networking theory based on 6 degrees of separation. Too bad they do that whole thing of limiting you to viewing the first 100 results of your search, and gee if someone's beyond a third degree connection you're not going to see their information. Or, you could use techniques AIRS teaches, like FlipSearch and XRay to draw a great deal of information out of the site. Actually, out of several professional and social networking sites. And those techniques work on excavating various other social media resources as well. All for the price of one training class, and some post class practice.

I would encourage HR and recruiting professionals to not become, how did you say? Lazy? Complacent might work too, with the volume of resumes currently coming their way. I see so many recruiters seizing opportunities to learn how to leverage the internet for free to take advantage of the many resources out there now. Getting organized, creating an online presence and more. Sure you can skim the top of it with some basic searches, but the rockstars, they're going to know how to not only find resumes and profiles, but unearth directories, rosters, attendee lists, take the names and turn into 'em profiles, and have one name lead to the other. They're going create incredible funnels of Google, at Yahoo, at Bing, at Exalead. They'll know when to bring a Metasearch Engine into play and when they should construct a Custom Search Engine. Bottomline, don't rest on just one resource, on just one technique. Don't put all your eggs in the LinkedIn a strategic sourcing professional.

Jennifer McClure

I agree with you on the less than impressive results from searching for resumes on Google, but Kelly makes some good points about how learning some simple Boolean logic can help in sourcing - not just with Google. I agree with you that LinkedIn is an awesome sourcing tool - and one HR/Recruiters should learn how to use. However, having a large network on LinkedIn or joining several groups won't get you access to as many candidates as you can have by knowing how to xray the site (using Boolean) and tapping into the entire 45 million + member database. That way, you'll be able to locate more potential candidates that even the most connected person on LinkedIn will see in search results from their network (and your search results won't be limited as to how much you are (or are not) paying LinkedIn for an account. A strong LinkedIn network and Group activity will help in being able to contact people directly (warm contact) versus a cold call, but you can source tons more people using Boolean - and it's likely that the best candidates aren't people in your direct network. I'd personally recommend that Boolean search be one of the first things that an HR pro or recruiter learn - or at a minimum do what I do and make friends with awesome sourcers like Kelly, Glen or Amybether Hale (@researchgoddess) who have been more than helpful when I occasionally ask for help in putting together a great search string to find the most awesome candidates.

Amitai Givertz

First, recruiters who source for resumes significantly limit their search from the get-go by virtue of the fact that they are looking for resumes.

Sourcing for qualified candidates means understanding where and how to find people who possess certain qualities and attributes online. Those are not always indicated by a resume posted online. Resumes are, in fact, the exception that proves the rule...the vast majority of potential candidates do not have a resume or profile posted online. They don't.

Understanding this rule, a good sourcer knows how to surface candidates in any number of places and in any number of situations. The difference between sourcing and surfing is a working knowledge of search syntax. That's evidenced in the quality of the results or the degree of frustration, right?

More than that, sourcing strategy supposes that the sourcer understands that identifying the quarry is the easy part of the job. Engaging candidates requires a different set of skills. A sourcer who doesn't appreciate what those skills are is, more often than not, part of the problem not the solution.

Frankly, any moron can google for resumes. So called "search strings" are being peddled in open forums, dispensed like candy. You just substitute my keyword for your keyword and Bob's your uncle. Therein lies part of the problem: Reciting the Lord's Prayer does not make you a Christian any more than knowing how to x-ray LinkedIn makes you a sourcer.

Advanced search and properly articulated Boolean queries require finesse in their creation, execution and refinement. Therein lies another part of the problem: Teaching chimps to paint pictures has yet to produce a Picasso. But that's okay...we shouldn't be looking for art but a process that produces predictable results...well, that's a problem unto itself.

Too often training -- formal and informal -- focuses on the tactical/transactional business of sourcing and fails to address the real problem that too few sourcers/recruiters understand and execute sourcing/recruiting fundamentals. Therein lies yet another issue: Working the internet is called "secondary sourcing" for a reason. Too often it is not only the primary form of sourcing, its the only form of sourcing.

Last, in my experience, the people who think of Google as a search engine and fail to understand the totality of its potential to produce recruiting advantage are the ones who end up complaining that their prayers go unanswered or brag about the quality of their refrigerator art. Such is life.

Thanks for the post and conversation.


I think Google is great for many things, and is a great place to source, and Linkedin rocks also, but I remember I used to use AltaVista, and got much better results in general on searches. It makes me curious if there is a better one out there than Google that returns more results. I'd like to see google stacked up against other search engines, not just resume databases, as I think that would be an interesting number, and think google would be surprised by the results.

Wow! I am not sure how I missed this post...I must have been out of the country (I was). :-)

Kris - I'm glad you covered this topic, and it doesn't hurt that you gave me a shout out. :-) But seriously - it is critical for people to put aside their opinions and focus on the facts...there just aren't THAT many resumes on the Internet - and certainly not as many as some people would claim.

Do you need a resume to source and recruit candidates? Of course not - but resumes have deep data that is more effective and efficient to leverage than a name and a title.

If I have access to 4M resumes in an internal database, 20+M profiles on LinkedIn (many of which are resume-level in depth of info), and perhaps 1 major job board resume database at 10-20M resumes - how often do you think I need to try and search the Internet for non-resume info to find candidates? Just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean it's the most effective method of finding the right people quickly.

As for those who diss/bemoan Boolean...the amount of human capital data isn't decreasing in volume - it will only continue to increase, and perhaps even accelerate. Boolean strings are the EASIEST/SIMPLEST way to query data, and I agree with many of the comments above - Boolean logic is not difficult to learn once you put your mind to it and commit to mastering it.

The talent is out there - and more of them can be found somewhere online, publicly (LinkedIn, Twitter, Monster, etc.) or in an ATS with each passing day. Closing your eyes won't change this fact. If you can't mine these sources of human capital effectively, you ARE at a competitive disadvantage whether you realize or want to admit it.

I'm NOT saying you can't be effective and productive without using Boolean search strings for talent mining, but I can tell you from direct personal experience as well as from training 100's of people that if you are very proficient at talent mining, you can at the very least double your productivity while increasing your candidate quality (has to do with statistics and sample sizes, as well as having the power to choose from many candidates).

Kelly and Jennifer - you made me blush with your kind words!


Monica | Resume

Yes people are searching sources of resume on Google and many others search engine is also available … in fact these techniques can be used to find candidates and it is goog source of social networks…..

Myka | Recruitment Agencies

I my opinion maximum people are still searching the sources of resume on Google as it in very informative in fact these techniques can be used to find candidates and it is goog source of social networks…..

Guerilla Marketing

Yeah, going with Google and Job Monster is probably your best bet for accomplishing what you need


I don't like google. It has too much power..


Don't you understand that this is the best time to receive the mortgage loans, which would make you dreams real.

Leasing in Sri Lanka

Google is the most powerful search engine in the world.

 buying gold coins

All said they want to accelerate their passive recruiting efforts; they all thought they were in a talent scarcity situation for most critical positions.

Peter from leasing Sri Lanka

There are but you need to do a deep search which will really help or else there are local job bank sites which will help you for sure.

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