What You Need to Know About Boolean and Semantic Search

May 25, 2017 Debra Auerbach


When starting to look for candidates, there are a variety of ways you can search in your internal and external databases – from entering keywords to using filters. But sometimes it’s hard to know which search method will work best at quickly finding the pool of candidates you need for the specific position you’re trying to fill.

Two search methodologies that are often talked about but are still somewhat of a mystery to many recruiters and sourcers are Boolean and semantic. Both techniques can be used effectively to deliver relevant candidate results, and there are situations where one may be preferred over the other. What many recruiters and sourcers may not know is that Boolean and semantic can be used together to further maximize your results and expand your pool of relevant talent.

Boolean vs. Semantic: How They Differ

Before learning the benefits of using Boolean and semantic together, it’s important to first understand the basics of each technique. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of how they differ:



Boolean Search

Semantic Search


Uses operators to adjust a search by combining or limiting terms.

Seeks to understand the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms to generate more relevant results.


Can narrow or expand results depending on the operator used.

Increases results and is more inclusive.

Knowledge of the Job Requisition

Intermediate to expert; you have knowledge of the industries related to the open requisitions.

Entry-level to intermediate; best for positions you know little about.

Time Commitment

Takes time to learn and construct extended Boolean strings.

Limited time needed to research related job titles or create long strings.

Boolean and Semantic: How They Work Together

When you’re beginning a candidate search, the goal is to be exposed to as many potentially relevant candidates as possible. You don’t want to accidently filter out candidates because you aren’t using the right mix of keywords.

When semantic search is layered on top of a Boolean search string, related keywords are applied to all of the terms used in your search, ensuring all relevant candidates associated with your search terms are being captured. The semantic search technology recently added to CareerBuilder’s Resume Database allows both Boolean and semantic to coexist, so both can be used simultaneously during a search to deliver more relevant candidate results.  

Ready to learn more? Get tips on how to use Boolean and semantic searches separately – and together.

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