AI Sourcing vs Boolean Sourcing: Which is Superior?

JANUARY 25, 2022 3 min read

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“Investing time or energy into becoming a master at Boolean is a lot like learning calligraphy or opening a Delorean dealership.” –

Matt Charney, Chief Content Officer at Allegis Global Solutions

Recruiters always face the same daunting task: finding the best-fit candidates for jobs and encouraging them to apply. Get sourcing right, and they set the rest of the recruiting process up for success. So it’s critical that recruiters use the most advanced sourcing technologies available. 

For many years, that was the Boolean search. Boolean requires recruiters to insert operators between search words — OR to broaden a search, AND to narrow it, NOT to exclude terms, and more. By entering complex strings of words and operators into search engines, LinkedIn, job boards, and their own applicant tracking systems, Boolean search masters were consistently able to identify better candidates more quickly than their peers. 

That sourcing advantage has now swung decisively in favor of Artificial Intelligence. Many recruiters who have made the switch to AI say it helps them source, engage, and deliver the right candidates ten times faster than Boolean.

But the decision to use a technology upgrade should be all about what works, and not just about employing it for its own sake. As Steven Jiang, CEO of hireEZ, points out, “It isn’t about HR needing AI specifically, it’s about winning the best talent — and AI is the best way to get a competitive advantage right now.”

AI makes the need to learn Boolean search obsolete

Boolean logic is at the core of virtually all computer programming, and every advance is built on this foundation. AI is no exception. hireEZ’s AI allows recruiters do complex, deep, and extremely wide candidate searches with Boolean logic. But they can do this using natural language search terms, entering the terms just as they would into any search engine. 

It can take years to master the art of Boolean search. AI sourcing dramatically and immediately increases a recruiter’s domain expertise, helping them compete right alongside even the most ninja-level writers of Boolean strings. That alone makes AI a superior way of sourcing candidates for most recruiters.

Disadvantages of Boolean search

Even when recruiters are game for learning how to construct advanced Boolean strings, their results will likely not be as satisfactory as using an AI search. Critics of Boolean over the years have labeled it inefficient, unproductive, prone to error, costly, and demanding of expertise and clean data. Boolean searching is a chore. 

The disadvantages of Boolean search only grew from there: 

1. It’s impossible to construct Boolean strings that return a right-sized list of the best-fit candidates; what’s common is either too many viable candidates (where multiple OR operators return a glut of candidates) or too few.

2. When recruiters pile together more operators in an attempt to zero in on viable candidates, their search results often become too narrow to be useful. This can easily exclude qualified candidates.

3. Boolean searches return candidate profiles that exactly match the terms in a recruiter’s query, but not synonyms and related skill sets and job titles.

4. Boolean search returns are usually not prioritized, meaning that recruiters have to manually slog through piles of candidate profiles to rank them.  

5. Recruiters must visit each job platform separately to enter their searches, which is very time-consuming and tedious.

6. Not every job platform allows Boolean searches, and among those that do, there is little standardization in how they permit Boolean search strings to be constructed.

AI search beats Boolean search in head-to-head matchups 

The drawbacks of Boolean and the merits of AI, discussed below, lead to dramatic differences in results. When one hireEZ customer conducted a direct comparison between hireEZ’s AI sourcing and Boolean sourcing on LinkedIn — using the same search terms in both — he found that the difference was unmistakable. 

As he reported, “It’s substantially different in hireEZ versus LinkedIn. hireEZ is definitely more targeted and refined, but also it was uncovering people that, even though they had LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn wasn’t putting toward the top of the results pages. The more qualified talent was up higher on the results page in hireEZ.” 

At the end of the day, it’s about making the most out of your tools. Most recruiters find the most success getting the best of both worlds, and the right recruitment technology gives teams that flexibility.

To better equip hireEZ customers, we have recently updated our product to support Boolean Search Syntaxes in our  Chrome Extension. With this update, recruiters can continue using boolean strings to help with specific searches. With boolean, candidate profiles will either contain or not contain certain keywords inputted.

Recruiters can take their searches further with hireEZ’s 20+ AI-powered filters with intelligent learning and contextual search capabilities to consider all candidates who may or may not have particular keywords listed on their profiles. AI Sourcing allows for a more holistic approach and can even surface candidates from underrepresented groups or those less likely to have all of their skills listed on their public profiles.

All in all, hireEZ recruiters can be assured that searches will return more qualified candidates.

Get started with hireEZ today by checking out our pricing plans or contacting our sales team.


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