RankBrain and Us

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Google’s search algorithm keeps changing all the time. Even search engine experts fall behind in understanding and interpreting how it works. Last Fall, Google told us that RankBrain is now one of the three most important factors for ranking search results. It was not until recently that we heard that the other two most important factors are familiar – they are “links” and “content”. Specialists think that, in addition, Google uses more than 200 other factors to decide what to display when we search.

RankBrain is an AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning algorithm. It plays an especially important role in responding to unique (mostly, long) search strings, which constitute about 15% of all the searches.

By now, we are familiar with these Google’s semantic search elements:

  • Auto-stemming (automatically searching for words with the same root, e.g. search for manager – find manage, manager, management)
  • Automatically searching for synonyms (e.g. search for developer – find developer, engineer, programmer)
  • Responding with Knowledge Graph objects and Direct Answers.

Rankbrain is a huge step forward in expanding semantic search capabilities beyond the above features:

  1. Google examines the whole query, trying to figure out the context, and respond accordingly. (As an example, compare results for salary apple packer and salary apple ceo.)
  2. Google learns what content users choose to explore and adds to its “understanding” of topics and terminology.

For those of us who perform advanced Google searches, it’s not that our jobs will be automated any time soon. I doubt that Google will ever be able to find matching candidates if we paste a job description into the search bar. But we need to be aware that Google tries to understand (and learn from) complex queries.

We may benefit from Google’s growing semantic search capacity – as an example while we explore industry-specific terminology.

On the other hand, because of the new semantic features, it’s becoming harder to control search results. Boolean operators and Google search options do help when we look for something we want to define precisely.

When you feel you need to control the results, keep in mind the following:

  1. Putting the quotation marks “” around a word will likely stop Google from bringing up synonyms.
  2. Any word used with an operator, such as inurl:, intitle:, intext:, will be used exactly as it is – Google will not show any variations or synonyms of the word in the results.
  3. When we exclude keywords using the minus -, Google removes the exact word after the minus (it will not remove any synonyms or variations).
  4. Searching Verbatim will stop any interpretation of the search string.

Additionally, avoid very long search strings, not to trigger unnecessary interpretation of what you want to find.

Get the recording on 300 Best Boolean Strings to hear how to best utilize both semantic and Boolean sides of Google search in your practice today and tomorrow, or purchase the Boolean Book that has syntax explanations and 300+ examples of search strings.

What Sourcers Can Learn Learn from Investigative Journalists

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Searching the Internet is an important part of Talent Sourcing activities in Recruiting. So it is for some other professions, including, for example, Librarians, Private Investigators, and Investigative Journalists. We could learn from each other – I feel that we don’t do that enough.

I’d like to bring to my blog readers’ attention a few excellent resources shared by Investigative Journalists.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, once you start looking at the above resources, you will find a ton more!

Location, Location, Location

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For all of us who are looking for professionals, finding those living in the right locations for the opportunity is critical. The expected time for someone to get into the office should be reasonable.


The commute time may depend on the distance, the roads, and available transportation. If we are looking in well-populated areas where driving is “too” popular (which is the case of the San Francisco Bay Area where I live – just take a look at the photo above), you might even need to take traffic patterns into the locations’ considerations.

It would be helpful to have the full support of professional and “social” systems to search for locations based on the average commute time to the office, but those search capabilities don’t exist anywhere, as far as I know. The ways to search we encounter are not ideal. They also vary widely (even more so than the Boolean syntax!). It’s important to know what is offered, to “map” our requirements to the available location searches on each site.

Here are some examples of what various sites provide, to compare.

LinkedIn – search by one of:

  1. Zip code and a radius (in the countries with zip codes, which is roughly 1/3 of the countries on LinkedIn – Ireland is not one of them, for example)
  2. Country
  3. A combination of named locations (for example “Greater Chicago Area” OR “San Francisco Bay Area”).

Those are workable options. But an annoying feature of LinkedIn’s location search is that it’s sending its users to another site to check the zip codes:


This lookup that we do manually would be pretty straightforward to implement for LinkedIn Engineers; somehow it’s never been a priority.

Github – the “location” field on user’s profiles is a string of characters. So, to find people at specific locations, we need to come up with as many possible ways users may have entered the field as we can (city names, area names, sometimes, abbreviated, etc.), and use those in searching. (Example).

That’s reasonable, given Github’s purpose as software code repository, not a site for recruiters to search; we need to remember how locations work when searching.

Zoominfo – search by one of:

  1. Boolean strings in the location field (e.g. Marcelle or Lyon)
  2. Region/State/Country – in several English-speaking countries
  3. Zip code and a choice of the radius – from the exact postal code to 200 miles.

Those options are convenient. Zoominfo’s search is also fast and immediate; there is no need to press “enter” or wait. Of course, the full search is only available to paid subscribers, but it’s possible to preview the results without logging in as well.

Here is an additional consideration regarding location search. Pretty much every site with profile search offers keyword search in addition to searching by other facets. Whether you will find people at the right locations by using those location names as keywords, depends on the site. (Interestingly, LinkedIn provided that for a while at the dawn of moving to the Galene algorithm, then stopped, as we can notice in this example).

Do you know how exactly the sites that you use – your ATS or CRM system, resume databases, social sites, people aggregators, etc. – search for locations?



Sourcing is Like Treasure Hunting

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In anticipation of a large recruiting conference in Paris coming up in October 2016 – #rmsconf – the organizers sent me a list of questions, some of them quite challenging – such as “What is Sourcing?” and “Who is the best Sourcer?” This morning they published the interview, along with a translation into French, on the conference site. Check out other interviews on the site; Google translate does a pretty good job for those of us who don’t speak French (I don’t).

I thought I’d share the interview with my English-speaking blog readers. Note, the questions, in the square brackets [], have been translated from French.

[ Who are you ? How can you describe yourself ? ]

I try to be (among other things) a Master Sourcer, Brain Gain Recruiter, Boolean Strings Creator, LinkedIn Data Miner, Internet Researcher; I am Sourcing Certifications Founder (disclosure: I have quoted the 160-character bio on my Twitter profile @braingain).

[ What is your definition of Sourcing ? ]

Funny you should ask. The challenge answering this question is that, as soon as you define what Sourcing is, you will find many fellow Sourcers who question your definition. To avoid disagreements, we can give a nice short definition of Sourcing as “it’s what we do”.

At a closer look, definition disagreements are usually about the extent to which a Sourcer “should” engage with a potential candidate. Everyone agrees that searching online for professional information is what Sourcers do. In many cases, Sourcers can uncover professional information by combining online research with calling on the phone and using mobile apps; it’s all one process. But then, there’s the next, interactive, part of our jobs where we are trying to reach the promising professional, get more information by email (ideally, a CV), and get on the phone to pre-qualify him or her further. The challenge is that now it’s a mix between the research function (well done by researchers, “nerds”) and the sales function, where we start promoting the opportunity to the potential candidate (well done by extraverted, people-oriented recruiters). Some of it is “sourcing” and some of it is “sales” – often combined in one phone conversation.

[ How do you get this passion/expertise ? ]

Sourcing is fun and creative, it’s like treasure hunting. If I am working on a sourcing project, I usually procrastinate and leave other things behind, because I enjoy it so much. Every new search can bring in the results that can potentially convert into new careers for other people – as well as the discovery of research methods, tips, or tools for yourself and your colleagues. Most of the Sourcing methods I use (and teach) “show up” in hands-on research projects or answering our students’ questions. I have learned quite a few things from David Galley – I am lucky to be working with him!

Is Sourcing an art ? If yes, why ? ]

I think, Sourcing is part art and part science. The “art” part is gradually becoming more important because of the complexity and volume of information to dive into and because of increasingly smart – but not smart enough – tools. Say, tools can look for synonyms or even “understand” words in the context – but no tools can replace a Sourcer who is looking for matching candidates for a job opening. Creativity and intuition play a big part in Sourcing.

[ You have to find a Java J2EE Specialist. How do you do it ? ]

Here are some things I might do, after I have searched for active candidates on job boards and in our ATS. Look at relevant skills and note other tops skills (keywords), companies, and schools. Search for the skill on LinkedIn in the alumni search dialog, then, narrow down using other facets. Search on Indeed. Explore Google-Plus. Look at Meetup members. Search on Google – perhaps, for resume Images. Look for people who attended conferences. I could look for Java Developers on github; those would need to be researched further since not all Java people do J2EE. There are other terms closely related to J2EE that I could also search for. There are a few other things one could do…

[ Social professional networks, Talent pool, Google … what are your favorite tools ? Why ? ]

I have a list of some tools on my blog. The best approach is to combine various tools vs. using only Google or only LinkedIn, etc.

[ What is your secret tool ? ]

The mouse and keyboard.

[ What is for you the difference between a good and a bad Sourcing specialist ? ]

A good Sourcing Specialist thinks.

[ Who is the best Sourcing specialist for you ? ]

I have met many strong, talented Sourcers on Social Networks and at conferences (sometimes, in that order); I can’t name just one person. To name several excellent Sourcers, here are the winners of our latest Sourcing Contest.

[ How do you imagine the Sourcing evolution in 5 or 10 years ? ]

It’s hard to predict; however, I am pretty sure that humans will continue to play a big part in Sourcing – it won’t be automated any time soon.

[ Which advise can you give to someone who want to become a sourcing expert ? ]

A couple of things: 1) Look for the concepts behind tools and examples. 2) Always practice.

Thank you!


LinkedIn – “Known Issues”

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For me and for many others, LinkedIn is “the” site for finding and connecting with professionals. LinkedIn has created an incredible shift in how we are searching for professionals for recruiting. I am not a fan of LinkedIn Customer Support, though. I have heard of significant improvements for Support but am not sure those improvements have happened. Here are some observations.

If you have submitted a report to LinkedIn Customer support, chances are, that you got this reply: “What you’ve encountered is a known issue and I’m very sorry for the inconvenience”. 

Here are some examples of these interactions:


There is rarely a follow-up from Support; some issues are fixed (as users discover, usually, on their own), some, stay for a while.

We do hope the support improves (and that the software quality control improves, too). In the meantime, here are some channels to discuss and become aware of the “known” issues:

The two issues that I have seen discussed on various channels recently are:

  1. Inability to see the contact info on the 1st level connections (sometimes resolved by refreshing, but not always).
  2. Changes (the functionality shrinking, but sometimes coming back for various users) in searching, sorting, and filtering of the Contacts.

I have also noticed an issue with introductions on LinkedIn; I will share in another post, soon.



LinkedIn Kills Its #CRM Features

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Remember, when LinkedIn acquired this company:


… and integrated its functionality into the main product, we got this menu item – Contacts. I became a fan of it early on. The Contacts became the foundation of LinkedIn CRM (contact relationship management) features for everyone. The “Contacts” combined the first-level connections, imported address books,  and “saved” profiles.

Initially, we could search using many facets and see a nice graphical representation of the Contacts’ locations:


The pretty location graph didn’t stay for too long, but we enjoyed the rest of the Contacts’ functions for a while.

We could leave notes, visible only to us, on profiles; that helped to communicate with others more efficiently. We could edit the contact information (perhaps imported from an old address book) when it got outdated or when obtaining additional info or websites for the person. Records imported from address books were automatically cross-referenced with existing LinkedIn profiles. (This popular email-finding technique relied on auto-cross-referencing.)

Those were the days, my friend!

Much of this CRM functionality still exists in LinkedIn Recruiter. Most of it, however, is gone from personal LinkedIn accounts (no matter, paid or not). Want to hear the details?

We can no longer save contacts. We can edit “notes” and add tags – but only for those profiles that have made it to the Contacts list by February 25, 2016. Of course, most prospects in everyone’s business practice haven’t been “saved” – and can’t be “saved” or tagged any longer; there’s no place to add the notes either.

The import functions for other address books, such as Yahoo or MS Outlook are still there, but LinkedIn no longer tells us which imported contacts have profiles on LinkedIn. The Contact records still look like this for previously imported contacts (hi, Jim!), showing the sources for the contact.


But if you try to import an address book today from Yahoo or MS Outlook, you will just see a list of email addresses with no other information.

Most of the mentioned feature removals happened in the Contacts. To add to this, the recent LinkedIn messaging redesign has also affected smooth communication. For example, we no longer have the checkbox to not let multiple recipients see each other. This is what it used to be like:


That checkbox is gone – now messages sent to several people often proceed to a “spam” loop, where each person is asking to remove them from the conversation and each such message is delivered, again, to all.

Maybe LinkedIn has removed the existing CRM functions while preparing some new and brilliant CRM functionality for the members? Who knows?

In the meantime, we’ll take a look at some alternatives at one of the upcoming Productivity Tools webinars

Need to Find an Email Address? You Got New Options

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For starters, Prophet is not new any longer, but has gained much-deserved popularity since it was introduced and is absolutely worth using.

In the past few months, I’ve noticed a myriad of other tools, all of which will try to find an email address, starting from a social profile or, in some cases, from the persons’ and company names. It’s up to everyone to test the tools – and I’d recommend using more than one in tough cases.

Email Hunter offered by https://emailhunter.co collects visible professional email addresses everywhere – and is therefore in a good position to try and guess an address; it will tell us about the level of confidence in guessing. (Note, it’s a different tool from another Chrome Extension also called “email hunter” that collects addresses on the current page.) I have heard good things about it.

Charlie – I have not tried it long enough to share the email quality experience, but it also provides “social summaries” on profiles. Finding emails is its new feature.

The above two extensions nicely give each other screen space and it looks like this when viewing a LinkedIn profile (Hmm… I wonder what LinkedIn thinks about that.)


More tools:

FindThatLead, a.k.a. FTL is a tool made by a developers team in Spain. They launched their Chrome extension sometime ago and have now added a “dashboard”. They give us 10 searches for free.

LeadIQ is a nicely designed tool, oriented toward sales people, but very much applicable to sourcing and recruiting. It not only looks for emails, but also saves tables with data from the viewed profiles in Google docs. Check it out (25 free emails).

Datanyze Insider – similar to LeadIQ (with 10 free emails) it and also collects the data in a spreadsheet; this could be quite convenient for sourcing for those who don’t like working with data scrapers.

ContextScout – mentioning it here since I have seen a number of online discussions about it. However, I have not been impressed by their UI or by the quality of information in my tests – at least not so far. Additionally, it only provides a limited-time trial.

Well, there are others worth mentioning, but I think I’ll stop here for now. (An easy way to find more similar tools is to Google a few tool names.)

As a reminder, we now hold a regular 90-minute workshop on finding contact info (even in the cases where tools don’t know the answer). Check out the next session.


Saving Contacts No More

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As LinkedIn has informed their users, “On February 25th we’ll be removing the ability to save new contacts and sort your contact list by saved contacts. We’ve migrated the contacts you’ve already saved to a tag called “Saved_ Contacts” so you won’t lose anything you’ve already stored.”

This is an unfortunate turn for those of us who have used the Contacts feature to collect and tag profiles of LinkedIn members (not necessarily the first-level connections). If you have used the “save” feature, here is a shortcut to finding your previously saved contacts (sorted by “new”).

Since we are discussing Contacts, let me share a hidden way to search within them. (Hope it stays!) We can search within the Contacts (including first-level connections, saved profiles, and imported address books) using this dialog – it’s not referenced from anywhere on the current LinkedIn site, but it works and provides more powerful and user-friendly search than the current Contacts page.

This (very unusual) search shows all of the records in your Contacts; you can start here and narrow down to locations, companies, and job titles. You can sort the results by a variety of filters, not available on the Contacts page, including company and location. Of course, this search dialog is also not subject to Commercial search limits, that, once it’s “on”, affects even searching within the first-level connections.

Five Strings to Source for IT Professionals

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Information Technology

As some sourcing tools are going away, I am becoming more interested (almost addicted!) to creating and using Custom Search Engines for sourcing. Recruiters have not yet utilized this resource to its full strength – especially, semantic search features, unavailable on Google.com “proper”.

I have already shared Search Engines for Accountants and for Physicians.

Here are five Search Engines, each with an example search string, to help to source for Information Technology professionals.

1. Search in Software Code – http://bit.ly/TheCodeCSE

Example – find Developers who have worked with Linux Kernel: linux kernel credits OR contributors OR authors

2. Search for creatives on Behance – http://bit.ly/BehanceResumes

Example – UX Designers in Austin

3. Search for resumes on Slideshare – http://bit.ly/SlideshareResumesCSE

Example – quality assurance automation new york

4. Search for Meetup members – http://bit.ly/MeetupPersonsCSE

Example – SAS Programmer Toronto

5. Search for profiles on Google-Plus – http://bit.ly/GooglePlusPersonsCSE

cloud engineering “lives in Seattle” “works OR worked at Amazon”

I will be discussing many more ways to find Information Technology professionals at the webinar How to Find and Attract Technical Talent. Check it out!

Tools That No Longer Work

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Are we experiencing a general tools decline? What are the most innovative tool concepts since people aggregators made their appearance a few years ago?

Here are some tools that have reduced functionality or are gone altogether:

  • The latest version of MS Outlook no longer supports the Social Connector. The last Outlook version that still supports ir, the one from Office 2013, has stopped supporting LinkedIn.
  • Topsy, the search engine that indexed all tweets “from the beginning of time” and searched better than Twitter itself, was shut down in December 2015, some time after Apple had acquired it.
  • Broadlook’s desktop-based Contact Capture, well-debugged during its relatively long lifetime, is no longer supported or available for download.
  • Lippl, an extension to uncover hidden information on LinkedIn profiles, has been discontinued.
  • Connect6 PeopleDiscovery has not been updated since 2014.
  • 360social, that was an extension for Chrome with a promise to become a people aggregator, stopped working for a long time; it seems, it may come back, but we have yet to see that.
  • Connectifier, a well-known people aggregator, was just acquired by LinkedIn – and has already discontinued sign-ups; most of its staff is moving on. We are not sure, but we expect it will be shut down soon.

So which tools, among those we have left, work best, and what are some new kids on the block? Come to my Tools Webinar to find some answers!