Be Negative. Find More

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Can being “negative” help in sourcing? I do not mean to suggest that you will source better results when you are in a bad mood, voice dissatisfaction, or upset others. This is an essay on the Boolean “NOT” logic.

When searching, the productive approach we teach is to imagine the “right” terms you will find and put those terms and variations into the search field(s). We call it “visualize success.”

But many social network members do not follow standards in entering their profile data and forget to include “our” keywords. A Boolean “NOT campaign” is a way to dig deeper and find them.

Search, negating some seemingly necessary keywords or titles, and see which other relevant terms and results show up. Use the newly found terms to iterate the search. This approach discovers members who have not used the “right” keywords on the profiles but are worth reviewing.

For example, you might be struggling to locate a “purple squirrel” with rare coding skills and the title developer OR engineer. Try, in addition, searching for NOT developer NOT engineer and the skills. You will be finding people with the titles lead, coder, technical staff, abbreviations like MTS, etc., some “creative,” and even misspelled titles. (The latter helps if you decide not to hold misspellings against potential candidates.)

The following example search is for two obscure programming languages. Given the scarcity of the talent pool, it may help to search like this:

(malbolge OR lolcode) (NOT title:(developer OR engineer))

The results of such a search will likely include profiles that your competition will miss. (Companies that name their employees in non-standard ways like Technical Yahoo do a good job of protecting them from being sourced!)

Iterate. If most results come from several companies, exclude those companies. Or, if most people with the skills reside in a few locations, exclude them and search again:

aws architect NOT geo:”san francisco” NOT geo:”new york”

NOTs are also necessary for exploratory research, the initial and ongoing part of every sourcing project, and one of the six core skills we test. For example:

  • By negating the desired title, you will find other possible titles that you can use in your searches.
  • By negating the desired skill, you will find people with comparable skills and learn more terminology.
  • By negating the seniority (excluding directors and managers) but using words pointing to someone in charge – as simple as managed or – “in charge” – you will find others. And you will learn how managers call themselves in some cases – some companies have their own “sets” of job titles.
  • You will also find out what the market is like.

The above applies to LinkedIn and LinkedIn Recruiter. But NOTs also help in Googling and to find sites to X-Ray in particular. If you are Googling for sites to source from, search for the terms and start excluding sites appearing in the results one by one, like, etc. You will find useful, targeted sites to source from. Dan Russell of Google likes to write about this. A search engine Millionshort does this type of “thinking” showing results you may not ever see unless you make an effort.



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