Perfect Your Search with Boolean Basics

Learn the Logic for More Effective Job Seeking

Perfect Your Search with Boolean Basics

Whether you're looking for a new job or a rhinestone monkey pendant, searching the Internet for it may require more than a simple keyword. For example, uncovering an engineering job via a search engine will be time-consuming and frustrating if you simply use the keyword "engineer." The search will likely return thousands of irrelevant results, and you'll have to sort through scores of openings for artificial intelligence, electrical, sanitation and locomotive engineers.

To conduct more advanced searches -- that is, to find more precise results on Monster and other sites -- understanding Boolean logic is a huge plus.

What Is Boolean?

Don't let the name scare you: Boolean logic is actually easy to understand. The word Boolean is derived from the 19th-century British mathematician George Boole, which, if nothing else, is a great factoid for your next dinner party.

Database administrators have used Boolean logic for decades. It's an information retrieval technique that allows several search words and phrases to be combined using operators or commands. Operators are instructions to the search engine such as "and," "or," "not" and "near." Learning to use these Boolean operators for keyword searches will help narrow your results.

Basic Boolean Operators


This operator combines keywords so that a document is retrieved if it contains any or all of the keywords.

For example, searching for "developer or engineer" will find all documents in which the words "developer" or "engineer" appear. "Or" is the default command on most, but not all, search engines, so if you use more than one word in a search without an operator, the search engine assumes each word is linked by "or."


Use "and" to combine terms so that information is retrieved only if all terms occur in the same document.

For example, "software and engineer" will find only documents where both keywords occur.


The "not" operator prevents retrieval of documents in which specified terms occur together. This operator is also helpful when a keyword has multiple meanings.

For example, "engineer not software" will find documents in which "engineer" occurs but "software" does not.


The "near" operator indicates that the search words you have entered must appear within a certain number of words of each other (usually between one and 20).

For example, a search for "sales near management" would turn up results in which the two words appear close together.

Wildcard Symbol: *

The asterisk can replace one or more letters at the end of a word. This might help you search for something that can be phrased differently.

For example, "nurs*" will find documents containing the words nurse, nursing and nurses.

Quotation Marks: " "

This operator searches for words or a phrase exactly as typed. Putting quotation marks around the words "ultrasound technologist" will find only those documents containing those two words in that exact order.

Other Boolean operators can help you fine-tune your search results, but mastering these basics will increase your accuracy and decrease your frustration. It's also worth noting that various Web sites will tinker with Boolean logic to create their own versions of the search language. For example, the popular search engine Google has its own variations.