AI Sourcing vs Boolean Sourcing: Which is Superior? | Hiretual

By Steven Jiang on August, 19 2019
Steven Jiang

CEO/Co-founder of Hiretual

“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 Hiretual, 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. Hiretual’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.


The 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:


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Boolean search returns are usually not prioritized, meaning that recruiters have to manually slog through piles of candidates profiles to rank them.
  • Recruiters must visit each job platform separately to enter their searches, which is very time-consuming and tedious.
  • 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 Hiretual customer conducted a direct comparison between Hiretual’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 Hiretual versus LinkedIn. Hiretual 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 Hiretual.”


Keep an eye out for our next blog post as we discuss the many advantages of AI sourcing and exactly how it proves itself to be more superior than Boolean searches! 


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