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Sourcer’s Week: Glenn Gutmacher, “Getting to Resume Search Nirvana: Use the Positive Find Elimination Test”

Posted on August 5, 2007
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by Glenn Gutmacher

Connect Directly with Glenn Gutmacher, Senior Research at Microsoft by Clicking Here and inserting his email, glenn @ recruiting-online.com

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  • In a blog post almost two years ago, Tim O’Connor (now a leading sourcer at CapGemini) lamented the irrelevant results mixed in when searching for resumes by area code, using this example:

    (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) java (maine OR me) 207

    He opined whether using the following template (for Google) would improve things by getting rid of resumes with street addresses led by 207, etc.:

    (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) java c (maine OR me) *207*-*-*

    The search algorithms change over time, of course, and so while that template may have helped then, it doesn’t now. Thus his question is worth revisiting.

    You want to eliminate not only apartment/suite numbers matching your area code, but things like house numbers, sites that blind resumes (e.g., just show "Area Code: 207"), etc.

    The way to test if your work-around is a solution is to do a narrow test search for the positive case, i.e., try to find the thing you want to eliminate with other narrow criteria so you only get a few results. This way, you can quickly scan to see if your fix is successful. I call this the Positive Find Elimination test.

    For example, I would try

    (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) java 207.*.street

    then

    (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) java 207.*.st

    and see if/how the results differ. This usually reveals a way you can tweak your search (e.g., additional boolean NOT criteria) to just get to the results you want.

    Since 207.*.street yields different results than 207.*.st , you must account for both in searches (hardly anybody uses Av for Avenue, so Ave is the only alternative needed). Similarly, very few resumes include the Ste abbreviation for Suite, so 1 James Rd., Suite 207 is sufficient for that NOT-type search. Ditto for Cir as an unnecessary abbreviation for Circle.

    Again, before I receive complaint emails, let me clarify: I know the word "Ste" appears on web pages. But if you’re searching for individual RESUMES, the number of appearances of Ste (or even Suite, for that matter) is insignificant. The context of your search matters, so when you run the Positive Find Elimination test, make sure to run the same kind of search as your desired search.

    Unfortunately, Google doesn’t let you eliminate the number in a list (e.g., 207 208 …) with -207.208, nor does it distinguish between #207 and 207 (see for yourself), so there’s no point in trying to eliminate results with content formatted in those ways. Ditto for the unability to rid of 207 results where it’s the local phone prefix (e.g., 339-207-5555).

    Also, using Dr as an abbreviation for Drive is problematic, because it also tends to include people whose resumes have your desired area code number in it, but used in a different way, and within a few words is Dr., as in the Doctor abbreviation (yes, Dr is the same as Dr. in Google). You might actually eliminate good results using that, so just stick with Drive, to be safe (the number of extraneous results added is trivial).

    Another common thing you may encounter is page number references, so we’ll eliminate those as well. This yields the following template (substitute your desired state/province name, abbreviation and area code for those values below, as well as any skill terms):

    (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) java (maine OR me) 207 -area.code.207 -page.207 -pp.207 -207.*.st -207.*.street -207.*.rd -207.*.road -207.*.ave -207.*.avenue -207.*.drive -207.*.circle -site:free-for-recruiters.com

    The last NOT term is to eliminate results from free-for-recruiters.com, which blinds resume results. But after using the above template to eliminate all the other false results, that will be relatively few to sift through!

    If you encounter other extraneous terms in your results (e.g., highway/hwy, another blinded job board, etc.), you can similarly use the Positive Find Elimination test to figure out how to eliminate them.

    Using Google Alerts, you can set multiple searches for each state/area code combination you want. You may need to create additional strings if you’re adding more than a few skill and/or job title keywords, anyway, since this template is close to Google’s 32 keyword/string limit.

    Remember, this search string template is geared to Google, in keeping with Tim’s original post. Obviously, it is not the only way to find resumes on Google, nor is Google the only place you should search for resumes, so adapt this template accordingly. As I’ve said before (here, here and here), the results overlap between the search engines is surprisingly and extremely low. In other words, the same search on different search engines pulls up entirely different candidates! You are shooting yourself in the foot to only search one engine.

    Even if you search PageBites for resumes, which pulls resumes off the web using Google (PageBites created a Google API), it yields completely different results than the above Google template. For example, try my string template versus java struts (keywords) and Dallas, TX 75201 USA (default searches 50 mi. radius) on PageBites. Unfortunately, some of PageBites’ resumes are not in the Dallas area (e.g., it pulls a French postal code, a past employer location, etc.) and it includes some blinded-type results (e.g., Rent-A-Coder.com) which you can’t eliminate. You would think, since my template only used the intitle: OR inurl: resume search method, that PageBites would find all of my results, plus quite a few others…but not so!

    P.S. I’ll have more to say on things like this during my sessions at SourceCon and Kennedy this fall. Are you going?

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