How to Combine Boolean Search with Personalized Approach in Your Lead Generation Processes

13 01 2009

My daily work is a lot about looking for and making initial contacts with potential candidates for our job orders at Brain Gain Recruiting. I think that this how-to article should be easily applicable to any lead generation.  The methods suggested below are free for all and are mostly Google-based.

Let’s take an example. Suppose I am looking for a…

“Java/J2EE Engineer with good knowledge of the server side development and experience in software methodologies, especially Agile, living within 25 miles from Santa Clara, CA.” The employer named several competitors that are target companies for this search. The employer has a Dice account and has asked to only search for people outside of major job boards.

Let’s begin.

Step 1. Find a limited number of resumes and profiles of people who would be “the best” and contact them in a very personal manner.

a) Look for resumes on Google that are: 1) recent, 2) have as many keywords as possible, 3) are local to Santa Clara. As an example, you can run this search (this is just an example to show my approach; you could modify this string to your liking):

j2ee agile  engineer | developer server intitle:resume | inurl:resume 408 OR 650 OR “Bay Area”

You can also do a few variations in order to find resumes:

j2ee agile engineer | developer server  ~resume 408 OR 650 OR “Bay Area” -job -jobs -careers

j2ee agile engineer | developer server  ext:pdf | ext:doc 408 OR 650 OR “Bay Area” -job -jobs -careers

b) Look for profiles. Let’s look on LinkedIn using X-ray via Google:

“Bay Area” j2ee agile  engineer | developer server -intitle:answers -intitle:directory

(Have a large number of connections? Look using your LinkedIn account as well.)

Now, contact these great J2EE Server people in a very personal manner.

How? Review the resumes and the profiles. If the person seems outstanding, also do a bit of investigation; at least type his/her name into Google and see what comes up.

Write an interesting email to every person on this list; say that their background is impressive and mention a fact about them. Perhaps you also liked some graphic on their site? Are you both interested in soccer? A tiny personal touch can help to get conversation going.

If you are not sure that the person is looking for a new job, be gentle in your email: ask for his/her advice on finding others for this type of work or even just ask about his/her expertise. (Many of us know that this is a better way to start your communication with a “passive” candidate than asking whether they would want to interview for a job).

Follow up with a call. If you are going to call, it certainly makes sense to do some Internet research on that person beforehand.

You will find the contact information on the resumes but not on profiles. For profiles, you have to do some additional work. As an example, you can figure out the email address knowing the company and its email pattern; or send these people a message on LinkedIn if you belong to the same group, or do other applicable things. (I can write a whole separate blog post on this.)

Step 2. Now, relax your Google resume search: drop some keywords or drop the page age requirement or drop the location keywords etc.

Look only for resumes to start with. As an example, use the string with no location restriction:

j2ee agile  engineer | developer server  ~resume  -job -jobs -careers.

Other things to do with the initial string may include: use “methodology” instead of “agile“; try removing the word server; try using architect or lead or programmer instead of the above titles etc. Make sure the number of results remains reasonably low (under a few thousand), otherwise you are likely to get too many irrelevant results.

You can collect email addresses by hand, or using Contact Capture from Broadlook or some other tool.

Now you are about to write to many people who are still likely to be fine candidates. Perhaps you can’t be as personal any more. Send them a relatively short note asking “whether they might know someone who would be qualified…”.  Your email doesn’t need to feel impersonal to these people. Try sending your draft email to yourself and see how it feels. Always send individual emails, or use an email merge tool to send your email separately to every person.

Do not overload your email with too many details and (pretty much any) graphics.

Do not ask these people about too many things such as several open jobs. Do not expect them to click on links to your pages; put enough information right there in the email.

MS Word and Outlook will work well as email merge tools. Anybody you email should be able to ask you to stop emailing.

Step 3. Now, look for profiles, also having relaxed your search. The problem here is that you are looking to contact many people but there’s no published contact info for most of them. A work around in terms of efficiency may be to look for people from a particular company (and do this for every target company). If you get first, last names from LinkedIn and know the company’s email pattern, you could create an email list. Tell these people that you saw their profile on LinkedIn. Mention their company for a personal touch. If you are writing to someone’s work address, be careful about the subject; it’s probably best for the subject not to mention “job openings”.

Step 4. Look for contact information of people who might be relevant to your search. In particular, you can look for email addresses. There are so many places where you could look. Look on forums, conference sites, blogs, etc.

There are many search strings to help to look for email addresses. As just one example, including the work gmail in your search string is likely to bring addresses.

Let’s do this for a (theoretical, just to make my point) example; the search below will bring some resumes but will mostly bring non-resumes:

-resume  j2ee agile  engineer | developer server  -job -jobs -careers “email ** com”

We did use relevant keywords but there’s absolutely no guarantee that every email address on the result pages belongs to a software engineer.

Collect email addresses carefully, or you may accidentally grab emails from a high school alumni site or a nonprofit these people belong to. It’s useful to review your email list before you send out your email, and perhaps do some additional filtering. More recent pages found with more relevant keywords may be slightly more reliable in bringing in relevant addresses. After your email list is complied, you can remove addresses that come from irrelevant companies/domain names. Remove email addresses that come from a different country (ending in a two-letter country abbreviation such as .uk, .in etc.)

You could also try to find these people elsewhere and get more information about them before you write to them.

Be ready to respond. As a result of this process, I often get referrals, suggestions where to post the job, etc. Sometimes, also, one of my “best” candidates would reply saying that she doesn’t know anybody else but she is interested in the job herself!



shameave-irina-photoIrina Shamaeva is an Executive Recruiter and an Expert Sourcer. For the past 5 years she has been a Partner with Brain Gain Recruiting, placing senior full time employees in IT, Strategy Consulting, and Finances. She has an MS in Mathematics and a strong technical background.

Irina runs fast growing “Boolean Strings” Groups on LinkedIn and Recruiting Blogs. She organized the Boolean Contest for Recruiters and Sourcers in 2008. Read more on her blog. Irina’s LinkedIn Profile can be found here.






5 responses

14 01 2009
Sandy Peyton

I’m a healthcare recruiter in Atlanta, Ga. What suggestions do you have to best source candidates, i.e., pharmacists and physical and occupational therapists?

16 01 2009
Robin Gillman


I really enjoyed your article because it really put into words a very logical, yet creative approach to sourcing.


17 01 2009
“Boolean” Update « Boolean Strings

[…] How to Combine Boolean Search with Personalized Approach in Your Lead Generation Processes (The Source) […]

21 01 2009

Thanks to all for your nice comments.

Since this article was published, we have created a global network for the “Boolean Strings” Members. Please join; it is free and is open to everybody who is interested in the subject of web sourcing:

-Irina Shamaeva

26 02 2009
Michael Krame

These seach strings, however much they generate leads, are not the most efficient way to get the names from targted companies. I have found that those who do the old fashioned telephone sourcing, calling right into companies and getting an actual snap-shot of who works within actually generate the most names, as well a all the names if you are good at it. I have always done my reserch via the telephone, as there was no internet when I started 24 years ago. Contact Michael at (734)420-1040 for a low cost, $16 a name, gauranteed ay of doing ame generaton.
–Michael S. Kramer
MSK REsearch, Inc.

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