The keyword search makeover

Makeover1Any recruiter that aims to succeed in this tough sourcing environment must first resolve a basic problem: success in recruitment increasingly depends on the ability to search both  search engines and databases. Yet, many of  those recruiter that many assume to be the best at searching are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, highly-committed recruiting professionals.

These recruiters have tremendous difficulty addressing this problem. That is because they aren’t even aware that it exists. The reason: they misunderstand what searching is about and how to bring about the right results through it. As a result, they tend to make two mistakes in their efforts.

First, most recruiters focus their efforts too narrowly by limiting the depth of their search to merely ‘‘entering keywords” into databases.  Recruiters have spent much of their careers acquiring practice at keyword searches, looking for one or a number keywords in search of intellectual disciplines, and applying keywords to solve search problems. But ironically, this very fact helps explain why they are often so bad at searching.

They focus so much on keywords that it causes them to misdirect their efforts. In databases, keywords don’t exist in isolation. This is a fact that becomes important when the word you sought after changes context with other words in the sentence. Manipulation of context and meaning can alter the outcome of your keywords so that it is radically different than you expect.

The propensity among recruiting professionals to focus so much on keywords helps to shed light on the second mistake that they make about searching. The common assumption is that

searching is largely a matter of about identifying and selecting the right keyword. The belief is that with the right understanding of the defined skill and its synonymous keywords the right results will follow. The creates search string defined by combinations of keywords, synonyms and the like, and are the basis for what they consider to be well designed search strings.

While identifying and selecting keywords is important; it is not nearly enough. Selecting the right keywords is an important step in the sourcing process but it doesn’t even rank around the most important steps. Most of you will find that previous statement to be utterly absurd or even crazy. After all what could be more important than using the right keyword, right? Not only is it true, it strikes at the core of the sourcing problems. When the search strategy is focused on the keywords, in a very real sense it becomes an obstacle to finding the right results. So, if searching is not about the keywords what is it about, then?

Effective searching is not simply a function of keyword selection. To understand “search”, it would be helpful to think of searching as the process of coordinating the activities of the algorithms that make up your database or search engine. Think of these algorithms or rules as a kind of ‘‘master program’’, governing the behavior of the database. Effective search strings rather than focusing on keywords provide cues that suggests the background to amplify and direct search algorithms. This means that the process involves sending and receiving symbols, letters, and digits which form messages of instruction to the database. These messages are the communications that drive the database to “understand” what you need. In other words, keywords are part of the message not the entire message in and of themselves.

All parts of a query are chain linked to create and deliver instructions to your database. Every letter, every space, every symbol used or even omitted, is an instruction to your database. As a result, all have an effect on your results. When you focus on keywords rather than the overall message that the database is receiving, you have susceptible to creating bad results. Specially so since the results are then depending on the databases interpretation of your search instructions without knowing what the interpretation will be.

Anyone can learn how to resolve the search dilemma. All it takes is to change the focus to studying the ways databases and search engines behave. There is a need to reflect critically on databases’ behavior, to identify the ways they often inadvertently contribute to search outcomes. Learning the elements that affect keyword performance leads to crafting queries that break down the obstacles that block the right search results.

This search approach is based on understanding the very way database work, that is, understanding the rules or reasonings that are used to design them.  The nuts and bolts of database, whether of large or small, consist of guiding and integrating the keywords into interconnected strings that defines your search intent. In particular, rather than defining the search problem as a need for better keywords, it transforms the search in new and more effective ways. It transforms it into a process of reflection of how keywords can be integrated to align the search intent properly.

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3 Responses to “The keyword search makeover”

  1. recruitinganimal January 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    Moises, don’t hate me. But this posting is way too verbose. In my opinion, it can be reduced to two sentences.

    “When you are searching a database keywords are important not enough. An effective search string takes a more sophisticated view of the way a search engine operates into consideration and provides the kind of cues it needs to deliver the results you want.”

    And that’s the just the set-up. You didn’t give us a clue as to what we should do instead of using a string of keywords. And you should have if you want people to read again.

    PS: You delete this message rather than leave it on the blog. It’s okay with me.

  2. Moises January 24, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    HI Animal,

    I value your opinion. Just as it happens, I agree with your comment. I think I got on a pedestal when I started writing and wouldn’t stop. lol. I appreciate the constructive criticism and will apply the suggestions on the next one. For now, I’ll go back and address this article as I find the time. You rock!!

    • recruitinganimal January 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Thanks Mo.

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