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Finding the Keywords that matter

Finding Keywords that Matter.

This is the third post in the Writing Super Queries series.

We all want to find the magical keyword. You know, the one that will deliver perfect candidates as quick as lightning. We want qualified candidates and lots of them. But wanting and wishing doesn’t get us anywhere.

Making query’s come to life isn’t exactly a method or technique. It is more of a condition or a mindset that’s associated with the most outstanding and engaging recruiters.

Successful recruiters have ways of making keywords real.

They open the databases —bringing the candidates into the results and eliminating irrelevant profiles out.

They bring the real meaning of skills into the search string and they lead the database to provide the kinds of results they need.

There are some specific lesson to be learned from to recruiters in how they choose keywords, however. Here are some of them:

Choosing the best keywords for your search string is an art, blended with a bit of science.

Everyone who writes effective search string has similar resources, as you do: Job descriptions, keywords, databases, and / or other tools. So what is the difference?

The difference is that based on their experience, they take charge and assume control over the database results, not over what how the database works, but over their own keyword choices.

For years I’ve been paying attention to the things that affect keywords, both in databases and search engines, and made note of the techniques that work.

The secret to selecting highly effective keywords is in defining your core keywords.

“Core Keywords are the bricks or building blocks for your search strings.”

Let’s walk through a simple example that explains how we can go about selecting our core keywords.

Our search objective gave us the initial keywords. For our example we will use these three concepts as our objective: mobile platforms, application programming experience, and design methodologies. Together these should focus our keywords into iPhone Developers.

We’ll dump those into what I’ll call our core keyword bucket.

Our core keywords for mobile platforms could look like this:

Search Objective

Mobile Platforms




Application Programming Languages




Design Methodology Experience



Data Modeling


Notice that the search objectives are the headers not the words that we will search with. At this point, we could combine the keywords, using one from each column and it would express our search intent clearly. Let’s try some quick queries:

( Mobile AND J2ME AND UML )
( Android AND “Java ME” AND OOD )
( iPhone AND Objective-C AND ERD’s )

By incorporating your concepts into a table, you can create a visual image of how your keywords may overlap. Granted these search strings are not very effective but they already convey the basic message of our search objective.

Keep in mind: the keywords within each column will have to avoid duplicate concept issues, and to work well for the definition of your core concepts, which are always your primary focus.

We could easily use the table to start creating some good search strings. But we have still work to do since even keywords that define a skill correctly can bring bad results.

This makes it critical that we discover other keywords that attract the same results through different expressions. It also makes it critical that we find out how these words can throw our search off track.

Precision will come from making right keyword choices. Those choices can develop from only one thing; proper research which is based on your search objective.

We are not done yet…

The next step of the search string design process will have us developing supporting keywords.

Supporting keywords will:

  • Expand the reach of your queries
  • Create keyword images
  • Provide more search string precision

In the next post, we will discuss how to use your core keywords to develop great supporting keywords. We will use them as we build a system for keyword research to maximize our keywords.

This is part three of the Writing Super Queries series.

This post is just one part of a series talking about the steps for crafting Strong Search strings that deliver results. To get the full series, just stay tuned here at The Sourcing Corner. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe by email so you’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the posts.

Earlier posts in this series:

Introduction: Writing Powerful Queries is like making a cake. 

Step One: The search objective

Now over to you …
Did you like this post? If so, share it on your favorite social networking site!
And then tell us … what search string strategies are working well for you? We can discuss below.


The secret to writing super queries.

The secret to writing super queries.

This is the second post in the Writing Super Queries series.

The common assumptions is that searching is about identifying and selecting the right keywords. Another closely related assumption is that keywords are individual words that describe the skills of candidates.

If you believe like many that these statements are true, today I’m going to burst those two bubbles.

There is a secret to writing super queries.

Every successful sourcer knows this secret, and most others … well, they don’t.

And that’s what contributes to the mystique around the magical search string powers that some seem to have.

Well, today I’m going to share that secret with you.

The secret to creating super search strings isn’t inspiration or brilliance, It is not in identifying and selecting great keywords.

Many Recruiters get hung up on keywords without realizing that candidates can be found without using those cherished words. They believe that finding candidates is about finding those keywords mentioned in a page or profile; it is not.

Let me pause here as a parenthesis to state that while the keywords you select may describe skills, databases don’t match the keywords to the specific skills you describe.

Because of that, focusing on keywords is kind of like staring at your car dashboard instead of the road and expecting that you will safely arrive at your destination.

So, if searching is not about keywords, what is it about then?

Writing effective search strings is about delivering your search intentions effectively to the database, not listing keywords.

The basis for a successful query is about setting the right expectations from the start.

The way to develop the clear expectation for the search string is through the creation of a search objective.

So, what is a search objective?

It is a description of what you intend to achieve with your search strings. It doesn’t describe what they will be doing, and it isn’t a search string in and of itself either. Instead it is a statement that “centers you.”

It centers you on the skills, knowledge, and attributes that you will be attempting to produce through your search strings.

The search objective:

  • Is a clear, precise statement of what your database should deliver.
  • It is specific.
  • It describes a context that defines the skills and attributes of your candidate. It forms the basis for the search approach and selection of keywords and tools.

A good search objective is one that succeeds in communicating an intended result to the database. It is useful if it conveys to the database a picture of what a successful candidate will be able to do.

In selecting a search objective we are making a conscious decision to focus on these concepts at the exclusion of all others.

This is so that we can keep a clear picture of what we need to find. From this point forward, until you finish your search the objective will set the parameters that hold your search strings together.

Once you have selected a search objective, clear the others concepts from your mind. Ignore any keywords that do not relate to your search objective.

If the keywords that you are considering don’t address one of the key concepts of your objective, then it is not a fit. Set it aside. If you were to use it, it would only serve to confuse your database.

That is why it is critical that the search objectives describe the intended results. To be useful to you they need to be specific so that they will help you to make sound keyword decisions later in the query writing process.

If you want to craft super queries, you need to have clearly defined concepts to target.

Defining you search objective is not about the selection of keywords. The search objective is about creating a distinction of what precisely your query needs to achieve before starting to run queries.

Once the search objective is defined it makes it easy to isolate specific meanings or context to increase the precision of your search strings.

Establishing the objective will help you gain your control, deliver precision, and to get results coming back timely.

The power of the search objective is in its ability to create or craft out your a message in a way which your database will understand. It creates search strings that educate and control your database.

It is important to begin with determining the search objectives, and then decide on the most effective keywords, NOT the other way around.

This is part two of the Writing Super Queries series. 

This post is just one part of a series talking about the steps for crafting Strong Search strings that deliver results. To get the full series, just stay tuned here at The Sourcing Corner. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe by email so you’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the posts.

You can read the first post here:

Writing Powerful Queries is like making a cake.

Now over to you …

Did you like this post? If so, share it on your favorite social networking site!

And then tell us … what search string strategies are working well for you? We can discuss below.


Writing powerful queries is kind of like making a cake.

Queries are like cakes.

This is part one of a series on the steps to writing Super Search Strings.

A cake is not altogether that difficult to make. It requires following some methodical steps in a certain order.

Overall it is pretty easy.
But… If you were to place all the ingredients to make a cake on a table and then you told a child to make a cake. Without any other instructions, it would be very unlikely that the child would be able to make a cake.

More than likely he would just make a mess.

Having said this, I would like to say that good searches don’t start with the query, just like making a cake doesn’t start with the icing. Also, if you miss either a step in the recipe or an ingredient, it will likely not work out too well either.

Most cakes contain eggs, milk, sugar and flour….but as in every recipe; you can alter the cake (the final product) by altering the amounts of elements contained in your mix.  If you want a sweeter cake, you add more sugar. You want it a little fluffier, beat the butter and sugar longer.

The ingredients

It’s the same with search strings. The search string “ingredients” are the basic components found in all queries. 

  • keywords
  • Boolean operators
  • Modifiers (Double quotations marks / Parenthesis / wildcards)

“The secret of search string crafting is to get the balance right.”

Just like making a cake you need the correct quantities of dry material to wet. The right amount of heat and the right amount of time. Too many keywords or not enough make for irrelevant results, not enough Boolean operators and nothing seems to happen. But a balanced mix of the two creates perfect results.

Bear in mind that the search writing  process is about directing the work of algorithms make your database or search engine work. Left up to its algorithms, the database just runs the keywords together and spits out whatever happens to be around. Mixing the right ingredients correctly and you ultimately create something delicious. 

The search strings can be altered by changing up the ingredients in your mix. By blending the mix ingredients your end product will vary just like the recipe for a cake.

The query “mix” is a good place to start when you are thinking through your search string to introduce a new keywords or Boolean Operators. There are some key and traditional elements that should be used to ensure success but the “mix” of these ingredients can and will vary depending on the skills that you are search ing for and what you want your final outcome to be.  A little of this and pinch of that and voila!

In order to achieve your marketing objectives you need to have a strategy that includes all the different elements.  Thinking of it as a mix will help you achieve the right balance between all the elements in order to create and produce the perfect recipe for search success.

Now it’s your turn …

Here’s what to do next:

Let me know in the comments what you thought. Also let me know about what how you decide to put your search strings together.


Is it possible to write a Super Query ?

Super queries

How do Recruiters recognize good search strings?

There is a big difference between good and bad queries. Many Recruiters can identify a good one, but they don’t know what makes the difference.

Most of them are not looking at a search strings and thinking:

“That query has strategic keyword positioning and excellent use of exclusions!”

Nope, I don’t think so.

Maybe you do?

Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

The color of your keywords

What color are of your keywords?

Pink Keywords

The color of your keywords

Do you know that keywords have colors? Yeah!! they absolutely do! The thing is, we color the keywords ourselves. We color them by our experience, by our assumptions of what the word means, the assumptions how they relate to the skill they represent, the assumptions of why they performed the way they did, etc… Every keyword that we use is neatly wrapped and colored with this framework of assumptions.

You might not be aware of it but the coloring becomes apparent the first time you search using a keyword. When you enter a keyword into a search engine or database and get irrelevant results and accordingly proceed to discard those keywords, you’ve formed an image. By abandoning those keywords in favor of an alternate word, they show that you have come to believe that the keyword is not worth pursuing any further. Continue Reading →