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Sourcing Strategies | 8 minute read

Boolean beats bias: strategic diversity sourcing tips

May 5, 2021

This post was originally published on Recruiting Daily. You can read the original here.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is a hot topic. However, it’s not just a trend or another corporate initiative – it’s a mindset and a business imperative. In the workplace, DEIB is about everyone coming together from all walks of life and backgrounds to celebrate commonalities and differences.

As business leaders are rightly concerned with building inclusion and belonging into company culture and diversifying their workforces to have contributions from varying perspectives, we (as talent acquisition professionals) also know how important it is to tailor our recruitment process and sourcing strategy accordingly.

Sourcing diverse, qualified talent is a skill that takes practice and time. Building and optimizing a diversity sourcing strategy is a craft.

Read more about diversity with our DEIB whitepaper

There is no perfect method or single tool, resource, or technology platform that will give us exactly what we’re looking for right away. Knowledge is power and the more we understand about diversity targets and can control and master the craft of diversity sourcing, the more effective, efficient, and productive we, as talent professionals, position ourselves.

In this post, I’m going to share several sourcing tips that any talent acquisition professional can use. My aim is to inspire, provoke thought, and encourage everyone to get creative!

Why Boolean?

Boolean search strings, a classic sourcing method, have been around for quite some time and they aren’t going anywhere. They’re only limited by our needs and creative ideas! Think about your underlying critical thought process and analytical approach that comes with crafting strings.

Whether you decide to automate string creation via tools, such as Recruit’Em, BOOL, or Sourcehub, that add synonyms to your search, or you’re an expert at compiling complex strings yourself, they allow you to tap directly into the deep end of the target candidate pool.

Everyone has a digital footprint that can be found.

What’s your information need?

Before we start, I’d like to note that, ideally, effective Boolean searches start with a creative approach to information retrieval.

Think critically about what terms or phrases might show up in your target candidate profiles (such as associations or group names). Then, work backward to create highly effective Boolean searches.

Gender Diversity | Women

A common approach I see when searching for female profiles is immediately targeting interest groups, sports, or associations. This approach is helpful and great for growing your network and brand.

When it comes to searching using direct terminologies such as “women” OR “women’s” OR “female” or pronouns (“she” OR “her” OR “women” OR “woman” OR “lady” OR “ladies” OR “Miss” OR “Mrs” OR “mother” OR “mothers” OR “sister” OR “sisters”), you need to remember that if your strings are too vague or narrow, this will likely yield less viable results.

Here are some suggestions to take your search outside the box and be more specific.

Searching for women’s profiles with an academic degree, for example, we could target Greek-letter organizations (GLOs) and enter in the names of major sororities. Estimates suggest there are around nine million students and alumni from sororities in the US.

Using the term “sorority” may yield a relatively small number of candidates, therefore, building a comprehensive string that encompasses the names of major Greek sororities may be effective and will almost certainly save time.


You can find a free public list of sororities in the US here.

Referencing the WizardSourcer’s Diversity Boolean Strings List, below is an example of what a search string based on sororities can look like.

(“Alpha Delta Pi” OR “Alpha Gamma” OR “Delta Alpha Omicron Pi” OR “Alpha Phi” OR “Chi Omega” OR “Delta Delta Delta” OR “Delta Gamma” OR “Gamma Phi Beta” OR “Kappa Alpha Theta” OR “Kappa Delta Chi” OR “Kappa Kappa Gamma” OR “Pi Beta Phi” OR “Sigma Kappa”)

Searching women’s universities or colleges directly is another great way to find viable female candidates. You can find a free public list of both current and historical women’s universities and colleges in the US here.

Below is an example of a full list of women’s universities and colleges:

(“Agnes Scott College” OR “Alverno College” OR “Barnard College” OR “Bay Path College” OR “Bennett College” OR “Brenau University” OR “Brescia University College” OR “Bryn Mawr College” OR “Carlow College” OR “Cedar Crest College” OR “Chatham University” OR “College of New Rochelle, The” OR “College of Saint Benedict” OR “College of Saint Elizabeth” OR “College of Saint Mary” OR “Columbia College” OR “Converse College” OR “Cottey College” OR “Douglass Residential College of Rutgers University” OR “Hollins University” OR “Judson College” OR “Mary Baldwin College” OR “Meredith College” OR “Midway College” OR “Mills College” OR “Moore College of Art & Design” OR “Mount Holyoke College” OR “Mount Mary College” OR “Mount St. Mary’s College” OR “Notre Dame of Maryland University” OR “Pine Manor College” OR “Russell Sage College” OR “St. Catherine University” OR “Saint Joseph College” OR “Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College” OR “Saint Mary’s College” OR “Salem College” OR “Scripps College” OR “Simmons College” OR “Smith College” OR “Spelman College” OR “Stephens College” OR “Sweet Briar College” OR “Trinity Washington University” OR “Wellesley College” OR “Wesleyan College” OR “Wilson College” OR “Women’s College”)

Racial and ethnic diversity

If you need to source racially and ethnically diverse candidates, the aforementioned strategies can give a baseline to tailor your searches accordingly. If you would like to take the GLO approach, the below list can be used for targeting Black fraternities and sororities:

(“Sigma Pi Phi” OR “Alpha Phi Alpha” OR “Kappa Alpha Psi” OR “Omega Psi Phi” OR “Phi Beta Sigma” OR “Sigma Rhomeo” OR “Wine Psi Phi” OR “Iota Phi Theta” OR “Phi Delta Psi” OR “Delta Psi Chi” OR “Beta Phi Pi” OR “MALIK Fraternity” OR “Sigma Phi Rho” OR “Phi Rho Eta” OR “Gamma Psi Beta” OR “Alpha Kappa Alpha” OR “Delta Sigma Theta” OR “Zeta Phi Beta” OR “Sigma Gamma Rho” OR “Phi Delta Kappa” OR “Iota Phi Lambda” OR “Eta Phi Beta” OR “Gamma Phi Delta”)

Likewise, if your goal is to directly target an academic background and perhaps you are seeking Black candidates, why not use this list of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the US. Below is an example string.

Keep in mind to get as creative as possible to tailor your search based on geography, candidate persona viability, and so on.

(“Bowie State University” OR “Clark Atlanta University” OR “Fisk University” OR “Grambling State University” OR “Howard University” OR “Jackson State University” OR “Morehouse College” OR “South Carolina State University” OR “Southern University Baton Rouge” OR “Spelman College” OR “Stillman College” OR “Tuskegee University” OR “Xavier University”)

Expanding on diversity Boolean strategies geared toward racial and ethnic diversity, you could construct a search syntax that targets other cultural interest GLOs.  

Bonus Hacks

As an added bonus to this post, here are two other Boolean sourcing hacks:

1. Google’s keyword search limit is 32 words.

This means using strings that extend beyond 32 words, such as the starter brackets provided above, just won’t be effective. Here’s a free back-end solution to get the results you want without word search limitations: Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs).

You can create and program your own search engine. If you’d like an example of a diversity-tailored CSE, I’ve included a personal favorite of mine, this CSE is publicly accessible and can be used by anyone.

2.Use different search engines.

When using Boolean searches, oftentimes we tend to stick with our default web search engine. My recommendation is to plug your string into different web browsers to take advantage of varying algorithms and search results. This site provides a dual-screen comparison between Google and Bing search results.  

Ultimately, I wanted to inspire you to think a little bit differently when it comes to Boolean sourcing. Keep in mind that effective sourcing, diversity or otherwise, isn’t just about Boolean. It’s about critical, analytical thinking and seeking to step outside of the box to find ways to meet your information needs.

Read more content from Jasmine:

What the most innovative companies know about hiring top talent

How to attract top talent by becoming an effective brand ambassador

About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.