Diversity Sourcing Strategy: 3 LinkedIn Search Tips from Boolean Master Glen Cathey

March 13, 2018

Diversity is the number one trend impacting how companies are hiring this year. That’s according to 78% of the 9,000 talent leaders and hiring managers from around the world who were surveyed as part of LinkedIn’s annual Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report.

Respondents shared that diversity is paramount because it helps improve culture, enables them to understand their customers better, and ultimately boosts financial performance. However, the biggest challenge companies say they are facing is finding diverse talent:

Even though diverse talent pools exist, recruiters still struggle to identify them in scalable ways. Posting openings on diversity job boards and in diversity groups and communities can help, but this approach doesn’t afford you with a proactive way to reach out to the 85%+ of the diverse talent that exists and either isn’t actively looking to make a change or simply isn’t using the diverse job boards you’re posting to.

To help with a more proactive approach to diversity and inclusion we turned to the Boolean black belt himself—the talent data whisperer, Glen Cathey.

At Talent Connect 2017, Glen shared his foundational LinkedIn searching tips, revealing that with the right searches, filters and some creativity, you can come up with a LinkedIn sourcing strategy that helps you discover high-potential, diverse candidates quickly and easily. Glen provides plenty of great examples, many of which are discussed here, but he also points out that these are US-specific searches, and recruiters in other countries will want to mold them to their own requirements.

“What I’m publishing is the tip of the iceberg,” says Glen. “I have no idea what your particular diversity sourcing need might be, or even what country you’re sourcing in—it’s up to you to adapt what you see here to your specific needs.”

With that in mind, here are Glen’s foundational sourcing strategies for locating diverse talent on LinkedIn:

Find top diverse talent by using Boolean searches to reveal lists of prestigious, underrepresented schools, like HBCUs

One way to effectively find diverse talent on LinkedIn is to search for specific colleges that have diverse student bodies—for example, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

You can use the Boolean OR operator to search for as many of these schools as you’d like at one time. For example, if you were looking for a software engineer from a HBCU, all you need to do is compile an OR string with the names of every single one of the nation’s 105 HBCUs (conveniently listed here by Wikipedia), add a relevant keyword like “software engineer” (with the AND operator), and plug that into LinkedIn.

Your first search might look like this:

(“Alabama State University” OR “Albany State University” OR “Alcorn State University” OR …)

...with a long list of HBCUs in the parentheses. Your results will include hundreds of thousands of candidates who likely attended one of these institutions.

Now you can add a term like “software engineer” with the AND operator to get candidates from those colleges who may also have software engineering experience:

“Software engineer” AND (“Alabama State University” OR “Albany State University” OR “Alcorn State University” OR …)

While this can be a useful strategy for sourcing African American candidates, it can be applied to other institutions, too. For example, inputting a list of tribal colleges and universities can help you track down talented Native American candidates.

You can use a similar approach to source female candidates by putting the names of every women’s college and university into a Boolean OR string. Compared to searching for a term like “historically black colleges” or “women,” this strategy not only increases your results, but also ensures they’ll be more precise.

From there, you can use other Boolean operators, such as AND or NOT, to narrow the list down to the exact candidates you’re looking for. For example, if you’re specifically looking for female engineers, you could search for something like (“Agnes Scott College” OR “Alverno College” OR … ) AND (engineer OR developer).

Find female and underrepresented candidates by searching for diverse association groups, fraternities, and sororities

The best Boolean searches start with a creative approach to “information retrieval.” Think critically about what terms or phrases might show up in your target candidates’ profiles (e.g., associations or group names). Then you can work backwards to create highly effective Boolean searches.

For instance, instead of using the term “sorority” to find women candidates with college degrees—which returns a relatively small number of candidates—try inputting the name of every major Greek sorority into a Boolean OR string.

The result looks like this, and brings back over 1.2 million results (who are probably college-educated, female candidates):

You can also refer to Wikipedia’s list of African-American Greek and fraternal organizations to create Boolean strings that segment your results into specifically African-American men or women.

This strategy is only limited by your needs and creative ideas—you can search for any organization or group that consists mainly of an underrepresented group that you’re sourcing, stringing them together with “OR” to widen the scope.

For example, you can leverage similar, publicly available lists of LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ-friendly campus organizations, Latino Greek organizations, Asian-American fraternities and sororities, and various other cultural interest groups.

Return more diverse search results by including strings of common first and last names for women and underrepresented minorities

One awesome advantage of Boolean searches is the ability to string together dozens of search terms—sometimes literally hundreds—to bring back a ton of results that all fit your sourcing criteria.

For example, one of the “terms” that most easily distinguishes men from women is their first name. It may be impossible to input every single female name into a search—but you can use the most common female names from various decades, putting together a search of the top 200 names for women born from the ‘50s to the ‘90s (which adds up to 417 total names).

The entire resulting Boolean string is very long—too long to fit into this post—but it also returns 50 million profiles in the U.S. While that doesn’t represent all women on LinkedIn in the United States, it does represent a solid majority, and is certainly more inclusive than passive diverse talent attraction approaches. 

This line of thinking and inclusive approach has all kinds of nifty applications for finding diverse talent. You could input the top 100 Chinese surnames in a Boolean string to locate hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Chinese-American candidates on LinkedIn.

And you don’t have to do any special research to get this info—it’s freely available on resources like Wikipedia and the Social Security Administration database.

Glen freely shares these searches for any recruiter to use on his own personal blog and at his Talent Connect talk, but the real gift is the insight he provides into his thinking. All you need to do is take a step back and critically think about what information would be mentioned in the LinkedIn profiles of your target talent pools, and you’ll be well on your way to harnessing the power of Boolean search combined with LinkedIn’s unparalleled network of professionals.  

You can watch Glen's full presentation below and see his slide deck here. We also covered other sourcing tips from Glen's Talent Connect talk in a recent blog post

*Feature image from Howard University

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