Boolean Tricks OR Treats

Cackling by sage_solar

As it’s Halloween, I thought I would use its most iconic phrase to demonstrate some Boolean search basics with Google Search.

Trick or treat

Halloween - tot1

This is probably the way Google expects us to search for this so it is probably the most visually pleasing set of results. Google will most likely be searching for both the words trick and treat on the pages, as we didn’t capitalise our OR, not making it a Boolean operator. Google does still highlight the or in results, clearly giving priority to the phrase “trick or treat”.

“Trick or treat”

Halloween - tot2

This set of results doesn’t look quite as pretty, Google probably doesn’t expect its average user to use quote marks when searching. It will be looking for the whole prase “trick or treat” so the results are similar to the last search. You will note that the estimated number of results for this search is less than the previous search. While these numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt, this is likely to be the case as the exact phrase will appear on fewer pages than simply both the words trick and treat.

Trick OR treat

Halloween - tot3

This search doesn’t make much sense in the context of Halloween. This searches for one or more of the words trick and treat. The results reflect this as the top two are definitions of the two words. You will also note that we have an estimate of many more results – obviously this is because we’ve been much less fussy with our search, any page that mentions either of the words trick or treat will satisfy this query.

Please note that I was logged in to Google when I ran these searches and yours might look totally different.

Image credit.

The SourceCon Challenge is back – Could we see another Grand Master Sourcer from the UK?

SourceConIf you’ve not been sourcing for a while then you may not know about the SourceCon Challenge. So, take a seat and let me fill you in…

For a long time, SourceCon was the only conference especially for Sourcing professionals. It was held for the first time in Atlanta in 2007. Along with the event, they held a challenge to find the best of the best in Sourcing. The Challenge consisted of 3 qualifying rounds (like online treasure hunts) ahead of the event and then another challenge at the conference for the winners of the those three rounds to compete for the title of GrandMaster.

SourceCon Grand Master Challenge Competitors 2010 - Irina Shamaeva, Mike Notaro, Katharine Robinson & Lisa Offutt

Mike Notaro won the title in 2007 and again in 2008. There was no SourceCon in 2009 (*sad face*) but both the event and the challenge were back in 2010 and I went on to take the title of Grand Master in San Diego in March of that year. The Challenge returned again in October 2011, this time Jim Schnyder took the title.

This week – the SourceCon Challenge is back. I find myself asking if it might be possible to have another Grand Master from the UK? In putting together the Discover Sourcing event, I’ve found a lot of great sourcing talent on our little islands.

I would definitely recommend taking part if you care about developing as a sourcer. Despite getting nowhere in the challenges that I tried in 2008, they really pushed me to try new things and explore the web in a way I hadn’t considered before. The Challenges definitely made me a better and more confident sourcer. If that isn’t reason enough – you could win a MacBook Pro Air!

If you’d like to take part then I recommend reading SourceCon’s Challenge Announcement, they recommend catching up with their “Source The Web” series of articles ahead of the challenges. They also recommend checking out the stories of, past winner, Jim Schnyder and, challenge qualifier, Irina Shamaeva. Could this next challenge be similar to those they had to solve? I’ve no idea… but it’s always worth doing your homework before a challenge starts – anything could be a clue!

The Challenge begins this Thursday, 29th August, at 7pm BST. They will be giving out the first clue in a Google Hangout via their Google+ Page. If you’ve never taken part in a Hangout before, dont let that put you off. Simply visit the page on the day at the right time.

Good Luck! 🙂

We Have A Winner – Toby Culshaw Found Mother Christmas!

I can announce that I am happily reunited with my Mum this evening, due to the help of Toby Culshaw. My Mum and I have been out and had some mulled wine together to celebrate. I’ll let Toby tell you how he solved the UK Sourcers Christmas Challenge in his own words 🙂

As you will all know, on Friday 14th December, the gauntlet was thrown down by Katharine to find her lost mother. It read:

Dear Sourcers,
Please Help. I’ve lost my Mum.
She’s not been seen at home since she last went out to work.
Christmas just won’t be the same without her.
If you can track down where she was on Wednesday 12th December then I’m sure I can take it from there.
Please send an email to with my Mum’s name, where she was on Wednesday 12th December and a photo of her in a Santa hat (just so I’m sure you’ve really found her).
Thanks for your help and Happy Sourcing!

Now, being a kindly soul and also one that likes a challenge, I was happy to have a little look to see if I could help.

Although I love to be quick off the mark sadly, having just moved house, my internet access is at zero so I knew all activity would have to wait until Monday.

Firstly I looked at the text of the challenge itself for any hidden clues… nothing. I tried a quick broad Google search of “Katharine” AND (“mother” OR “mum” OR “mom” OR “mummy”) and stumbled across a review for a holiday house rental in Marseillette, France making reference to Paul’s mother Anne… still no use… although the holiday house looked lovely!

Then I saw a comment that Katharine had put in a discussion on the UK Sourcers LinkedIn group:

“Thanks for the “Like” Claire, I hope you’re taking part! No one has managed to find Mother Christmas yet”

I took “Mother Christmas” and ran with it… was it making reference to the Roald Dahl poem? Was it referencing “Mother Christmas’ Journey” a book written by Mary Martin and Valerie Stumbles (after all, I didn’t know about the marital status of either Katharine or her mother)? Is it connected to a short story titled “Mother’s Christmas” written by Elisabeth Robinson – possibly.. well the surnames match. After a little digging I decided these were dead ends.

I thought I needed to start from sctratch and get back to the last bit of data I knew to be accurate – Katharine!

Doing a quick look on Naymz I could see a fair amount of Katharine’s background but also looking in the tags section I could see one particular word standing out Henery. There seemed little relevance at first but I thought to note it down and see what came up later. Looking through Katharine’s Facebook profile (not usually a route I would take but my work’s firewall was being tricky on twitter and most other sites, so needs must) there were a number of names that stood out, all with the surname Henery, that I would later find out were some of Katharine’s cousins and aunts.

Looking at the profiles of these individuals on facebook, and doing some quick Google searches / cross referencing of their names on, I found an Angela Henery on LinkedIn.

Doing a few x-ray searches of LinkedIn, Facebook and WordPress, I had her LinkedIn profile in minutes (I may have also invited Angela to connect on LinkedIn as I originally thought I needed an email address as well). A rather nice looking recipe for a Cheddar and Red Onion Omelet and, most importantly, confirmation that both Angela and Katharine had lived in the same house at the same time and a Twitter handle (@AngelaH57).This is looking very positive… now all I need is to track Angela down to the 12th December and get a photo…

Having seen on Angela’s LinkedIn profile that she volunteered at the Averbury Manor, I thought I would do some digging in Google Images to see what they had released recently (and specifically around the 12th). Some lovely images, but nothing. From a conversation discussing imagery on a WordPress post about “The Manor Reborn”, which was filmed at Averbury Manor, I saw I thought surely this is it… nope, nothing! Once again lots of lovely pictures but nothing useful. As before, I rolled back to the last thing I knew to be fact… Twitter.

The very first Tweet on Angela’s timeline was reference to Averbury.

No photo = no good.

Scrolling through Angela’s timelines I saw lots of interactions with @TheSourceress so I was reaffirming my choice as I went. Once I hit a tweet Angela had Retweeted from @AveburyNT I decided to investigate.

Looking at the @AveburyNT page, the images jumped out at me immediately… Christmas hats!!

Scrolling through, @AverburyNT had even kindly labelled the pictures for me so a few clicks later I had found the one I was after. It also rather conveniently confirmed where Angela was on 12th December by the date posted:

And there we have it, Angela and Katharine are reunited – safe and sound. The moral of the search being – don’t be afraid to run down a few rabbit holes because eventually you’ll find your way through.

Mother Christmas is Missing – A UK Sourcers Chrsitmas Challenge

I thought a Christmas sourcing challenge would be fun. The first person to correctly answer my call for help below will win a special Christmas Hamper, courtesy of Sourcing Hat Ltd.

Dear Sourcers,
Please Help. I’ve lost my Mum.
She’s not been seen at home since she last went out to work.
Christmas just won’t be the same without her.
If you can track down where she was on Wednesday 12th December then I’m sure I can take it from there.
Please send an email to with my Mum’s name, where she was on Wednesday 12th December and a photo of her in a Santa hat (just so I’m sure you’ve really found her).
Thanks for your help and Happy Sourcing!

Show Off Your Internet Sourcing Skills With Smarterer

If you know you’ve got mad Google search skills, or you think you know LinkedIn better than the back of your hand, why not show off with Smarterer’s short tests and funky badges.

You can take tests in all sorts of things from Web Development skills to using Powerpoint. Of most interest to us Sourcers are probably the tests in Google Search and LinkedIn.

I have taken a few tests and here are my results:

You can see even more on my Smarterer profile.

If you take a test, share the link to your profile in the comments and show off!

Thanks must go to Bill Boorman for pointing out this tool 🙂

Clone Your Talent

Stormtroopers in the liftAs it’s Star Wars Day (May the fourth be with you!) I thought I would put together a little sourcing advice from a galaxy far far away.

Clone your talent – Not literally, of course. I’m not talking about having hundreds of Jango Fetts confusing the security personnel on the door of your building but it can help to look at the great employees you already have and try to find more like them.

Talk to those doing the job already

If you’re an in-house recruiter or a sourcer then you have the advantage of being able to talk to those that are doing the role you’re recruiting for already. If you are a third party recruiter then the closer you can get to talking to the hiring manager or someone already doing the job, the better.

Where do they spend time online?
Do they use LinkedIn or Twitter, do they read and comment on any industry blogs? This will help you judge if you can take advantage of their existing online network. What industry news sites do they frequent? This might help you plan recruitment advertising or search for names of peers being quoted in articles.

What networking events and conferences will they be attending?
You can go along to these events too, or track them online via Twitter hashtags, attendee lists, LinkedIn events etc.

Look at CVs and Online Profiles

What sort of language do your employees use to describe what they do?
This can help you identify keywords and phrases to include in your search terms. If you’re an agency recruiter, don’t be afraid to ask your client for the name of someone that they think fits the bill – whether they’re a current employee or not.

Where did your staff come from?
Do your best hires tend to come from a particular group of companies? LinkedIn company pages can help with this – on the right hand side of your company page you will have the opportunity to “Check out insightful statistics about [company name] employees >>”. If your company is large enough, it will tell you the most popular companies that your employees have previously worked at and the companies that employees went on to work at after leaving you. These are good target companies for your talent search.

This is, of course, just one approach and not always appropriate. Do you look at your current employees to help you find future talent?

Photo by Jaymis on Flickr.

Sourcing Lessons From Hogwarts

I am a big Harry Potter fan and I am a sourcer – you might have noticed that I am part way through a monster Harry Potter marthon this week! I’ve tenuously linked the two together in order to impart a few talent sourcing tips – enjoy!


Alistair “Mad eye” Moody had a point – it doesn’t hurt to always be vigilant. I’m not talking about keeping an eye out for Death Eaters or dark magic, but for sourcing opportunities. I like to play a game when I am on the train where I try to work out what people do for a living. I feel it keeps me sharp – one day I’ll find someone I want to hire, and then I’ll probably panic and make a mess of it. There are sourcing opportunities everywhere – when checking in on Foursquare, when shopping on Amazon and while watching TV. If you can’t work out how – CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!


“Accio!” When Harry wants to find something, like his broomstick, he uses this handy charm to summon it. This isn’t the only charm he knows though; there are hundreds that will help him in his day to day life, his future career and any dragon avoidance he may have to engage in. Similarly, it’s important for a sourcer to know about lots of tools – it’s no good just using Google and LinkedIn all the time and never trying anything else. As handy as it might be to make a troll’s club float, sometimes it would be much more useful to know how to unlock a door or mend your glasses. So try out Bing and Ning and Xing as well.


If you mix ingredients together in the wrong way it can be dangerous. Why do you think Snape is such a grump? He’s trying to stop the dunnerheads in his class blowing his dungeon sky high! Nothing as dangerous will happen if you get your Boolean in a twist, but if you mix ingredients together in the RIGHT way – something Magical can happen. Sometimes you need to mix your search terms in a different way – or think of some new keyword ingredients. Sometimes you need to add another tool into your sourcing mix. Have you tried mixing followerwonk (to search twitter profiles) with knowem (to see if that twitter handle is used as a username elsewhere) and then following the trail of breadcrumbs? You might need to throw in a little pipl (people search) to cross reference some more, or you might not.


Some magical creatures, like hippogriffs, can be really dangerous if you don’t know how to treat them, but really useful (for transporting fugitives) if you do. In the same way, some websites can seem scary/complicated/useless when you first visit them. If you take the time to learn what they’re all about, visit the ‘help’ pages, poke around on their blog and don’t forget to bow, you just might figure out how to harness them in the fight against Voldemort (or at the very least, in the war for talent).


Working out where talented people might be hiding can sometimes seem a bit like gazing into a crystal ball while drinking tea and falling asleep in a warm tower… well, it does if you work in a tall office and get free tea bags that regularly split during the brewing process. Guess work is ok when you are sourcing – you are not expected to be all-knowing. Look under a few rocks. But remember, if something isn’t working – modify your approach rather than continuing too far down a rabbit hole.

Have you learnt any sourcing lessons lately?

The Oldest Recruitment Event in the UK?

Every year since I was a little child I have attended the Marlborough Mop fair on the Saturdays before and after 11th October.

Marlborough Mop Fair 2007

What does this have to do with recruitment?” I hear you ask. Well, the origin of the event dates back over 800 years. ‘Mop Fairs’ were events designed to allow local landowners to find staff to tend their land and manage their homes. The name ‘Mop’ comes from the tradition of workers carrying items, like mops, to demonstrate their trades. A housekeeper might carry her mop or a shepherd might have a tuft of wool pinned to his jacket. Once hired, the workers would discard their tufts of wool etc. and wear a ribbon provided by their new employer instead.

The second event, the Big Mop Fair, allows those that were unsuccessful at the first event or those for whom their new employment has not worked out to try again at securing employment.

By the 19th Century the event in Marlborough, Wiltshire’s only ‘Mop’ town, had became dominated by the entertainment and food vending industries, it’s reputation spoiled by the amounts of alcohol available from the many taverns lining Marlborough’s wide High Street.

The recruitment aspect of the event is now no more, and since the Showman’s Guild took over the running of the event in the 1950s, the Marlborough Mop has become an event for all the family, with fairground rides and attractions.

For more about this historic event, see this BBC article from 2009 by Daniel Garrett.

Image by Wiltshire Blue on Flickr.

This entry is cross-posted on


Sourcing Wisdom From The Hundred Acre Wood

Pooh might be a bear of very little brain and Eeyore might be the most pessimistic donkey you are likely to meet, but they know a few things that it would be well worth keeping in mind as a Sourcer.

“It’s best to know what you are looking for before you look for it.” – Pooh

It might sound obvious, but it’s important to have a good grasp of the profile you’re looking for. It helps to sit down with the recruiter that you are supporting, make them fill in a search request form or simply get all your questions answered before you start any kind of research.

“Organisation is what happens when you do a search and don’t all look in the same place at once.” – Pooh

It’s important to keep a record of where you’ve been and where you plan to go on a search, even if you end up straying down another path or finding new avenues to explore. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It is also important to keep this in mind when Sourcing as part of a team. Make your database work with you and have clearly defined procedures for using it. You might have to be ready to take in hand anyone that doesn’t keep it up to date correctly.

“The wrong sort of bees would make the wrong sort of honey” – Pooh

If you put the wrong keywords in, then you’ll get the wrong candidates out. Always invest research into keywords, phrasing, qualifications, acronyms, industry associations and institutions.

“A good reason for going to see everybody is because it’s Thursday.” – Pooh

Don’t forget to be sociable. Social networks are a great source of talent – talented people that link to their friends and colleagues. Networking in real life is good too. So go and join in – it doesn’t even have to be a Thusday!


“The wrong answers are the ones you go looking for when the right answer is staring you in the face.” – Eeyore

Most of the time sourcing doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated; you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes. Usually the most obvious and easiest places to look are just the places your ideal candidates are hanging out.

Remember these things and soon you’ll have sourcing skills just like Tigger!


I’ve been finding things in the forest,” said Tigger importantly. “I’ve found a pooh and a piglet and an eeyore…”

Quotes from the Winnie-The-Pooh books by A.A. Milne, Illustrations by E.H Shepard.