Acton Networkers

Resource Book


Your Comments on This Section Are Welcome


Section: Job Boards: Searching for jobs with keywords


What's a job search criteria? They are instructions that attempt to specify and narrow down a list of jobs you are looking for as in title, geographical area, and industry. The search is dependent on "key words or phrases" like project manager combined with [most times] a forced selection of function, geography, industry etc.

What's a search agent? Once you are happy with a search criterion, most sites will allow you to save the search criteria permanently. They call this a search agent and they allow you to name the agent any way you like.  Some sites limit you to some number of agents. Most sites will execute these automatically based on timing instructions you provide - like daily, weekly etc. They also allow you to specify things like new jobs only since the last report (recommended), all jobs for the past month or week etc.

It is the keyword search that is truly user defined. How you structure it is critical in getting the best results from job boards. Not all sites are created equal when it comes to refining or defining your job search criteria or for that matter how it applies your keyword(s) to the job description.

This writer has used most job sites to search for jobs. The interesting thing I found was the incredible variety of search results I got from the search criteria I entered. Job boards are invented to provide the biggest list of jobs to you so most automatically expand your search criteria - whether you like it or not. Of course, if you like this, great!

Here's one example: I entered Vice President without quotes, clicked on every Massachusetts geographic selection and the information technology category in Monster. It automatically expanded the search to include General Manager, Business Development Manager, Project Manager, Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Operations, Director of Business Development, Marketing Director, Vice President of Sales, and Chief Operating Officer

This broadening of the search might seem great. You'll probably get a hit every time you use it. And just as probably you'll toss it.  The above search results included:

  • Client Relations Representative
  • Sr. Quality Assurance Analyst
  • Technology Coordinator
  • Technical Services Team Manager

Clearly, this is not what I wanted. How did Monster get this? Their automatic title additions drove this as well as the unavoidable practice of searching for the titles anywhere in the job description - like "reports to General Manager".

A Primer on keyword search

Keyword searches are generally processed against all job data including job title, employer name, job location or job description.

Most sites have one or two help buttons  - "Need help searching" Here's how I would rank the sites on their help text. (Links appear below)

Very Poor:,
Worst: and (couldn't find any)

Notes about Boolean Searches: (AND, OR etc.) see below. Why would I use this? Say your industry isn't specified or the one you're looking into is a subset of the allowable selection.

Example: Keyword = (Vice President  AND Sales AND Printing) OR (Vice President  AND Sales AND "Graphic Arts")

"Printing is generally a separate industry category. This will focus your search on senior sales jobs in the Printing or Graphic Arts Industries. So with Boolean searches you can drill down below fixed categories specified by the job site.

General Don’ts

  • Periods (.) are ignored. Don't use them
  • Semicolons (;) and colons (:) could block your search from being executed at all
  • Don't use plus (+) or minus (-) signs
  • Skip using such common words as a, an, as, the - these are usually ignored

Keyword Length: If you get into using AND, OR and other functions you may need more characters than the site supports. Here are a few examples.



  • Don't use 'single' quotes
  • Don't use any quotes for one word - Doesn't help
  • "Double Quotes" Enclose two or more words with " ". The job board will search for that precise phrase.

Wrong spelling: your search will fail.

Extra spaces between words: No effect.

Upper/Lower Case: Doesn't matter - no effect on search

Stemming: Usually happens automatically. The system takes your word (like program and looks for any word with that word in it, like programmers or programming. Wildcards do the same thing, but you have to direct the system on what to do.

Boolean Search: You can combine any number of words, phrases, with or without quotations using AND, OR, AND NOT. However, sites vary in how you actually do this. The operators can be upper or lower case..

  1. AND: Locates multiple words or phrases. Example: visio AND C locates both of those words anywhere in the job description. Both must exist for a job to be selected.
  2. OR: Locates either one word or the other. Example: visio OR C locates either word separately or in combination.
  3. AND NOT: Locates the first word on a page that does not include the second word. Example: visio AND NOT C locates only job descriptions with the word visio but without the word C

Site Specific Boolean variations:  As above. Do not use commas or the + and - signs

Monster:  allows users to use different characters to indicate the same command as follows:

  • & is the same as AND

  • | (Hit shift \ to get this) means the same as OR

  • A comma means the same as OR

  •  Parentheses: are used to group where you want certain combinations to be considered together. These are only used with Boolean searches.

    Example: ("Visio programmer" OR "C programmer") AND (designer OR "web developer") will locate visio programmer or a C programmer in any job description that also has the words designer or web developer.

  • Wildcards: A wildcard takes a series of characters and looks for those characters in any word in the job posting. This is very similar to MS Word Edit/Find function. It is unlikely you would use it but if you want to there are two kinds:

    1. A few letters + and asterisk.

    Example: vis* locates "visio," "visual," "visualization" and "visor."

    2. A question mark followed by a few letters for a single-character wildcard
           For example, ?ava locates both java and lava.

    Warning: Neither the asterisk nor the question mark works with parentheses

Site specific search explanations: For an excellent review see this link: For Boolean rules see

For other rules click "Need help searching?" located next to the Get Results button on

Tip: Most sites offer drop down boxes to select titles, locations, and industries. Generally you can click on one or more items in the drop down box. If the site allows you to select more than one item and you're using a PC/Windows system hold the Ctrl key down and click on the ones you want. They will be highlighted. If you want all items from here to there as in a geographic search and you're using a PC/Windows system, click the first item and go to the last one, hold the shift key down and click it to highlight all in between.