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A Searching Strategy

By Michael Stamp

Imagine if you can, a library, with billions of books containing all of the world's knowledge. Millions of new books are added everyday with no particular care where on the shelves they are placed. This library has no card reference system; the books have no ISBN numbers. You wander aimlessly through the shelves, looking at books with absolutely no relevance to your search, when suddenly you see several different librarians, independently rushing around, indexing every book they can find. Unfortunately the information collected by each of these librarians is different from the other and the vast size of the library means that they can only reference a small piece of the library each.

By replacing the word library with Internet in the paragraph above we have the World Wide Web as you see it today. A massive repository of almost everything you could ever wish to know but which requires a certain amount of skill to find it effectively.

Searching the Internet is a hybrid skill; it is part creativity and part science. While riding upon the surf, your search success or failure depends largely upon your sector knowledge, internet search technique, experimentation, creativity and luck. Combine this with an ability to proceed with a clear and methodical approach and success should quickly follow.

Fortunately, the tools to help us in our search through the billions of web pages to find those golden nuggets of information are freely available for us to use.

Search Engines

Different search engines find different information on the web, so to utilise your web searching to the maximum, you must first learn how and where to search.

There are literally hundreds of search engines available on the Web, there are, however, 2 or 3 that that seem to dominate the Web researcher's world.

The reason these engines are so popular is for two reasons. Firstly they have immense amounts of web pages referenced in their search index and secondly, they provide us with the ability to tailor our searches so that we can find exactly what we are looking for in our results.

Unfortunately, because of the number of pages on the WWW and the fact that millions of pages are added, edited and deleted every day, it is not unusual for pages that appear in a search engine index to have disappeared from the web by the time you find them. Don't be surprised if occasionally you click on a promising looking link to find that the page has been moved or deleted.

Defining a process

The degree of disorganisation on the web means in general, that the average user of a search engine will often settle for what they can get rather than what they actually wanted. To improve the odds of searching success, a clear definitive plan or a search strategy is needed. Having a strategy will make all the difference between regular search success or failure and consists of six basic steps.

1. Determine the type of information you need.

Determine the type of information you are trying to find (CV, staff directory, client vacancy, case studies for example) and then try and pinpoint the specific skills, company or job title you are trying to find

2. Create a list of potential search terms.

Search terms are those specific words or phrases that best describe the person or company that you are trying to find. The free text nature of the internet and lack of controlled vocabulary that is used, means that you must posses the widest range of potential search terms possible.

3. Choose specific search tools that will retrieve the type of information you want.

Successfully searching the Internet is dependent on you choosing the right search tool for the job. Search tools fall into three main categories. Search Engines, Metasearch Engines and Directory Search Engines.

4. Construct a search string and conduct your search.

These are the words or strings that you actually type into the search engine to control the results that are returned. You can search using a combination of individual keywords or phrases that best match your criteria. Ensure that you make the best use of the Search Engine's advanced features, allowing you to search for example, for keywords in the title or in the url of a web page.

5. Evaluate your results.

Even the most carefully constructed search terms will often retrieve irrelevant information or results with thousands of hits. If you cannot find what you want in the first 15 or so results, then move straight on to the next step in the process.

6. Revise your search terms if necessary (and it probably will be).

Subtly change your search terms using deferent combinations of words and phrases and you will in turn get different sets of results, Add or remove words that you feel may be influencing your search negatively.

Previous article: E-cruitment is revolutionising the Recruitment Industry

Next article: Finding candidates on the Web

Michael Stamp is the Managing Director of Recruitmate. Website:, or contact him at

Copyright ©Michael Stamp 2004


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