Advice for searching online

 

Normally the default search option will be a ‘basic’ or ‘simple’ one, which allows you to search by keyword/job title and location. The Jobsite homepage is a typical example.

There will also be an advanced search option on many sites.

Advanced searching

Advanced searches allow the user to specify a number of extra variables such as salary range, contract type, date etc. in addition to job title/keyword and location. Some typical features of advanced searches and tips on how to get the best out of them are detailed below.

Keywords and job titles

The ‘keyword’ or ‘job title’ search field is where you type the name of the job you want, but there is an important difference between a keyword and job title search:

  • If you search ‘environment’ under job title, this will return all the vacancies with ‘environment’ in the job title (e.g. "environment officer").
  • A keyword search using the same term however will list all the positions which include that word anywhere in their record, and many of these may not be the kind of job you are seeking (e.g. a vacancy at a spa including the phrase “creating a relaxing environment”).

Begin with a simple search using a general term based on a job title or employment sector, then start refining your search terms once you get the results. If you have too many irrelevant results you need to narrow your search, if you have too few you need to broaden it. Below are a few tricks you can use to do this.

Boolean commands

The three ‘Boolean’ commands ANDOR and NOT can be used to help broaden or narrow your searches:

  • AND: This is the default command in most search engines, e.g. if you search ‘marketing intern’ the search engine will interpret that as ‘marketing AND intern,’ i.e. retrieve all records featuring both those terms, but not necessarily adjacent to one another.
  • OR: Entering ‘marketing OR intern’ will broaden your search and retrieve records which contain either term. OR is useful if the job or sector you are interested in is known by several names, e.g. ‘banking OR finance’. Also, when searching for jobs in more than one country you can use OR to search for the same job in multiple languages, e.g. ‘lawyer OR abogado.’
  • NOT: This command will narrow your search by getting rid of results which contain a term you do not want, for example searching ‘internship NOT unpaid’ in a job title field will get rid of any adverts for internships with the word ‘unpaid’ in the title.

Exact phrase searching

Most search engines enable exact phrase searching using quotation marks, e.g. “social worker.” Many advanced searches will also contain a search field labelled ‘Search exact phrase’ which can be used to perform the same function. This can help narrow your searches when you get too many irrelevant results.

Wildcards

Some job search engines allow you to broaden your search using ‘wildcards.’ A wildcard is a character which you can use to stand in for an unspecified letter or letters. This will usually be a question mark (?) or asterisk (*).

For example if you were interested in a job in politics you could search ‘politic*’ as this would find all the vacancies including words beginning with those letters, e.g. ‘political analyst’ ‘lecturer in Politics,’ ‘p.a. to senior politician’ etc.

Think carefully about how many letters you include in a wildcard search, e.g. searching ‘poli*’ would retrieve not just jobs in politics, but also the police, policy etc., whereas ‘politics*’ would omit any vacancies featuring useful variants like ‘political.’

Advanced searching on different job sites

With each job site you use check if they have any information on how to use their search engine. For example, Indeed’s Job Search Tips.

More in-depth resources for developing your search skills can be found on the Library Companion for Students page on Moodle, which includes the following useful PDFs:

Evaluating your results

After your initial job search you can start evaluating your results and refining your search. Beware of job scams, useful guides to spotting these can be found at:

Try narrowing or broadening your search as necessary using the techniques described above, or using any filtering options available to you until you are satisfied that you have found all the relevant vacancies.

LSE CareerHub and several other search engines allow you to save searches so you can check back later to see if anything has been added. Other sites allow you to subscribe to email alerts, whereby you will be sent a notification when a new vacancy matching your search criteria is added.

Browsing

Many job sites provide you with the option to 'browse' jobs. Browsing enables you to view all the vacancies listed on the site, or filter them by a number of variables. The GuardianJobs homepage shows the typical browsing options on a standard job board.

Advantages
  • Good if you want an overview of the job market.
  • Useful if you are searching for work within a competitive sector or within a very specific location.
Disadvantages
  • Can be time consuming looking through all the vacancies in a large sector.
  • Many jobs won’t fit neatly into the website’s categories. For example, a job in a University’s finance department might be categorised under ‘banking and finance’ on some websites and ‘education’ on others, so it is important to think about all the different ways the job might be categorised.
  • When browsing it is generally a good idea to start broad before defining your job criteria more narrowly using the filters