Make Google Work Better for You!

Larry Wilson, LSW
Social Worker, Career Counselor

Recently, I struck up a conversation with a man who was in the middle of a job search. Specifically, that day, he was trying to locate the email address of the hiring manager so that he could forward some materials outside of the standard job application workflow. So far, he had not been successful. However, by pooling our knowledge, we were able to locate a professional registration page for the hiring manager. That page contained all the information he needed.

I realized through that experience that many may not be aware of various ways to refine Google searches, increasing the likelihood of a successful search. I thought I would list a few of the most useful tools here. At the end of this note I will provide links for those who may want more detailed information.

1. Quotation marks:

You can use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase or sequence of words. Consider the difference between the search terms Joelle Smith AIG and “Joelle Smith” AIG. With the second set of search terms, pages mentioning AIG and Joelle Smith will be returned first. You may get the same result with the first set of search terms, but you may have to search through many more results to find it.

2. Excluding terms:

You can use a minus sign before a search term to tell Google you don’t want results including that term. This is most often useful when a celebrity or other luminary shares a name with the person you are searching for. Let’s say that when you search “Hector Sanchez” LCSW, you find that there is a social work professor at Emory University named Hector Sanchez. This professor is a prolific author and speaker who is widely cited. Modifying your search terms to exclude results with Emory in them should make it easier for you to find your target: “Hector Sanchez” LCSW –Emory.

3. Searching a specific site:

You know you saw information about a particular program on an agency’s website. But when you go to look, it is not there. The search function on the website doesn’t help, either. Try this: Restrict your search to a particular website in this way: volunteer. This technique can often help you retrieve information on former executives, programs or events that can no longer be accessed from the main website, but still exists on orphan pages in that domain: “James Franken”, for example.

4. Including a “wild card” term in your search:

You may remember reading something, but find yourself blanking on a specific term. A search like this may help: “Dr. Washington strongly supported the * initiative”. In this case, Google will look for that phrase and return any result that follows that pattern. The * is a wild card operator that basically says: Return a result where you find this phrase, regardless of whatever word appears where the * is.

I hope you find these tips helpful! There are a number of other ways to qualify your Google searches. If you are interested in further information, you can reference the Google help page at, or consult an article on the subject, such as this Lifehack offering: