Why is Google Missing Available Search Results?

Google_Bing_Yahoo_LogosWhen you’re searching the Internet for potential candidates, it’s quite common (and practical) to search for resumes of  people who are likely to be local to your opportunity. The two main ways of doing this are searching by area code and searching by zip code range.

While there are limitations of both approaches (not everyone includes a phone number or address), in this post I want to explore an interesting phenomenon that was brought to my attention not too long ago which clearly demonstrates that even when people DO provide a phone number or address, you may not be able to find them by searching for that information.

Yes, you read that right.

Recently I had a recruiter in my network ask me why he could find a specific resume online using Google, but when he added the area code (which was clearly on the resume) to the search string – the search result disappeared.

When he sent me the screen shots, I investigated – and sure enough, he was right.

What I find especially interesting is the fact that he found the resume at all, because he wasn’t using any location criteria in his search to try and find local people. If his initial searches tried to target local people using an area code or zip code range, he would have never found the resume in the first place.

Moreover – he would never know of it’s existence.

Click on the image below to watch a short video clip of the Google resume search phenomenon:


Fascinating and Frightening

Seeing something like this makes me wonder how many people have resumes and other information online that are indexed by search engines, but are never found due to the search criteria used.

My instincts tell me there are many – but the insidious nature of searching is that all searches “work.” In other words – you get results from your searches, which gives you a false sense of security (and perhaps accomplishment), but you’re not aware of available results that your searches simply didn’t return. You can’t be.

In fact, it never occurs to most people to even wonder about available results they have access to, but are never retrieved.

However, just because you don’t find something – does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Why Does Google Fail to “Find” the Search Result?

I have my ideas as to why that specific resume cannot be found when adding the area code to the search, but I am curious to know your thoughts.

Multiple Search Engines

Of course, you should always employ difference search engines, as they don’t all index the exact same pages/sites. And even of they did index the same pages/sites, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would return the exact same results for any particular search.

For example, while Google, Bing and Yahoo can find the same result without the area code, only Bing and Yahoo find the result that Google fails to return when adding the area code to the search string.


I bring this example to your attention because you should always be aware of the fact that you may have access to people that you simply cannot find using certain search criteria, and it’s not limited only to location searching. Searching by skill, title, company, industry, etc., can be similarly affected.

It’s often simply impractical to NOT search with some location criteria – few people have the time to sort through and review results from all over the world that they cannot use. And location-focused searching doesn’t just apply to resume search, but also for any kind of searching in which you are trying to find people that live relatively close to where the opportunity you are sourcing/recruiting for is located.

Hopefully this post makes you think twice about your strategy and tactics to try and identify local people and helps you uncover previously “unfindable” results.

  • Google seems to recognize the area code after you insert the OR operator after the 813.

  • If you search for her entire address, she comes up as the only result. The results for 813 list numbers that are either on their own, followed by a “-” or wrapped in brackets followed by a space. I am guessing that numbers followed by a period “.” and immediately followed by more numbers are considered continuous, hence Google does not match it to the unique number “813”, just as searching for 813 will not show results that contain 81345.

  • Paul Sabatino

    Pretty interesting – it will recognize her and all the others if you place AND 813 after Oracle 11i…

    (DBA OR “database administrator”) Oracle 11i AND 813 (intitle:resume OR inurl:resume) -job -jobs -free


  • Jung, Jonathan and Paul – thanks for taking the time to look into this! I figured a few more than 3 people would, but this is somewhat of a stumper (some people chicken out?), and perhaps we’ll never really know why Google doesn’t return the result that we know exists and it finds with other search criteria, and other search engines don’t seem to have any issue with.

    Paul – your suggestion does seem to work, but if you click on her cached result, you’ll see that 813 is NOT highlighted, so I am not even sure if Google really did “find” her using the 813…

    Jung – your suggestion seems to work as well, but if you look at many of the other results, you will notice they don’t mention 813 anywhere in their resumes – so again, I am not sure if Google is finding the result in question by 813 (clicking on the cached result shows 813 isn’t highlighted) or by some other means I can’t explain. Certainly odd that the other top results don’t mention 813, but then again, that’s due to the OR you’re using, so technically they 813 isn’t required to be present.

    Jonathan, perhaps Google does have somewhat of an issue with the numbers separated by periods – interesting that Yahoo and Bing do not. Based on Google’s documentation, their search engine should not “see” most punctuation.

    I got curious and wanted to see what Google would do if I decided to use their numrange function, with something like 813..814. Interestingly, it does find the target resume, and you can see the 813 is bolded, as are the following 3 numbers (for whatever reason).

    Thanks for being the only 3 intrepid people so far to look into this Google oddity!

  • Good points Greg. Despite what Google consistently say about “not seeing” punctuation, the results occasionally appear to disprove this. More and more I find myself using Yahoo for consistency in my searches, which is a shame as Google is a great product. Nonetheless, at least Yahoo know I am human!

  • Glen, four quick points:

    Point 1) I believe the reason why the resume in your example is not seen in the results is because the period is used to separate the area code, exchange and number. If I am not mistaken — corrections welcome — the period is being read a “regular expression” [See “Use the DOT sparingly – http://goo.gl/7iMh and this interesting counterpoint to my assumption: http://goo.gl/UTMe%5D.

    Point 2) In your example at least, who cares if Miss Thing shows up in the search results or if an anomaly means she gets overlooked?

    We already know that search results, however exact our query, NEVER produces the universe of potential candidates, even when we seek to narrow down our search to a single phone number or area code.

    Point 3) Setting aside my neurosis on nuance, the truth is that in the time it took to reply to your post I could have called Miss Thing and three others on the list and made at least one human contact. Comparing the two activities, which looks more like “recruiting?”

    Point 4) To your series on human cognition…this is a case in point, is it not? Everyone reading this knows the difference between periods, dots and dashes when it comes to formatting telephone numbers, dates and cemetery plot numbers. As much as we would like to rely on the machine, artificial intelligence is just that — artificial.

    @Jonathan Campbell I suggest you run your queries in multiple search engines if your looking for the most comprehensive results.

    Thanks for the post. As usual, great stuff.

  • Carolyn Kammeyer

    Hi Glen,
    I also looked into the situation on my own (and have experienced this many times in the past). I agree with you- unfortunately the best way to search for a candidate out on Google, Yahoo and Bing is to leave the location out and double check that your “English” only box is checked in Advanced Settings or Search preferances. And of course try multiple strings!

    I like to use Leapfish and Alta Vista right now to search multiple platforms but of course you need to have a very basic string.

  • Carolyn – thanks for commenting! It really makes me wonder about all of the people who have resumes on the Internet that are never found!

    Leaving out location specific criteria is without a doubt the safest way to go, but of course that significantly increases the “noise” ratio unless you can recruit nationally/globally for the position.