When it comes to taking a road trip it’s best to know the car you’re driving. This same advice applies to searching the Web. Although your main objective may be finding qualified talent, it pays to understand the vehicles you use in the quest, namely the various search engines. The Web is vast, and while today there are numerous tools to navigate it, not all search engines are the same. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each and understanding how they function will enable you to choose the search engines that are best for finding the material you seek. Simply put, some search engines work better than others at finding specific types of information. One of the factors that give individual search engines an advantage is the size of its database– the larger the database, the greater the pool of possibility. Think of the impact of this statement when applied to recruiting and reaching those passive candidates. So how do the various search engines measure up? According to statistics compiled near the end of 1999 by Gregg Notess at Search Engine Showdown, the number of pages indexed by each search engine ranged from nearly 40 million at HotBot to just over 200 million at Northern Light. This ranking measures the size of their respective databases, although it’s not the only indicator of whether a search engine is good for finding candidates. Still, it’s a valid starting point to begin narrowing your choices of search tools. The top four in Notess’ listing were: Northern Light, Fast Search, AltaVista and Google! The bottom four (of the engines covered) were: Lycos, Infoseek, Snap and HotBot. These smaller search engines shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because if they allow Boolean searches and/or field searches, your ability to find candidates with these search vehicles will be significantly improved. A more recent analysis by Greg Notess (http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/stats/sizeest.shtml) on Feb. 21, 2000 showed Fast jockeying for top position with its rapidly growing database (index). And while the search engines are not nearly keeping up with the growth of the Web, they are growing their databases. Notess’ report yielded the following estimates for the three largest search engines: Fast – 280 to 308 million Northern Light – 219 to 241 million AltaVista -197 to 217 million So what do you do next with this information? Take the time to visit the search engines we’ve included here– and keep informed about new ones that launch. Like any new tool, you’ll need to invest a little time into learning and understanding each search engine and its particular features (and quirks). Unlike software or automobile manuals, the help sections of search engines are reasonably short and reading them will boost your Internet research skills. It’s free, valuable information that you can put to good use. One thing that you should remember: whatever search engine(s) you choose, the results you get will depend on how good its index is AND how good your query is. If you’re working with large indexes at search engines that offer advanced search capability, Boolean queries and field searches, you’re off to a good start. If you find yourself constantly coming up with very few or poor results– or far too many results– at these same search engines, it’s worth another investment of time to really learn how to create effective search queries. Then, you’ll see real results. Over the next several weeks we will examine these search engines, looking under their hoods so to speak, to aid your decision of which ones to choose when cruising the Web in search of talent.