How to search for R&D and technical candidates

HardSkills enables you to search and find technical experts globally. Here is how to do it successfully.

To search for candidates in the HardSkills database, all you need is one or several keyword(s). We recommend that you start off any search process by carefully reviewing the brief you received from a manager or client. Ask yourself if there are specific areas of expertise, technical competencies, industry experience or anything else particularly useful for being a good candidate for the role. Let’s take an example – someone looking for an R&D-specialist near Warsaw. Below is a brief description of the role and its responsibilities, copied from a real LinkedIn job posting:

a linkedin job ad for an R&D specialist to a role in Warsaw, Poland
Job ad from LinkedIn for an R&D Specialist

As we can see, this is a very technical role where a patent-holder would be a great fit. Let’s try to de-construct the job ad and come up with some keywords to use in our search process for the perfect candidate. Starting off in the responsibilities section, we can find the following keywords: 

  • Metal atomization process
  • Vacuum and melting systems
  • High-power ultrasonic systems
  • Test and measurement systems

This instantly gives us four separate, high-quality search terms to put into the HardSkills patent search! Additionally, we can see from the requirements section that the following keywords can be used as well: 

  • Vacuum systems
  • Melting systems
  • Laser and plasma
  • Vision systems
  • Neural networks ultrasound systems
  • Filtration systems
  • Pneumatic and hydraulic systems
  • Liquid cooling systems

These latter keywords and terms can further be used for filtering as well, as many of them are a broader description of a field. Later, we’ll see what we find when we start searching for any of the first four keywords/terms we identified above. 

Example: How to search

To search, simply enter the keyword(s) you want to search for into the search navigation and click ‘Search’.

Search bar in HardSkills R&D recruitment platform

Here, we begin with the first set of keyword combinations we identified from our brief.

HardSkills user interface when conducting a search for technical candidates
Search results

As we can see when searching for ‘Metal atomization process’ a number of potential candidates immediately appear. There are almost an infinite number of innovators who have participated in filing for a patent related to the metal atomization process. However, we now need to dive into the granularity of the recruitment search process and consider: (1) Are all above terms needed for the recruit to be successful in their role, (2) Which location does the candidate need to reside in?, (3) Should the patent be from a specific patent classification to be more relevant to the role? 

For question number one, we can use Boolean operators to make our search more accurate.

Putting the ‘AND’ into action, it would look like this: 

Search using boolean operator AND in HardSkills user interface

As the above picture makes evident, by just adding one Boolean operator, different candidates are shown as compared to when we searched using just one key term. We can also combine several Boolean operators if we have more terms associated with skills we consider critical for the role. Adding the two remaining key terms would generate the following search results: 

using boolean operator and several times in HardSkills user interfacein search of technical experts

With this, all key skills, competencies and experiences have been covered, making it a breeze to find just the right expert as compared to other recruitment solutions. 

Tip: When translating your brief to keywords and search terms, rank them in order of importance for the role. Then use the Boolean operators to include the most critical skills or experience from your brief.

If you still find it troublesome to find just the right candidate with the right competence and experience in your region, you might need to consider using either the search fields or filtering.

How to use Boolean operators

The following Boolean operators can be applied to a search in HardSkills: 

Boolean operators available when searching for R&D staff
Available Boolean Operators

We can utilise them to make better use of the keywords identified from our search brief. This comes handy for those of us who aren’t as familiar with patents, as we can use them to narrow our search to ‘key terms’ instead of patent classifications. Here is how the different options work:

And: Adding the ‘And’ between search terms tells the search we want the keyword(s) on both sides of the operator to be part of the patents displayed upon search. This can be used when you want to be specific. 

Example: Metal atomization process AND vacuum and melting systems (when we want a candidate to have proficiency in both.)

Or: Adding the ‘Or’ to a search lets you search for several keywords simultaneously. Patents containing either of the search terms you put in will be displayed. Using ‘Or’ usually displays a larger amount of results and should be used only when you’re not sure what term is most important in your search and you simply want to see all results. 

Example: Metal atomization process OR vacuum and melting systems (when we want a candidate to have proficiency in either one of the areas. The search will showcase all terms.) 

Not: The ‘Not’ can be used to rule out any results where an adjacent keyword is commonly used together with your intended search term but is completely unrelated to what you are looking for. 

Example: Vacuum systems NOT cleaner (when we don’t want patents related to a vacuum cleaner to appear.) 

Here is how to use them: 

Step 1: Place your marker in the search field and tick the box ‘Add logical operator on typing’ in the dropdown box. Mark the Boolean operator you would like to add by clicking on it. A marked Boolean operator will become purple. You can use different ones in the same search but can only add one separate type at a time.

Step 2: The marked Boolean operator will be put into the search field when you type space ( ). Type a space to add your chosen Boolean operator. 

  • If you are copying keywords from a brief or somewhere else, you can also choose the option to add a Boolean operator of choice upon paste. Tick the box ‘Use Boolean search on paste’. Paste the keyword combination and your chosen Boolean operator will be put in between every keyword you paste. 

Step 3: Done!

How to use search fields 

If you are somewhat familiar with patents or have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you can narrow your search even further in the search bar before doing any filtering. The following additional search fields can be selected:

Search fields available when searching for technical candidates
Available search fields

Patent title: If experience in a specific application area of your technologies is a must-have for the role, tick the patent title-box. 


Inventor: If you look for a specific candidate you have found on Linkedin Recruit (or any other platform) you can tick the box to find their patent/s to read up on. 

Abstract: An abstract collects the most essential information about a patent, such as application areas, technical characters of the application and what technical areas the patent belongs to. This can be used if you feel a certain technology is essential enough for your role that you at least want to find it in an abstract.

Applicant: In this case ‘applicant’ means the entity filing for the patent, often a company or institution. Use this if you feel a candidate must be from a specific company. This could be because that company is a fierce competitor or an industry-leader in your field. 

Here is how you use search fields:

  1. Hover over the different options.
  2. Click one or several to select them. Do the same to deselect them. You can select as many as you like. 
  3. Done! 


What keywords should I use?

You can use the precise keywords provided by the technical R&D department, a client’s brief or anything else really. Simpler search terms can also be effective, especially if you combine several ones and use the available Boolean operators. 

How do my keywords translate to a patent search? 

HardSkills' smart search engine uses machine learning to interpret and rank patents, taking into account relevant synonyms. 

Can I search for anything? 

There is a wealth of talent to be found through searching on our platform. With 61,500 areas of expertise and 29 million candidates, recruiters can find the perfect match for their needs no matter where they are looking. However, this does not mean that all skills can be found in all geographical areas.

Can I combine keywords? 

There are no restrictions on the number of keywords that can be used in a search string in HardSkills. Keywords are delimited by the Boolean parameters ‘AND’, ‘OR’, and ‘NOT’, but a simple space will also work fine.

Will I find more and better candidates when I use HardSkills? 

HardSkills is an excellent way to identify potential candidates for research and development positions who may not be easily found on LinkedIn or other social media sites. HardSkills provides detailed profiles of potential candidates, making it easier for recruiters to find the right person for the job. 

According to our research, HardSkills finds about 35% more validated R&D candidates than, say, Linkedin, by offering Google links to private websites and profiles on other research-related directories. Contact details are, of course, no guarantee especially since some experts simply do not want to be contacted.

How does HardSkills help me find the right candidates?

HardSkills enables easy free text searching. The interface is easy and intuitive, making the platform straightforward to use regardless of the user’s previous computer experience.

Whether you have access to a detailed technical job description, or simple keywords, HardSkills’ innovative algorithms will interpret and rank search hits based on their relevance to your search. If you don’t know what keywords to choose, you can see our guide here. 

Do remember that HardSkills allows Boolean searches that are also used in well-known recruitment tools such as Linkedin Sales Navigator.

How many candidates are there in the HardSkills recruitment database?

At the moment, HardSkills international database contains approximately 29 million potential candidates spread across 193 countries. 

As HardSkills’ skills validation function is based on the time of the published patent document, generally the older the validation, the fewer the candidates who are still working. To fix this, HardSkills automatically filters out candidates validated earlier than 2000. But you can move the time horizon forward or backward if you like.

How do I find candidates who do not have published patents?

HardSkills offers the world's largest human-validated recruitment database for R&D experts, with thousands of search hits for even the most detailed of technological skills.

For people who do not have published patents, however, there is not yet a way to categorise skills at the level of detail that HardSkills does. But we are constantly working to improve and refine our product and are looking at this opportunity for the future.