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  • Writer's pictureKasper Larsen

SharePoint People search - How to clean up your results by excluding accounts

People search in SharePoint is based on the accounts you can see in the User Profiles blade in the SharePoint Admin center

And as you properly know the accounts in the User Profiles will very often be a mess of expired accounts, Meeting Room, External users, Test account and a lot more.

These are my notes for cleaning up the People/Employee search in SharePoint

“SPS-HideFromAddressLists” originates in Exchange and is primarily used to decide which accounts that should not be shown in the Global Address list. In many companies/orgs this property is set to true/1 when somebody leaves the org.

This makes it a very useful property as it is the best indicator we have on whether an account is active or not.

"SPS-HideFromAddressLists"<>1 (show only accounts that should not be hidden in the GAL)

Exclude test, admin or similar accounts



Exclude accounts which does not use a specific email domain

This filter is an excellent way to exclude external users and consultants with a full account within the org. Please note that we often exclude accounts by specifying that the field should contain a specific value.

Exclude members of a specific department



Exclude accounts which does not have a value in a given property

It is possible to define a query that will exclude the accounts that do not have any value in a specific field.

Since KQL (the Language we are using in the search queries) can't search for "Fields which does not contain any value" we have to use a little trick:

If we want to exclude the accounts that does not have a cell phone number, we simply must reverse that requirement, and hence it will be "include those accounts that have a value in the cell phone field":

(MobilPhone:0* OR MobilPhone:1* OR MobilPhone:2* OR MobilPhone:3* OR MobilPhone:4* OR MobilPhone:5* OR MobilPhone:6* OR MobilPhone:7* OR MobilPhone:8* OR MobilPhone:9*)

User Profile properties such as Department and JobTitle are based on Term Store Term sets and we can use the Term Guid values in our query.

In this example we are using the auto generated property owstaxIdSPShDepartment and the guid specified is the root node of the Department term set: (look in the Term Store for those guids)


So using that in our query will insure that only account with a value in the Department field in included in our result. Neat, right?


This will enable you to exclude specific Accounts or groups of accounts like meeting rooms, cars and similar object as the AccountName often indicates which kind of account it is.

In this case search scope is defined as the list of fields/properties in the SharePoint User Profile used in the matching. By default we are matching against every field, however this will sometimes cause some rather strange results, espcially if you are not using Ranking.

Example: In this Org we have a department called QA, and would expect the members of that department to show up when doing a search for the query "QA", however Bob from Accounting shows up as number 4 result, ahead of several collegues from the QA department. Why?

Well, after going through Bobs account we can see he is a member of a security group named "Financial QA".......and that is sufficient to mess up the search results.

Of the UPA fields Description, Interests, Memberships and PeopleKeywords can contains values that causes unexpected results.

One option that will solve this issue could be to limit your search to only match on a set of specific fields. This will to some extend reduce the general usebility of people search as the end users might not be awere of this limitation.

Often these fields are used in such at limited search:

















Ranking and sorting

Ranking and sorting decides in which order the search results will be shown.




XRANK specifies a numeric value for each result, usually calculated by Microsoft using the selected Ranking Model. But we are able to tweak this ranking calculation by boosting results that matches a keyword.


XRANK(cb=1.5) FirstName:{searchTerms} OR XRANK(cb=0.5) Department:{searchTerms}

In this case we are boosting an account by factor 1.5 (150%) if the query matches FirstName and by 50% if the query matches Department.

In most cases we are using the ”People Search social distance model” ranking model as it is a good allround model for people search.


When working with User profile data and search you should be familiar with these tools:

SharePoint Administation, specificly User Profiles (raw data) and the Search Schema on the tenant level ( mapning fields from UPA to Managed Properties)

SP Query Tool, PnP-Tools/Solutions/SharePoint.Search.QueryTool at master · pnp/PnP-Tools · GitHub, a desktop app that allows you to test both your quiries and your data.

Similar to the SP Quiry Tool as far as Search goes, and contains a lot of other SP related features.

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