Entrepreneurship

Simple and Effective Hiring with Airtable

March 30, 2021

Hiring often feels overwhelming because of any number of reasons: how to reach people, what to put in the job description, how to narrow down the candidates, and how to keep people’s information AND the history of your correspondence organized. In my first couple years, I actually forgot about a couple decent candidates because their response emails just got lost in my inbox. One time I remembered someone who applied in the past and would be perfect for a new position, but I couldn’t find their name anywhere. I’m finally in a place where I am actually enjoying the hiring process, and it’s mostly because of some very simple tweaks:

  1. Collecting applications through a form
  2. Simplifying the tracking system
  3. Automate basic emails

Using Forms

The first tweak is that I now only accept job applications through a form. In the past, I’ve asked applicants to email me their cover letter and resume to apply for a job. There are two main reasons why this sucks. 1) Because notes on phone correspondence with the candidate and references need to be kept in a notes app, they’re separate from all email correspondence. This makes it hard to keep track of the full picture for each candidate. 2) Putting an email address out into the world invites bots. I didn’t have problems with spam, but I did get lots of applicants through Indeed who sent a general application through the site’s automation features. These candidates hadn’t taken the time to thoughtfully apply to this position – they just clicked a button.

Using a form solves these problems, and has become increasingly common among employers. You can ask for contact info, cover letter, and resume through the form, and in Airtable you end up with an automatically filled spreadsheet of candidates. This technique also eliminates a lot of data entry.

Keep it Simple

In my first year using an Airtable form, I included a lot of separate fields (columns) to track each candidate. A checkbox for whether I sent an initial reply, whether we talked on the phone, whether the app was through Indeed, etc. Tracking individual pieces of info like this, I think, can be really useful depending on your style. For me, I found that I didn’t always fill out all of the fields, which made for a less-organized document.

The system I’m really happy with now is very simple, and it contains two tables. The first contains all of the applicant info, and is generated from the form. It includes applicant contact info, cover letter, resume, what job they applied for, and then two automatically generated fields: “last contact” and “notes log”, which is a rollup field type.

The second table, “Notes” is what feeds those two automated fields. It has only two inputs: a linked field to select the person the note is about, and a note field. There is an automatic “Date Created” field that logs the day I wrote the note. Every time I correspond with a candidate or a reference of theirs, I create a note in the second table. A rollup field takes all of the records that meet certain characteristics, and then performs some kind of action with them. In this case, the rollup adds together all of the notes for each applicant.  It lists each of the notes in chronological order, with date headers for each note. It’s a simple way to keep an organized log of all interactions related to each person.

Email Automation

Another huge time saver add-on is to automate basic emails. Airtable automations allow you to send automatic emails when a certain event happens, like completing a checkbox. They can be personalized to include info from the record, like the person’s first name. Everyone who takes time to apply for a job deserves to get a confirmation that their application was received. I also like to let folks know when the position is filled so that they can stop waiting for an answer. These emails easily fall through the cracks when you have to type each one individually, and corresponding with the hired candidates is your priority. Make it as simple as a checkbox and it’s easy to stay on top of!

To set up an automation, first create a checkbox field. Mine is called "Send confirmation email". Open the automations sidebar at the top right of the screen. Chose "New Automation" -> "Choose trigger" -> "When record matches conditions" -> Select the table with the applicants in it, "People" -> Add a condition where your checkbox field "Send confirmation email" is checked. Now, when the box is checked, it will trigger the automation.

Next, we need to add the action. Choose "Add action." Out of the many options, there are two options for sending an email. One sends an email from an official Airtable email address, one sends an email from your connected gmail address. Pick one of those, and follow the instructions to connect your gmail address if you choose that option.

Now you've got a normal-looking email composer with a recipient field, subject field, and message body field. In the recipient field, click the little blue "+" and choose "Record (from step 1)" by hovering over it and clicking "continue". In the list of fields, find the "Email address" field and click "insert". Now the recipient email address will automatically pull from the record. In the subject line, you can write something like "Job Application," and write whatever standard greeting you'd like in the body text. To insert the person's first name in the greeting, repeat the same steps from your recipient field, but instead of email address, choose "First name."

Switch that little red toggle on the top left from "Off" to "On" and you've finished your automation. Try running it by checking one of the "send confirmation email" boxes in the main view.

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