Tech Recruiter Tries Coding pt. 1 — Google Apps Script

Rafael Romo Mulas
FusionWorks
Published in
11 min readOct 16, 2022

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Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

UPDATE: Part 2 is out!
UPDATE 2:
Part 3 is also out!
UPDATE 3:
Recruiter Codes Chrome Extension — A LinkedIn Fairy(-tale)!

After years of working adjacent to software development, first in sales and then in recruitment, I abruptly decided to take the plunge into the other side, and start coding to automate or speed up tasks of my everyday job.

The idea came by when I started using Google Sheets more heavily, and realized how powerful it is by itself, and how much more it can become with the addition of Google Apps Script, which I discovered to my surprise is actually modern JavaScript.

A bit of background (you can skip this)

I have a distant, small, and self-taught programming background, dated almost 25 years, in times when there was no stackoverflow.com, but a lot of stack overflow errors popping up on Windows… I learned Basic first as a kid, on an already-ancient Commodore 64, and following the advice of a cousin who was studying software engineering, switched directly to C++, to write desktop applications for a long-gone (but beautiful) operating system named BeOS, which was so nice it was remade from scratch by fans into an opensource OS called Haiku.

When my platform of choice died I was 15, and while I had managed to develop a couple of more-or-less useful applications, other than personal websites using then-new techs like XHTML 1.0 (HTML 4 + XML), SSIs, and CSS2, I decided to quit programming for good, thinking that anyway I wanted to work in a different sector. Many people told me I was a fool to waste what I had learned, and not continue further, but from the height of my teenage wisdom, I thought I knew better… Obviously I didn’t, but the choice was made, and I decided to study Earth Sciences (Geology) at university, and never wrote code again for 20 years.

Fate had a sense of humor, and I never actually worked in geology, with my first office job being already closer to IT, and each subsequent job getting closer and closer to it. It seems like it was destiny!

This is how I got to FusionWorks — an IT company with 11-year history and 57 clients in 18 countries. Here I’m a geekruiter — not sure because I’m considered to be a geek or I need to recruit geeks — they don’t tell me.

Learn while working: JS, HTML, CSS, all within Google Apps Script

During the last couple of years of working closely with web developers, I often wondered what it would take to learn JavaScript. I still remembered the basics of HTML and CSS from my teenage years, but for some reason, JavaScript felt like a scary step. Maybe it was because I knew how much JavaScript developers were sought-after in the job market, or because when I looked at it, I felt like it was touching on too many elements I didn’t know, and that it would have taken me too much time and effort to learn.

But when I started using Google Apps Script from Google Sheets, at first using the resources of the great Spreadsheet Dev website, I realized that JavaScript came pretty natural to me, if it was used to manipulate the stuff I used every day on Google Sheets. The scope of what you can do is small at first, but the more you progress, the more you learn JavaScript, and can even add HTML and CSS to the mix if you’re into creating custom UIs.
In my first hours of excitement, I was going in that direction, and I will cover this briefly here, although I later abandoned this path because I discovered more efficiency in getting rid of UI, instead of adding to it.

Btw, as being learning-driven is one of FusionWorks’ main values, they support my desire to code while recruiting.

I will now detail a few useful things you can do with Google Apps Script, without any previous knowledge of JavaScript, and possibly nothing but the very basics of programming in general.

Custom buttons to do simple operations (safely skippable)

Perhaps the easiest and most straightforward way to learn Google Apps Script and put it to good use is creating custom buttons. It’s a two-part process: writing a small script, and then associating it to a drawing, where you can create an actual button (or if you’re lazy like me, write an emoji into it that will work as a button.)

To start writing your scripts, you head over to “Apps Script” within the “Extensions” menu:

If you never used it before, you will find yourself on a page like this:

Or if like me you first started messing around with macros, thinking it might be easier (it isn’t), it might be called “Recorded Macros (your sheet name)”. Here below is the first function I wrote, which saved me some clicks when needing to add 1 to a value, back when I was counting things manually…

If you know anything about coding, the above will feel pretty obvious and you can safely skip the whole section, but I will talk about it a little bit for those that like me started from scratch.

First, let’s make the code more visible with a Gist (I just googled this):

What this does is described in the first comment line, and I was going to write a line-per-line explanation as well, for those of you who are beginners like I was when writing this, but this article would become super-long, so feel free to ask for details in comments, and I will be glad to go over it.

In any case, it’s all very well-documented by Google, and if the documentation seems a bit difficult at first, head over to Spreadsheet Dev, and look at the many how-to’s, which are explained in a much less technical way.

After writing this and saving it, you can test it by associating it with a button, which as mentioned is created from a drawing:

Which can even contain just a big emoji inside a text box, to make it quick:

Careful with the text box size: all its area will be clickable as a button, so make it very close to its content!

After you save it, it will appear in your spreadsheet and you will be able to associate the function you made, by clicking on the three dots appearing when you select it (they might overlap the contents and be difficult to see like here below), and clicking on Assign script, where you will just type the name of the function you just created.

And that’s it, a small step for a coder, but a big step for a noob!

Now, this is useful in very few scenarios, mainly when working in split screen and not wanting to switch windows a lot when counting some stuff.

But what if we want to make sure we update a specific cell based on some parameters, and not whatever is currently selected? In particular, let’s see how to do it in case what we need to count is based on the day of the week:

This one teaches something non-trivial: arrays and how they work, plus working with dates.

(Feel free to skip this if you understand how it works.)

  • We create an array with “Const Days = [‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’]”.
    If you’re a beginner, you can think of this like an ordered list, where those letters will always be in that order, and be accessible by their position, with the first being in position number 0.
    For example, Days[1] will refer to ‘C’, while Days[0] to ‘B’.
  • Note that these are meant to refer to cells, which in the so-called A1 notation are described by a letter for the column, and a number for the row. The columns in these cases referred to days of the week, with B being Monday, and F being Friday (by chance.)
    So how to let the script know where to write, based on what day it is?
  • By playing with the array index and the “getDay()” function, which gives a number depending on the day, from 0 for Sunday to 6 for Saturday.
    Therefore, if we want Monday to be associated to letter B from the “Days” array above, all we need to do is subtract 1 from the getDay() value: like in the line “const Day = Days[Today.getDay()-1];”
  • The next line will get a Range (a group of cells, in this case just one cell) by associating the letter we stored as “Day” to a number of the row we need (in my case it was 50), using the easy way JavaScript gives to build a string from variables, chaining them with the + sign, like in “getRange(Day+50)”.
    Like this it will be B50 for Monday, C50 for Tuesday etc.

Enough with the basics, what about useful things?

This stuff was useful for a stats sheet I had, but quickly became outdated when I discovered how much more could be done with Google Apps Script.
For example, why writing the statistics myself, adding stuff manually, when I can just calculate statistics automatically?

Here the code becomes quite long, and I can’t show you the sheet it works on since it’s where we keep all of our recruitment stuff, but here is a snippet from a function that classifies the daily work done in various arrays, perfect for compiling automated statistics:

There would be quite a lot to write about this, but in short, you can see the following interesting bits:

  • You can use sheets to store settings which you use to process other sheets! This is much easier than using databases, and with some setup work, it lets you change what a script does without touching its code anymore.
  • If you organize your sheet with some default values that always start in the same way, like in this case my “statuses” starting with numbers or letters, you can check their values easily and quickly by looking only at the first character of the cell value, instead of the whole cell.
  • Using the push() method of arrays is great for counting things and saving them in lists at the same time.
  • Using arrays instead of separate variables for concepts like contacts that are new, to-be-contacted (TBC in the script) and contacted, I am then able to procedurally go through them by cycling through their index.
    It makes the code harder to read, but if you comment it properly, you can have the best of both worlds: the speed and brevity of doing things procedurally in nested loops, and code that can be easily explained.

All this stuff can be used to generate statistics either as popup messages, or full-on sheets:

Here I use the same bidimensional array to build a report that just gets displayed on screen via the alert() function, and copied to a sheet, since the setValues() function takes a bidimensional array.

I was also surprised by how the usage of a few emojis can make both the code and the result more readable and clear. Notice for example how I create toasts (popup notifications within the application) showing the time elapsed and what the script is doing, by showing a progressively later time in the clock emoji.

On an empty day like this Sunday, this generates all 0s, but here is the result for you to get an idea:

As you can see, here a lot of titles of skills/positions are mentioned which were not on the script, because they come from a settings sheet:

It’s not pretty because I keep it hidden, and generate it from another script, and another document: you can make your sheets talk to each other this way!

But what about the HTML and CSS? Where’s the UI?

Well, at some point I made something like this:

It’s HTML with simple CSS, and it talks with Google Apps Script, and is done from the same Google Apps Script interface.

It seems trivial stuff, but when combined with the checkboxes I added to the sheet, it could save me a lot of time (especially in cases in which it needed to calculate a specific reminder for some actions, which I was previously doing manually.)

However, I realized it was much slower to display such a window to start my functions, compared to having them in a custom Google Sheets menu which you can easily build!

A lot can be done this way, but still, nothing compared to what can be done with time-driven triggers to fully automate some tasks, or what I managed to do writing my own Chrome Extension for internal use, which interacts two-ways with my Google Sheets, without even asking me anything.
As mentioned before, I think the best UI for productivity is no UI at all..!

Next time I will dig into these topics, showing also how to step up the game by using a standard development environment instead of Google’s nice but limited interface, and switching to TypeScript.

Now it feels like coding for real! :D

If you were not into coding and you have questions about the code snippets or how to do other things, please feel free to ask in the comments, or directly to me, maybe by contacting me on LinkedIn.

No such thing as a stupid question, and by explaining to me what you’re trying to achieve, you might also give me a good idea for a new script or app.

In any case, whether you felt like this was trivial or difficult, I totally recommend starting to try this stuff yourself: it taught me many things, increased my productivity, and even improved my logical thinking in general!

Also do not hesitate to join our FusionWorks team to work together, we have lots of brilliant products in the pipeline.

Until the next time then, happy coding!

P.S.: A bit different from what I had foreshadowed, here is part 2 of this series!

Check the sequel! Recruiter Codes Chrome Extension — A LinkedIn Fairy(-tale)!

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Rafael Romo Mulas
FusionWorks

Jack of all trades: went from flying, to IT sales & recruitment, to software dev, but studied geology, and wannabe fantasy Role-Playing Games writer & creator!