SugarCRM for Job Search Management – Part 2

In part one of this article, I introduced you to SugarCRM and got you up and running. Now, we're going to ramp up your productivity with usage tips and an introduction to customization.

Usage Best Practices

Now that you've got SugarCRM set up, how do you get the most out of it? I'll share some tips I've found, but you should expect to make changes where they make sense for you. First, the basics. The "big three" of CRM are Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities. If you understand them, you can't go too far wrong. Accounts are companies - any companies or organizations. Contacts are people. They often belong to accounts, but not always. Opportunities are chances to sell something -- in this case, you're selling you! Opportunities will always belong to an account, and should have a contact, too. Most CRM systems (incuding SugarCRM) have another entity called a Lead - we'll use this when we're tracking something that isn't ready to be an Account / Contact / Opportunity yet.

That covers the basics - here are some tips to help things go smoothly for you:

  • Use leads for "new" items - they're fast to set up, you can attach notes to them, and you can convert them into an Account and Contact.
  • Convert leads early. I started using leads until I was ready to turn them into opportunities, and it was a lot of work. I ended up creating Accounts and Contacts by hand because I thought "converting" would always create an opportunity and delete my lead. Well, it turns out neither were right. Convert a lead as soon as you have a lot of activity or multiple contacts. You don't have to create an account if you don't want to - you'll still be able to access your old lead, and you can change it from "converted" to "In Process" to make it show up on your Home page again.
  • Create limited opportunities. I'm sticking to making an opportunity only after I've got a real interview -- not just a screen or HR conversation. This isn't mandatory, but I feel that before you reach this stage, you really don't have anything you could reasonably predict.
  • Track everything. When you make a phone call or send an email, take a few seconds to make a note under the "History" section for the contact or account. It can really help when you start getting a bunch of balls up in the air.
  • Make sure to use "archive email" instead of "create note" to record emails. It's got more room and can handle html content pasted from Outlook.
  • Use activities to manage to-do's. They show up conveniently on the Home page, and provide history of things you've done for / with contacts.
  • Google toolbar will highlight addresses and link to a map.
  • Keep an eye on the "Last Viewed" bar on the top of the screen. It'll usually save you a couple of clicks.

That's about it for tips - be sure to share any you come up with!


You'll find SugarCRM to be pretty usable just the way it is, but there are a few things you'll probably want to adjust. Let's start with dropdowns. All of the dropdown lists you see in the system are configurable. From the "admin" menu, find the "Studio" section, and the "Dropdown Editor" link. Open that up, and let's find a list to edit. You should see "account_type_dom" as the current selection, and that'll do just fine. This is the account type, and if you're using SugarCRM to track a job search, you'll want to make sure you've got values like "Recruiter" and "Job Prospect". Note the arrows on the right of the edit screen, where you can reorder the list. Take care when setting keys and order. The key is used to sort, so if you look at a dropdown like task order, the standard keys of "High", "Medium" and "Low" will cause your list to sort as "High", "Low", "Medium". I also found that integer values don't work right - they get mangled as you move things up and down the list. Instead, use keys like "1High", "2Medium", and "3Low" for proper sorting, and then order the list so that the value you want to use as a default value is at the top.

Next, let's look at adding a custom field. From the admin screen, find the "Edit Custom Fields" link, and click it. Choose the "Accounts" module, and click "Select". On the left of your screen, you should see a panel that lets you type in a field name, label, data type, and so on. Set the values you want, and hit "Save". Now, you've got a field, but you won't see it on any screens, so we've
got another setting to change.

Find the "Field Layout" link on the admin screen, and click it. You'll need to find the screen you want to modify - if you just added a custom field to Accounts, you'll want to edit the modules/Accounts/DetailView.html file - click "
Select" to start editing. This screen is tricky until you get the hang of it,
but easy enough once you've done it once or twice.

First, decide whether you're going to add a new spot on the screen or whether you're going to replace an existing field. If you want to add a new spot on the screen, use the "Edit Rows" link on the left, and click a "+" to open up a new row. Now, let's move your custom field onto the screen. On the left-hand panel, expand the "Sugar Fields" section, and find the field and label for the custom field you just added. Click on them and add to the staging area above by clicking the box in the staging area. Now, click the field from the staging area over to the screen, dropping it by clicking on a square where you want to put your field. Do this for field and label.

The last thing to note when adding custom fields is that you're usually going to have to edit more than one screen. For most screens, you should see a DetailView (read-only) and an EditView (for adding or changing). Be sure to change both, or you won't be able to use your new field.

All this sounds like a lot of work, but it's not too bad -- it took about a quarter of the time to make the changes above than it's taken to write this article, so give it a shot!

Related links

SugarCRM home page
SugarForge - home of open source development for SugarCRM
SugarCRM VMWare appliance

Developer documentation for SugarCRM

Siebel CRM
SalesLogix CRM
VMWare Player
VMWare community appliances

5 Replies to “SugarCRM for Job Search Management – Part 2”

  1. Excellent article, very useful in this economic downturn, where most jobs are landed through networking.

  2. However, after having spent days trying to figure out how SugarCRM works (including 2 days on installation), I found many problems, like the email module does not sync correctly with my gmail account.

    I finally turned to an other Open Source CRM. vtigerCRM is just so much more intuitive and user friendly. I highly recommend it. Very easy to operate. It even has a native tag feature where you can tag anything (leads, contatcs, …).

    1. I've heard good things about vtiger over the years. At the time I began using SugarCRM, vtiger was a pretty recent fork of SugarCRM, and I was a little worried about the long-term stability of the new project. At this point, it's certainly worth a look. I'll see if I can find a few minutes to set it up and take a look. Thanks for the reminder!

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