12 recruitment ideas every agency should consider
Oregon agency leaders, chiefs shared their public safety recruiting successes, innovations and resources at IACP
By Greg Friese
CHICAGO — Recruiting qualified applicants for correctional officer positions remains a top challenge. The leaders charged with recruiting efforts should examine their own efforts, study the recruiting techniques used in other occupations, and learn from the successes of their public safety colleagues.
Ideas for recruiting law enforcement and correctional officers were shared by representatives of Oregon law enforcement agencies at the 126th International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. The agencies represented on the panel were:
- Washington County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office
- City of Bend (Oregon) Police Department
- City of Eugene (Oregon) Police Department
- City of Woodburn (Oregon) Police Department
- Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training
Here is a partial capture of the recruitment actions recommended by the panelists:
1. Fix the department’s reputation
Building and maintaining trusting relationships, adhering to policies and being accountable to the community are critical to a positive reputation. The City of Woodburn needed to make significant changes to improve its reputation as a critical step to recruiting better applicants. Applicants now tell the City of Woodburn that leadership and reputation were more important in their decision to apply than other factors like pay and benefits.
2. Improve department culture and officer well-being
Current officers are a department’s best recruiters. Unhappy LEOs might actively work against recruitment efforts. The City of Bend (Ore.) has used a series of initiatives to improve officer well-being with the added benefit of improving the department’s culture. Some of the Bend well-being programs include:
- On-duty fitness workout facilities;
- Officer mindfulness training before and after shift;
- Building an on-duty restorative resting room;
- Family-friendly work schedules;
- Spousal support group;
- Training activities for spouses and children.
3. Identify a department's key differentiators or competitive advantages
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office revitalized its deputy recruitment by determining what makes the department unique. Some differentiators are strong community support, organizational culture and core values. The panelists discussed the critical importance of having a strong and healthy culture before launching a new recruitment program.
Pleased to hire 3 outstanding candidates as new @WoodburnPolice Officers last night in front a packed house at the @CityofWoodburn City Council meeting. Congrats to Off. Tanya Virula, Off. Jon Ellis & Off. Ben Ward! @OregonChiefs pic.twitter.com/f9pwqeCvHD— Chief Jim Ferraris (@chiefferraris) November 14, 2018
4. Brand the organization
A strong brand creates an emotional connection. Applicants who discover an organization they are emotionally excited to join become advocates and evangelists for the police department.
The City of Eugene strives to create a sense of belonging and calls an applicant’s family after the interview to share their excitement about the family joining the department and moving to the community. A strong brand, matched by the department’s culture and reputation, has made word of mouth the top source of recruits for the City of Eugene.
5. Hire for character and attitude
It’s important to have a list of ideal applicant attributes and then make sure hiring and testing selects for ideal applicants. Washington County has revamped its hiring process, especially the interview panel, to test for empathy, honesty, integrity, resilience and decision-making; character traits the agency believes are the best for the community it serves.
Glad to participate in a @TheIACP workshop in Chicago on Recruiting & Hiring with a great peer group from: @ChiefSkinner @BendCityPolice @WCSOOregon @EugenePolice #DPSST #iacp2019 @CityofWoodburn @WoodburnPolice @OregonChiefs pic.twitter.com/oo9WAoYhmi— Chief Jim Ferraris (@chiefferraris) October 29, 2019
6. Partner with colleges and universities
Recruiters, as well as experts in specific law enforcement disciplines, make numerous campus and classroom visits. On campus, they deliver training, answer questions and describe police career tracks. Question and answer sessions can tell applicants about different positions and functions within the department.
7. Make frequent contact with applicants
Use a diverse recruitment team at different points in the process to make frequent contact. Match these points of contact with milestones in the process, up to and including the date job offers will be made. Washington County applicants have jail and patrol job shadowing during their recruitment. By the time an applicant is hired, they should feel well connected to the agency.
8. Shorten the hiring process
Several panelists urged attendees to look for opportunities to reduce a recruitment and hiring process that might be a year or more to 90 days. Washington County aims for three to four months and the City of Eugene has 90-day hiring cycles that overlap so the hiring process is ongoing. Eugene offers top applicants a conditional job offer on the 34th day of the process.
9. Stand up a dedicated recruitment team
Recruitment team staff should include sworn/non-sworn personnel and team members who are full-time and part-time assigned to recruitment. The team might also include contracted marketing and social media experts for online advertising campaigns or using personnel with advertising and social media skills who might be a part of the city government.
Big day for WCSO recruitment:— WCSO Oregon (@WCSOOregon) October 23, 2019
⭐️ Hiring workshop @ our HQ in Hillsboro, 6-8pm
⭐️ Day 1 of our expedited hiring event @ #CampPendleton, 5-7pm
See all you future jail and patrol deputies tonight! #JoinWCSO https://t.co/b7y4tiIjYS
10. Determine which benefits, incentives matter to recruits
A signing bonus might help but other things often matter more to applicants. The City of Bend launched a series of recruiting initiatives over the last five years. A $7,500 signing bonus turned out to be the sixth most important factor for new hires.
11. Make salary and benefits commensurate with experience
If an experienced officer joins the department as a lateral transfer, the City of Woodburn makes pay, vacation and sick leave commensurate with the officer’s total years of experience instead of treating them as a new hire with no experience.
12. Get involved in statewide recruiting efforts
Though agencies compete for applicants, all agencies share an interest in building a pipeline of highly qualified applicants. Part of the recruitment process might be to refer applicants to agencies who better fit the culture and values the applicant is seeking. If an applicant doesn’t match the needs of your organization, it doesn’t mean the applicant is a bad fit for law enforcement. They just need to continue searching for the right law enforcement agency.
Finally, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Academy offers an annual career fair featuring representatives from more than 40 departments and OregonPoliceJobs.com grows a pipeline of applicants for all departments.
Learn more about officer recruitment
Visit the websites of these departments to view their police recruitment techniques:
- City of Bend Police Department employment
- City of Eugene Police Department employment
- Washington County Sheriff’s Office employment
- Woodburn Police Department employment
Additional correctional officer recruitment tips and resources from correctionsOne
- Roundtable: How correctional leaders can address the recruitment crisis
About the author
Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on PoliceOne, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.