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Interacting with Candidates

Written by Dwayne Orrick

A newly appointed recruiter meets a young person in his mid-twenties that he finds very impressive. The prospective candidate is well spoken and displays all of the behaviors expected of a great officer. How should the officer approach the individual with the idea of applying for the position? This five-step process will help to improve recruiters’ ability to attract new candidates.

First, officers attempting to recruit a new officer must be prepared. Recruiting is hard work that requires patience and diligence. Before reaching out to potential candidates, recruiters must anticipate every question a candidate may have. This includes being intimately familiar with all of the opportunities available within the department. For example, training and career development opportunities are extremely important to new employees.

Candidates will likely want to know if they will receive the training they need to succeed and move up in the organization. Compensation issues including salary, health insurance and retirement are foundational issues that may be the deciding factor between accepting an offer or seeking opportunities with another agency. The recruiter’s answers must be concise, informative and easily remembered.

What about issues of officer safety and the inherent dangers of being a police officer? Recruiters must be able to candidly respond to candidates’ perceptions in a way that minimizes any anxiety they may have developed. Eventually, every recruiter must be able to describe what characteristics within the department differentiate it from other employers and make it an employer of choice.

Second, there are no magic statements recruiters can make that will cause a mob of incredible candidates to stampede the police department in search of a job. Recruiters can never assume they know what candidates are looking for in a position. People are always seeking to fulfill unmet needs in their lives. Recruiters will not know what these needs are if they do not listen to the individual. Because of this, when talking with potential candidates, the recruiter has to learn to listen, listen, listen!!!

Third, the recruiter must strike up a conversation with the person about his current job. Many times people may not be actively looking for another job. When talking with people, the purpose of the conversation is to identify what aspect of the job they find dissatisfying. The reasons cited most often usually revolve around one of five issues including their supervisor, organizational environment, job responsibilities, career development opportunities or salary.

The number one reason most people choose to explore other career opportunities is their immediate supervisor. The most discouraging moment in most people’ career is when they were working for an overbearing, selfish, micro-managing boss who had no vision or who cannot make a decision.

To address this issue, the recruiter must be able to describe how department supervisors support their officers and empower them to make decisions with confidence. Because supervisors are extensively trained, the agency ensures they have the requisite management and leadership skills to motivate their officers.

In other instances candidates may express displeasure with the industry they work, the company’s reputation or the organizational culture. For example, some people may not enjoy one department because they feel it is too “political.” At the same time, others may not enjoy working in a police department because it is considered to be too “regimented” and strict or they don’t like the enforcement procedures.

Others just simply do not like their job and find the work is boring, unfulfilling or meaningless. Fortunately, for law enforcement agencies, one of the greatest benefits of police work is the variety of job tasks and the number of opportunities officers are provided to make a difference in the lives of others and their community. No other job gives a person more chances to touch the lives of others and the authority to change conditions within their community like being a police officer.

In so many jobs today, people have very limited opportunity for career development. Employees today view continuous career development as a requirement for job security and are taking responsibility to seek out opportunities to develop themselves. Agencies that fail to provide these opportunities will find their officers leaving for departments that do offer them.

A number of ways exist for agencies to provide increased career development opportunities through advanced training, specializations and certifications. Some departments offer tuition reimbursement programs and well-defined career development programs. The recruiter must be able to describe opportunities the agency provides that are not available from other departments.

The last critical issue for most people is compensation. For younger candidates, take-home salary tends to be more important than benefits. Recruiters must be able to describe the salary structure including overtime and benefits to the individual.

As a word of caution, candidates who focus too much on salary tend to change jobs more frequently. If the candidate is taking a job for the money, he will likely leave the agency as soon as another employer offers him more. Then the agency is in the same position they were in before hiring the person.

Having said that, there are exceptions to every rule. There are situations where well-qualified candidates are underpaid. In other instances, an individual’s life circumstances may change, such as the purchase of a new home or the birth of a child, requiring him to seek other opportunities with greater salary and/or benefits.

Finally, the recruiter has to close the deal. People are always motivated to satisfy unfulfilled needs in their lives. By employing active listening skills, the recruiter can tailor their responses to satisfy these needs. Once the hot point is identified, the recruiter must pound on the issue with how the department provides a better work environment. When talking with a potential candidate, recruiters are not selling the job of being a police officer. They are selling what being a police officer is to an individual.

Recruiting high-quality talent is hard work. By thoroughly preparing themselves and listening to the needs of the potential candidate, recruiters can greatly increase their success in attracting these people.

Dwayne Orrick has been the Cordele, GA Police chief for 18 years. He holds a Masters of Public Administration and a BA in criminal justice from the University of Georgia. People with questions or suggestions regarding their department’s recruitment and retention program can contact him at dorrick@bellsouth.net.

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2009

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