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Improving the Department’s Website

Written by Dwayne Orrick

The Internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives in a relatively short period of time. Its use has proved invaluable for making good decisions with the availability of more information. It offers communication in a variety of ways, including advertising, social networking, video conferencing and streaming video. To start this series, we will explore how the agency website can be improved to recruit a greater number of successful candidates.

Department websites provide agencies with many benefits for their recruitment program such as access to information about the department 24/7, lowering the cost of recruiting and providing a more accurate reflection of officers’ job responsibilities. In fact, many employers report candidates hired from website applications tend to be of a higher quality than from other sources.

Departments across the country consistently report the Internet is one of the top three sources for successful candidates. As a general rule, people viewing the career section of a police department website are already interested in becoming a police officer. Some are simply looking for a job in law enforcement, but many are seeking a department with which they will be comfortable.

Conversely, the Internet does not necessarily improve the caliber of candidates. Agencies must continue to verify each applicant’s qualifications and abilities. In addition, if the agency is not careful, use of the Internet can make the recruiting process more sterile and impersonal.

To effectively recruit through the department website, it must be accessible, functional, interesting and accurate. Departments cannot get their recruiting message to potential candidates if the site does not work, is not updated or is too slow. When a site does not work properly, it immediately sends a negative message about the department. As a result, people are likely to switch and not return. As such, it is important for Web designers to ensure that photographs and images load quickly.

In addition to being easily accessible, the site must be functional. Making applications available online increases the likelihood of a candidate responding to vacancies. Candidates should be allowed to submit completed applications through a variety of ways including mail, website, e-mail attachments, fax, or in person.

To attract candidates and keep their attention, the website and recruiting page must be designed as a destination site to keep people returning. It must capture the viewers’ interest with the unique characteristics of the department and how employment at the agency will meet the individual’s personal needs. This requires that the information be dynamic, interesting and frequently updated. Otherwise, people will view the material one time and never return.

At the same time, the site must provide an accurate representation of what it is like to be a police officer. Overemphasizing the exciting aspects of the job and ignoring the public service responsibilities will likely attract people who do not fit with the agency and lead to increased turnover. Due to this, recruiting pages provide an excellent opportunity for realistic job previews. These previews can be presented through officer testimonials or videos of employees describing the various career opportunities.

Finally, to ensure that the department website is making full use of its capabilities, someone must be designated to stay on top of things. Frequently check the site to ensure it is functioning properly. Place tabs and navigational bars in a larger font to make career opportunities more visible and easily accessible. Streamline access to the “career opportunities” to no more than three clicks.

Use professionally developed photos and images of actual employees and scenes as opposed to clip art. Photos should highlight the agency’s diversity by including minorities and women. Make sure tabs are included on job availability, qualifications, benefits, diversity, and tips for success. Tailor sections to various categories of candidates, including people with limited work experience (i.e. recent graduates), lateral transfers, and former military members. Include a direct phone number and e-mail address for interested candidates to speak with a representative about opportunities in the department, and answer their questions.

Establish a procedure to ensure that someone follows up on every lead within 24 hours with a personal call, e-mail, or text message. Provide an overview of the selection process. This description should include a detailed review the various steps in the process, what to expect, when it is likely to occur and how long each procedure will take.

To build traffic and ensure search engines pick up the site, have the Web developer include a variety of key words as “tags.” These key words should include a range of synonyms such as “police,” “law enforcement,” “cops,” and “job,” “position,” and “vacancy.” Tags should be included for any term that may draw a potential candidate to the site.

Review the website usage summary to identify difficulties and potential problems that cause potential candidates to leave the site. To identify a greater number of passive candidates, include a section in the job application for referrals of friends (including contact information) who may be interested in working with the department.

Building a strong department website that is functional, interesting, and accurate is essential to recruiting successful candidates. Using these tips will put your agency ahead of most other employers.

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, Jun 2009

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