by MATT COBB
Law Enforcement Recruitment Strategist
Delivering a recruiting and hiring presentation at a college, military base, or community event can be a sure-fire way to fill your agency’s applicant pool. However, if your recruiting and hiring message and presentation are not inspiring or leave the audience wanting more, you’re missing the boat.
Agencies must develop consistent recruiting and hiring messages that employees know by heart. This message should include information about pay, benefits, working conditions and what makes your agency and community a great place to work.
Employees should have an elevator pitch, a 90-minute presentation and everything in between. Consistency with numbers and information is key.
DO NOT LEAD WITH DISQUALIFIERS
Like many agencies, the Topeka Police Department used to recruit with employment disqualifiers.
The recruiting team traveled with a 19-slide PowerPoint presentation and 6-foot poster listing disqualifiers. We would go through the disqualifiers before discussing a career path with a potential candidate. No one was inspired. No one had goosebumps. No one wanted to meet with us afterward.
Presumably, because so many applicants were competing for so few spots, promoting the disqualifiers kept recruiters from wasting time with someone who couldn’t be hired. Now, however, a lot of departments have more vacancies than applicants. If your agency is spearheading recruiting initiatives by emphasizing employment disqualifiers, it’s time to evolve.
Dr. Charlie Scheer, assistant professor of criminal justice, forensic science and security at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) agrees, saying that students are getting burned out on disqualifier presentations. He told me about one of the nation’s largest wildlife and parks agencies arriving at USM to recruit. The students, who were researching the agency and vocalizing their excitement, were quickly deflated when they received an hour-long slide deck of vision and hearing requirements. Dr. Scheer said if the recruiter had shown up with an alligator he would have hired 10 students.
PRESENT THE INFORMATION POTENTIAL CANDIDATES WANT TO HEAR
Realizing we first needed to sell our agency and generate interest, we scrapped the disqualifier poster and replaced it with one containing information on pay, benefits and working conditions. We laminated a smaller version for recruitment team members to memorize and reference (see PDF below). We tossed the disqualifier presentation and started from scratch.
We now present information on our department history and community information, pay, benefits and working conditions. We will find out later if someone’s background isn’t clean or their vision isn’t correctable to 20/30. We gather intelligence on our audience and tailor each presentation to their wants and needs (more on that in a later article).
When we are finished presenting, we ask anyone who wants to learn more to meet with us. We meet people in the back of the room; we’ve even invited interested students for pizza at the end of the day. How did we justify buying 10 large pizzas? We didn’t, the professor paid for them.
EMBRACE THE POWER OF STORYTELLING
As you give your presentation on pay and benefits, tell stories for context. Talk about the community future officers will be working in and the police family they’ll be joining.
I listened as Lieutenant Chris Head of the Liberal (Kansas) Police Department stood in front of an audience and said he couldn’t offer everything that larger agencies could. He promised though, that if you worked for the Liberal Police Department you would be part of a family. He told the story of a married police couple whose child was born with kidney complications. A lieutenant at the agency wanted to help but wasn’t compatible. He donated his kidney anyway, which put the child at the top of the recipient list. The child soon received a much-needed kidney. As fate would have it, the lieutenant’s kidney was received by an officer at a nearby agency. You could hear a pin drop in the room. That story left a lifelong impact on the audience. Potential applicants won’t remember your starting pay, but they will remember your stories.
Recruiting with your agency’s disqualifiers may have worked 20 years ago. Things are different now. Don’t get caught up thinking you’ll be wasting time recruiting someone the agency can’t hire. More often than not the applicant can work for you in six months or a year. The worst-case scenario is that you make your presentation and sell your agency to an audience and no one enters the hiring process. However, someone in the audience will tell a friend or family member about you and your agency. Now they are telling your story for you.
About the Author
Sergeant Matt Cobb has served with the Topeka Police Department for 17 years. He currently administers the Topeka Police Academy. Sergeant Cobb is a Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Baker University, maintains numerous law enforcement instructor certifications and owns three businesses.