Recruiting with Lightning Speed (for Government)

Posted on September 12, 2019

By Brandi Leos, City of Tigard, Oregon, LinkedIn, Twitter

DMV sloth from "zootopia" movieI’ve heard it a thousand times… government is soooo slooooow. This is true in many aspects including finding your next job, next co-worker, or next employee. As the Recruitment Manager for City of Tigard, I have to say that I agree – government is soooo sloooow.  This summer, my team had a surprise retirement (okay, we weren’t shocked, but we certainly weren’t ready).

As it turns out, this employee was our rock; she knew how to do things that no one else in the office knew how to do. I’m sure this is not new to our readers – it happens all the time – where someone in the office can do stuff that others can’t. I know (trust me) that it’s poor form at the very least and definitely not a best practice to have someone who is so indispensable and not to have the processes documented (it was on our list of to-dos).

bending buildingThe good news? When you are the recruitment manager and the hiring manager, things happen. I want to share the steps I took to have six-week vacancy – six weeks between that rock of an employee’s last day and our new rock star’s first day – because if we try hard enough, government can be limber.

In the current labor market in Oregon, we are in a situation where moving at any speed other than fast will lead to losing the best and brightest future employees.  In Tigard, we hire the best and brightest; if we miss out, we try again there is no settling for less than the best.  Prospective employees have many options, so as an employer, we must show them that we value their time and energy and we want them to be a part of our team.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Post the job before it is vacant. Of course, the incumbent had already given notice, but get that job posted as soon as possible. We posted the jobs as soon as we found out our employee was leaving and closed before her last day.
  2. Keep the posting period short. This was an entry-level HR job and we expected to get a lot of applicants, especially since HR experience was not required. Our job was open for 10 days. We always close jobs on Sundays to maximize our open days and avail ourselves to screening applications as soon as they close. [side note, we got 292 applications]
  3. Create a recruiting plan. Consider when you are going to interview (secure the rooms and panel while your job is open). Get every set and on track; share the potential dates with candidates in your job posting or in your initial communication post-closing.
  4. Screen applications ASAP. We figured we might get a few applications, so we set aside the time to screen the applications.  HR’s review included a screen for minimum qualifications, applicant-proclaimed MS Excel skills, and answers to supplemental questions which included questions about how people learn new computer systems and skills. Within two days, 70 applications were shared with me and our other subject matter expert for review.
  5. Consider a skills test. As a hiring manager, seeing 70 applications you could draw from a hat and still have a great pool is intimidating. We narrowed the list to 24 and brought candidates in for a computer skills test using our own system-generated reports. We asked candidates to perform basic analysis, formatting, and document preparation. The reports our system generates are terrible and we needed someone who could do something with those reports.  [this exercise got us down to six]
  6. Be Inclusive. I had multiple perspective employees comment on my signature line – who knew something so simple could have such an impact.  Seriously… anyone in your organization who regularly communicates with future employees should consider what their signature conveys.  Here’s mine:  brandi signature
  7. Hold interviews in one day. By planning in advance and limiting it to one interview, you can move fast. We gave candidates enough notice to get the time off they needed or to make travel arrangements.
  8. Ask to check references. If you’ve been on an interview panel, you know as soon as that last candidate leaves who your top two candidates are. Don’t be afraid to call those candidates the same day and ask if it’s okay to check references. This speeds up the process because knowing they are a top contender, they can ask their references to be more responsive.  I will admit that I may have taken some reference calls while I was on vacation – I was desperate, ya’ll.
  9. Background checks. If your background check process takes more that 3-5 business days, it’s time to revisit your process.  Stay on top of the background process and be prepared to make an offer as soon as you get it back – figure out pay (Oregon peeps – Equal Pay Act) while you’re waiting for the background results.
  10. Be flexible. I got lucky in that despite relocating, my new employee gave only a 2-week notice and needed a week to move to Portland. We had our new rock star within six weeks of our last one’s retirement.

You might be wondering about job satisfaction for someone taking on a bunch of work who’s co-workers could not help keep caught up or really provide that important on the job training…. I’ll just say we were honest about the situation (including our desperation) and we had other staff available to teach the nuts and bolts.  Also, new employee gets to travel for training ASAP ?

I was telling another supervisor about how quickly we were able to onboard our new employee and he said “Wow, HR can move fast when it’s their own employee.”  I have one thing to say in response: HR can move as fast as a hiring manager is willing to move.

Even if you can’t get others in your organization to move quickly, the tips above can be implemented to move your process along a little faster. In addition, just letting HR know that you are trying to move quickly may help your team move a bit faster, as well.

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