Texas sheriff overcomes hiring crisis with new tool
By John Erich, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
At a time when police departments across America are struggling to find enough staff, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in San Antonio, Texas is a notable exception. In about a year, since October 2021, the BCSO has hired more than 200 officers. To do so, it enthusiastically adopted a range of best practices led by a new text-based communication tool that facilitates better engagement with potential candidates.
“At this time in society, the police departments have kind of taken a beating when it comes to people wanting to become police officers, so it’s a bit difficult” to find people, said Lt. Stephanie Flores, who oversees the recruitment and application process for the department. “We try to take full advantage of every means we can to help give people a positive view of policing.”
The BCSO works tirelessly to promote itself and the positive aspects of law enforcement careers. It recruits throughout the state. He is active on a range of social media, including TikTok (where he has over 15,000 followers), and actively participates in job fairs, community events and other opportunities. It hires recruits as young as 18 and has no upper age limit. And for the past year, he’s been using Interview Now, an app developed to help law enforcement and other public safety organizations streamline communication and focus more on their recruiting efforts.
The idea behind Interview Now was to create a quick, easy and personalized experience for those who want to learn more about careers in specific departments. With Interview Now, instead of a static application process that may not produce an immediate response, users can immediately connect with recruiters, get shortlisted, have their questions answered, plan their next steps, and generally feel like the precious commodities they are. Departments, faced with a job market that currently favors applicants, can distinguish themselves by quick and responsive reactions to contacts, capitalize on people’s interest while it’s fresh, and guide them through the process. more actively than before.
“Interview Now has been a huge tool for us,” Flores said. “Society has changed, hasn’t it? We’re more into text messaging and quick replies. What we love about Interview Now is the immediate satisfaction of an immediate response.
This simplified contact and easy back and forth has helped the BCSO expand the pool of interested candidates from which it draws. Since its adoption, the department has used it to communicate with approximately 2,500 potential new recruits. Not everyone will eventually become Bexar MPs, but with more quality candidates to choose from, BCSO can focus on hiring the best.
STRIKE THE IRON WHILE IT IS HOT
A year after using Interview Now, that brings the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to about nine requests a day. The recruitment unit strives to respond as soon as possible.
“I try to respond like a normal person, not something that seems automated, so I tailored our responses to be very personal,” Flores said. “I will identify myself and ask them how they are doing and thank them for their interest in reaching out. Then I’ll tell them I’d like to take them to the next stage of the hiring process, and we’ll keep going until I find them a date to take tests. This gives me the ability to put them on a list and track them.
Using text-based interaction to initiate and move the process opens the door for candidates who may be reluctant to approach agents at public events like career fairs or hesitant to begin what may be a process. discouraging government hiring. And it provides departments like BCSO with an easy-to-contact handle.
“Let’s say something happens where someone doesn’t show up for their tests,” Flores said. “We can go back to that list and send them another message saying, ‘Hey, I just checked you out, I’d like to get you rescheduled if you’re still interested. So we are still following.
“We have to remember that many of our young candidates love text messaging; it gives them the ability to communicate without having to talk to someone face-to-face early in the process, which can be a bit overwhelming.
BCSO bolsters efforts with a rapid background process and an aggressive testing schedule, both designed to speed up the hiring process. The key strikes while the proverbial iron is hot.
“People will tell us, ‘I called that agency, I emailed them, and no one got back to me,'” Flores said. “Things like this happen often. Instead, we hear, “Thank you for responding so quickly, I didn’t expect that!”
GO TO THE NEXT STAGE
The key to converting an expression of general interest into a true officer in uniform is active orientation. Left to their own devices to navigate the application and testing processes, many candidates might walk away and never finish. Interview Now gives recruiters like those in the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office a platform to guide them – prompting them with questions and reminders, through conversation and as a normal part of their day, to keep them engaged and moving from the front.
“A lot of agencies can give people a link or a QR code, and it all takes them to a website,” Flores said. “What they do there depends on the candidate – whether they click on the app, watch the videos or whatever. But all you’re doing is letting them view your website — you’re not guiding them through the actual hiring process. When we interact with people, we strive to put them through a test. It’s about, ‘Hey, this is what we want, this is what we do, the next step is this. Here are the days I have for testing – what day do you want to be scheduled for? You must lead them to the next stage.
At the request of the California Highway Patrol, Interview Now even added an RSVP-like feature where applicants can pledge to show up at events. Having confirmed their attendance in advance, people are less likely to not show up when the time comes.
“What helped us was being able to contact so many people,” Flores said. “Imagine you are at a recruiting event and six people come to see you. But these six people have just arrived – you don’t know if they’re actually going to apply. They were interested, they talked to you, that’s all. With Interview Now, from the day we started using the program, we’ve averaged nine contacts a day, even on weekends. Now, out of those nine, maybe three won’t answer, but six will. It’s still a solid six every day with the potential to bring in new assistants in our department.
See Flores talk more about Interview Now and its impact on hiring the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office at this youtube video.
Visit Interview now for more information.