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How the right mobile technology can improve your agency's ability to hire great candidates

Affordable and innovative technology is available to help agencies of all sizes overcome the staffing challenge


Content provided by Miller Mendel

Employers are facing a hiring crisis. This is especially true for law enforcement, healthcare and other essential service professions. A 2019 IACP survey revealed that 78% of public safety departments are struggling to recruit, hire and retain officers.

This crisis has been exacerbated by many of the social, demographic, political and economic issues of the day. To overcome these staffing challenges, employers must adapt by reworking the recruiting, screening and onboarding processes. 

Affordable and innovative technology is available.
Affordable and innovative technology is available. (Photo/Miller Mendel)

Now, more than ever, it is important that all phases of your hiring process be streamlined and made accessible to candidates in an equitable manner. It is also important that your processes are optimized for mobile devices to effectively reach the available workforce. If you’re not providing an end-to-end mobile hiring process, you’re losing out on prospective candidates.

A typical law enforcement hiring process is long and cumbersome, and there is significant attrition. It is important to carefully examine your hiring data and determine where applicants are lost throughout the process. Do not rely on hunches or anecdotes. Some applicants are removed from the process because they do not pass an exam, fail a physical ability test or do not meet background standards. 

However, many agencies report over 50% of applicants voluntarily withdraw or fail to show up for steps in the process. This is the area where agencies can leverage available tools and techniques to reduce the loss of viable candidates.

Several studies reveal the most common reasons applicants voluntarily drop out of a process. These include: 

  1. Lengthy, slow and drawn-out process.
  2. Lack of feedback and response to the applicant during the process.
  3. Hiring processes that are not mobile device friendly.
  4. Rigid initial screening criteria that fails to look at overall circumstances of situations and thus screens out suitable candidates. 
Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia recognized these latest hiring challenges and implemented eSOPH, the only public safety background software with mobile capabilities.
Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia recognized these latest hiring challenges and implemented eSOPH, the only public safety background software with mobile capabilities. (Photo/Miller Mendel)

Streamlining does not mean reducing the quality of the process; it means eliminating steps in the process that do not provide value and using technology to speed up administrative processing of hiring documents and processes. Using technology tools appropriate for the target audience, agencies can have the best of both worlds – an efficient hiring process and increased diversity, size and satisfaction of the candidate pool.

However, technology used in the hiring process needs to be carefully aligned to meet your agency's goals. Blind reliance on technology in the hiring process can backfire.

A recent Harvard Business School study determined that many automated screening algorithms exclude highly skilled prospects due to overly restrictive job descriptions and screening criteria unrelated to an applicant’s ability to perform the essential job functions. 

Non-traditional candidates or candidates with unusual experiences that might be a good fit can fall through the cracks due to overly rigid sorting criteria. A better practice may be to widen the funnel at the top to let more candidates apply, and then screen individually during the testing and backgrounding processes.

The target demographic for law enforcement recruits and laterals can be generally described as a diverse group of individuals in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and experience from 21 to 40 years old. This is a generation of “digital natives” – a generation of people who grew up in the era of ubiquitous technology. Strategic use of modern technology in the hiring process will reflect positively on your agency. 

The third-largest sheriff’s department in the nation increased their background efficiency by more than 50% using eSOPH.
The third-largest sheriff’s department in the nation increased their background efficiency by more than 50% using eSOPH. (Photo/Miller Mendel)

Mobile-friendly processes will allow you to more efficiently reach and interact with a more age-appropriate and diverse audience. The Pew Research Center 2021 Mobile Fact Sheet states that 95% of all adults ages 18 to 49 have a smartphone. In addition, nearly 30% of adults ages 18 to 29 use smartphones instead of computers at home – some don’t even own a personal computer. Hispanic and African American adults in the United States are less likely to own a traditional computer or have high-speed internet at home and use mobile devices to access online content. The data also shows that both Hispanic and African American adult females are the most prevalent users of mobile technology. Using mobile-optimized tools is important as we strive for diversity in our hiring pools.

Statistical data gleaned from the eSOPH background system showed that out of thousands of applicants and references that access the eSOPH system weekly, over 50% are using mobile devices. eSOPH is the background investigation software system used across the nation by over 2,400 investigators at law enforcement agencies. "Those numbers equate to thousands of applicants and references that would have either given up on the process or been delayed in submitting background investigation-related information had our system not been fully mobile compatible," said Tyler Miller, founder and president of Miller Mendel, Inc., the company that offers the eSOPH background system to public safety agencies.

According to recent economic research from Daniel Zhao, senior economist and data scientist from Glassdoor, a mobile-friendly hiring experiences can increase the number of job applicants by 11.6%. This is a significant advantage in a tight labor market. That percentage will only increase.

Texting is another valuable communications tool for recruiters and hiring managers to communicate with applicants. Research shows that text messages are read and responded to more quickly and more frequently than emails or voicemails. Text-based recruiting tools designed for law enforcement agency hiring can facilitate interaction with candidates directly on their mobile phone and provide current and easy to access details about the application process.

One of the most complicated, detailed and time-consuming stages of the law enforcement hiring process is the pre-employment background investigation phase. Your agency can gain an advantage and reduce background investigation time by having your background screening process optimized for mobile devices. 

eSOPH is a pre-employment background investigation software system designed specifically for public safety agencies that is fully compatible with both desktop and mobile devices. For eight weeks in 2021, eSOPH tracked activity of 10 of its client agencies to determine when applicants and references accessed the system using mobile devices. During this period, the system was accessed by applicants and their references over 14,000 times from mobile devices. Mobile access not only benefits the applicant, but it also facilitates responses from the applicant’s references by allowing the reference to submit information back to eSOPH through mobile devices, substantially increasing the rate and timeliness of responses.

The tight labor market will be with us for some time, and it is critical for agencies to find new ways to connect with applicants, keep them engaged and efficiently conduct background screening. A theme from the "Hiring for the 21st Century Law Enforcement Officer" report by the COPS office and IACP is that agencies will be more successful in hiring recruits if they make the hiring process more efficient. Affordable and innovative technology is available to help agencies of all sizes overcome the staffing challenge.

For more information, visit eSOPH by Miller Mendel.

NEXT: Hire smarter: How new tools and techniques can help your agency build a force for the future

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