Editors Note: Author and Trainer Travis Yates wrote about the inherent problems with law enforcement recruiting in his best selling book, “The Courageous Police Leader.” He was recently quoted in an article we ran on a revolutionary methodology of recruiting from a law enforcement operated company, SAFEGUARD Recruiting and we asked him to expand on his thoughts on this important subject. This is the third article in a series of articles on Police Recruiting.
In the first two articles of this series on law enforcement recruiting, I have lined out some of the inherent issues with police recruiting and given you some ideas of a different approach to this very important topic. I have heard from many of you and I am continually impressed by the tenacity and hard work by law enforcement agencies and police recruiters to do what has become a very difficult job.
Most leaders, recruiters and anyone involved with police recruiting are extremely frustrated. Never in law enforcement history has so much effort and money been dedicated to recruiting but the results have been less than optimal.
The first hurdle that an agency has in their recruiting efforts is to actually evaluate if what they are doing is working. This can be especially tough if someone has championed a certain tactic or approved funds to recruit but it is important to not only throw resources at the issue but evaluate whether it is actually working.
The only measurement on whether your recruiting efforts are working is the number of recruits you are getting.
This is especially important if you are utilizing an online advertising agency. I have heard from many agencies that are and the results are less than stellar. There are a ton of reasons for this but here are a few.
Traditional advertisement agencies have no idea what is actually needed to attract police recruits.
I don’t mean this in a negative way but it’s simply the truth. There are plenty of companies taking our money but do they really know our industry? If your results, which can only measured in applicants, are not there, it’s likely the advertising company is using a “cookie cutter” approach without addressing the specific issues that must be addressed in law enforcement. When you think about it, how could a traditional advertising company, outside law enforcement, succeed? Very few companies could jump to a different industry and have success, especially one that has become as difficult in attracting applicants as law enforcement.
It’s not about a website or fancy video
Some companies push the fanciest website design or coolest video and while that’s nice to have, it has literally nothing to do with police recruiting. The bosses at the department like it and your officers may brag about it, but that is not recruiting. There are some very specific items that potential recruits look for in an agency and a nice website or “tactical-cool” video isn’t on the list. Of course you should have a great online presence but that is marketing and not recruiting.
It’s not about clicks or hits
This is probably the biggest scam being told to police agencies from firms that are making a ton of money “helping” them recruit. To justify the continuous spend, the agency will be given data that shows their web site or recruiting page got more clicks or views but once again, that’s not recruiting.
If you give me $1000, I can take $200 of that and get you more website views. Considering social media companies prohibit targeting job advertisements by age, who knows if the new “clicks” are even eligible or interested in becoming a police officer. If you want to know why all those traditional firms are willing to help law enforcement recruit, the other $800 will go in my pocket.
That is not recruiting but in a desperate environment such as law enforcement recruiting, we sometimes count that as a win. On a good day, I may call that marketing but unless you got more applicants, it is not recruiting.
Evaluate and Adjust
Whatever you are doing to recruit, you must constantly evaluate and adjust your strategy. Some would say it’s a full time job but I say, it’s a 24 hour-7 days a week job. That is why utilizing the right strategy online is a must. Don’t be fooled by fancy promises or increased clicks. If you don’t see qualified applicants increasing, your strategy isn’t working and something else must be done.
How do I start?
If you are wondering what else you can do to recruit, that’s a great place to be. Unfortunately, law enforcement is mired in a status quo mindset where we often refuse to admit we could do better. When it comes to recruiting, all of us can do better and that definitely includes me.
Read the articles in this series and take an honest evaluation of what you have done in the past and whether it is working. Other industries have specialist that are full time recruiters and if we are honest, most of our recruiters will never be there long enough to have the skills that these specialists have.
In my seminars, I routinely advise agencies to take a multi-prong approach to recruiting and an important portion of that is finding the right online advertising/recruiting company to supplement your efforts. You need a company that understands the profession, will actually provide applicants and is committed to finding recruits for you rather than simply sending random people to your website.
It’s no secret that I believe SAFEGUARD Recruiting is the answer to the recruiting crisis in law enforcement. There are a lot of companies grabbing money from agencies with a lot of promises but the crisis continues in those communities. The owner of SAFEGUARD approached me after he read my book on Courageous Police Leadership and attended a seminar where I speak about recruiting.
His company philosophy was exactly what I had been telling others but I had not found anyone willing to put it together. I was so convinced, I wrote about SAFEGUARD Recruiting here and if you’ve followed my writings over the last two decades, you would know that I have endorsed two companies in that time….Below 100 changed how we thought about law enforcement risk management and SAFEGUARD Recruiting will change everything we thought we knew about recruiting.