Friday, July 31, 2009

Chapter 2: Thoroughly Screening Applicants

Law enforcement agencies have been very successful in recruiting employees that are loyal, because they engage in a system of hiring that allows applicants to actually earn their employment within the process. This system (which we will refer to throughout this chapter) is important for private companies to embrace so that they also can create loyal employees.

The process of filling out an application for employment is pretty standard. The basic questions involving vital statistics, education, employment history as well as pertinent facts about the applicant are revealed through the application. The application is the initial tool that companies use to begin determining whether an applicant will be a good match. The application or the “file” becomes the subject of scrutiny once submitted by the applicant. It is recommended that the file leave no loopholes for interpretation. All that the applicant says was achieved should be checked.

“A personality profile helps the employer view traits that he believes may or may not help the organization reach its goals.”

Many departments require an applicant to take a personality test as part of the hiring process. This test determines the personality traits of the applicant as well as I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient). The questions tend to be multiple choice allowing for the applicant to choose the answer that best reflects his feelings on a particular topic. A personality profile helps the employer view traits that he believes may or may not help the organization reach its goals. While this may not be cost effective in time, resources, and manpower for smaller companies, there are alternatives.

You can become creative in determining how you feel about the possibilities of this applicant joining your department. While testing and other processes may gauge the feasibility of a person working out within your organization, it is only a gauge. People who might have made mistakes in the past can change based on their willingness, so do not be quick to rule an applicant ineligible because of a blemish on their record.

“Remember you are investing in the value the applicant is bringing to your company in exchange for fair compensation and growth potential.”

Once the recruitment department has undergone the preliminary investigation, the file is sent to the Background section. The Background section is responsible for verifying the truthfulness of the applicant’s information. Investigators scrutinize every piece of information provided by the applicant to determine his character and stability. Everything from employment history to credit worthiness is scrutinized. Remember you are investing in the value the applicant is bringing to your organization in exchange for fair compensation and growth potential. To grow your department, it is important that the person possess the basic faculties to create a “win-win” situation.

The Background section's recommendation strongly influences the chances for hire. After the Background investigator has examined the file, he makes a determination of an applicant’s viability for hire.  After the Background section has made a determination on the viability of the applicant, the applicant's file is forwarded to the police psychologist. The police psychologist views the psychological tests and background information to determine if the applicant is fit for law enforcement. The police psychologist has an overall view of the applicant and may ask pointed questions to determine the temperament of the applicant to enhance his assessment. Some tactics might be to have the applicant wait two to three hours in the waiting room before the police psychologist sees him. Under normal conditions, a person may become a bit angry and demonstrate this in the interview. Also, this is part of the conditioning process of having the applicant buy into the department. The more you prolong giving the applicant what he wants, the more he wants it. Remember, the conditions have placated his desire and the more the carrot is dangled, the more the applicant wants to comply. The applicant has made it this far, so he is not willing to jeopardize his chances because he may be seemingly “jumping through hoops.”  Finally, Psychological Services determines if the applicant is “satisfactory,” “unsatisfactory,” or “marginal.” The applicant's file is then sent to the Chief of Police for approval. If the chief approves, the file goes back to Background to insure that the applicant is drug free and physically fit.
After the applicant has been hired and goes through the six months of training in the police academy, he graduates and begins working as a police officer. He is still not considered a permanent employee, which means that he is on probation for the next six months. This is further assurance that the employee is “a fit” -- in a practical sense. Yes, he has passed all of the initial tests and has excelled through training, but how will he handle “real-life” situations? With close supervision and evaluations, he is monitored during this probationary period.  Remember, the object is not to micromanage the employee, but insure that he is meeting the expectations outlined in creating a “win-win” situation.

At the same time, as you are developing the employee to meet the needs of the department, you may begin allowing employee incentives to take place. If this employee wants more time off during this process, allow for this leeway. If he wants professional development, create in-house training based on his needs. As he is giving, he is also getting. This creates loyalty, because he sees that the department believes and is willing to invest in him from the outset. It would be unwise to prolong employee benefits for an undetermined time and think that he will remain committed. With every step of the process, there is a symbiotic relationship being built between the employer and employee. The employee is consciously seeing that the mission statement and practices of the department are complimentary. Many law enforcement agencies have been effective in creating commitment on the part of the employee, but have been less effective in maintaining the loyalty aspect. Once the employee feels that this relationship is not working for him, he will cease to be committed, productive, and loyal.

As you can see, the average law enforcement agency expends a lot of time and resources in insuring that the applicant is a good fit for the department. In this case, the safety of society and the department rely on these “checks and balances” to be in place. The phenomenal part of this system is that it works. While some applicants fall through the cracks, because no system is fail-proof, overwhelmingly, police departments have been successful because they obtain two things:

1. A thoroughly screened applicant with a profile of future performance.

2. The applicant's buy-in where he is less inclined to leave because of the nearly two-year investment of trying to get into the department.

This is the "Honey Pot" for law enforcement. If you have committed and motivated employees, do not create obstacles or impediments that de-motivate them. When they decide that the department's mission and politics do not operate within their self-interest, they will not always leave, but instead, create system inside your department's operations that acts more like a cancer than a mutually beneficial alliance.

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