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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

Ten hacks from Code for America to help you hire

Filed under: Hiring
Ten hacks from Code for America to help you hire
Code for America wants tech-savvy civil servants to improve public services. After studying hiring practices at cities and states across the US, they learned that governments needed to use 21st century hiring practices in order to recruit the right talent.

At Code for America, we build technology with and for governments and for the people they serve. We see a real and exciting opportunity to improve lives by building government services (e.g., food assistance) that are simple, effective, and easy to use.

All great missions need people to bring them from vision to reality. And as we talked to hiring managers in government, it was clear that finding and keeping the right people for the job was an obstacle faced in all parts of the public sector. To gather data and study the government hiring process, we launched a job board highlighting opportunities at the intersection of tech and government, and then interviewed candidates as they went through the hiring process.

Based on that research, which included interviews with hiring managers and HR departments in addition to job applicants, we put together a talent playbook to help governments everywhere improve the hiring process.

Even if you’re not in government, you may find these ten plays — each with guiding steps and real-life examples — useful for your organization:

Play 1: Paint the big picture. Make it easy for candidates to connect the dots, understand how your organization is structured, and see how their individual contributions will make an impact.

Play 2: Celebrate your unique team. Research shows that people are inspired to work with people, not join units. Share information about the people who make up your team and how you work together.

Play 3: Look for abilities, not credentials. Qualified candidates, especially those with self-taught skills in tech, may get mistakenly filtered out if you require a specific computer science degree.

Play 4: Speak simply. Avoid jargon.

Play 5: Show off your impact. Highlight how this particular role will directly lead to positive outcomes for the community.

Play 6: Make it easy to find jobs on your website. A great first step is to start collecting data about how visitors are finding jobs on your website. Your IT department should be able to help you set that up.

Play 7: Find candidates where they are. Post positions where qualified candidates are already looking.

Play 8: Set clear expectations. Make sure your candidates know what to expect in the hiring process. If the process is going to take a while, make that known.

Play 9: Communicate, early and often. Applicants can feel confused during the hiring process if they don’t know the next steps.

Play 10: Have an authentic voice. Receiving genuine responses, instead of automated ones, during the hiring process can help keep candidates engaged.

David Huebner is the Director of the Talent Initiative at Code for America, a nonprofit that seeks to use technology to support government priorities to better serve people in the 21st century. The Code for America team, made up of David, Mark (lead engineer), and Monique (lead researcher), partnered with former government employees Genevieve Gaudet of Nava and Dave Seliger of Public School to complete this work.