Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa
Articles by Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa
The recruitment of firefighters is not cheap. While metrics and budgetary line items vary among the size of fire departments, the recruitment of one firefighter from the viewing of your recruitment materials on Day One through academy graduation to one full year on the job is very expensive. For a check up from the neck up, let's begin with two quizzes: The Ultimate Firefighter Recruitment & Retention Quiz Part 1: Is your department having difficulty recruiting qualified firefighters, possibly reaching near-crisis proportions? Have qualified candidates whom you want to hire declined your offer? Is the competition for qualified firefighter candidates in your area overly intense? Have you pondered thoughts of having to pay outlandish salaries, signing bonuses, premium fees to recruitment agencies, or even curtail hiring or raiding your competition? Does your recruitment and human resources departments need to learn how to recruit more strategically and creatively to solve your recruitment problems? Scoring: If you answered Yes to any of these questions, then your department may need to consider a paradigm shift of its recruitment efforts from the “same-old, same-old” to a comprehensive business model based on creative problem solving, aggressive marketing, and innovative thinking. Part 2: Is your recruitment and human resources staff… Armed with a dynamic interactive presentation that results in responses and interest by qualified applicants? Supported with a superior website, an online presence, and printed materials that actually get read? Regularly trained and exposed to new relationship and marketing strategies no matter how experienced they may be? Provided with one-on-one or small group marketing executive coaching? Mystery shopped or recorded as part of their performance appraisal? Scoring: If you answered No to any of these questions, then this is your first step to strategically and creatively improve your recruitment metrics.This unique marketing model may be up to an 180 degree reversal from what your department has been doing for decades No matter how good your recruitment and retention efforts may be, they could always be better. There is good news and bad news: The bad news is this unique marketing model may be up to an 180 degree reversal from what your department has been doing for decades. Your recruiters and human resources personnel are going to be reluctant to change. Warning The first words out of their mouths will be, “What! Are you crazy?” How receptive will your recruitment staff be to the task of having to unlearn the old recruitment techniques and replace them with a variety of new creative recruitment strategies based on the principles of behavioral psychology? As for the good news, the change is not painful, though it will feel uncomfortable…at first. More importantly, a shift in strategy will produce the positive qualitative and quantitative results and metrics you are seeking. Firefighter recruitment cost Question: What does it cost your department to recruit one firefighter? Begin with the basic costs incurred reengineering of your recruitment website and printed materials, online presence and social media, educational presentations, advertisements, job fairs, and processing of paperwork of your application materials.The fees associated with tests: drug, polygraph, criminal background, and psychological Next line item: the fees associated with tests: drug, polygraph, criminal background, and psychological. Compute the costs once formal training has begun: education, salaries, uniforms, etc., all the way through graduation. Has your cost for each recruit reached $100,000 yet? What is your reaction when a candidate drops out midway through the training academy, or after one or two years feels being a firefighter is not the career for him or her? The Solution The firefighter recruiter as Marketeer. Fact: If the applicant doesn’t like you, he or she won’t consider your department. Why? We tend to do business with people we like; people who listen and convey they understand our needs, versus people who “talk at” us with a robotic presentation. Few fire departments actually have a formal strategic marketing plan in writing for its recruitment efforts But, there is a major problem: In the corporate world, recruiters usually receive a base salary plus commission for its placements. As an employee of a city, county, or municipal fire department, your key recruitment employees fall under a different compensation structure. Your employees probably have not received the intensive training in sales and marketing. Few fire departments actually have a formal strategic marketing plan in writing for its recruitment efforts. Recruitment and marketing are among the many hats firefighter recruiters must wear…yet few wear it well. The approach to recruitment follows a “recruitment is marketing” training model based on the business concept of Omnichannelization. Your challenge is to market your department and sell yourself to create your position in the marketplace be it a department with 10 fire stations competing with the nearby department with 40 stations. Recruitment auditing Consider that many applicants have read the same book as you, the one containing hundreds of interview questions and the answers to each. Somewhere within the interview process the applicant is going to be asked, “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” Follow up that question with ones which reveal deeper information, and questions the applicant has never been asked such as, “What are you most afraid of in becoming a firefighter, your biggest fear?” Your challenge is to develop at least 10-12 of these types of questions testing the critical thinking skills of the applicant.Somewhere within the interview process the applicant is going to be asked, “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” The Recruitment Audit: Identify what you are doing right, what needs improvement, and what you are not doing at all. Strategize to overcome weaknesses Analyze what your department has been doing thus far. Identify and justify your department’s top three strategies to overcome its six weaknesses, ones of which you may be totally unaware. What’s involved? Most of your printed materials are not read. Why? Whether it is your brochure, public relations materials, they “talk at” the reader rather than come across conversationally. Take a magnifying glass to color, font and font size, and voice. Well-written copy functions as one of the best screening tools during the personal interview. Most application forms are a major turn-off with the voice of a drill sergeant. Ask your human resources people how many applications are submitted incomplete, missing required information. Motivation There is a psychology of firefighter recruitment that identifies the “real” forces that motivates the candidate to accept one department over another. Recruiters need to learn to develop several distinct strategies customized to its variety of vertical markets. One size does not fit all. A few final words Are you ready to reengineer your department’s recruitment efforts? It all begins by obtaining a total buy-in, involvement, and training from your entire staff to achieve its desired recruitment results.