Managing the human resources department is interesting to say the least. On one hand, I have been a candidate and suffered the experience of submitting a resume that seemed to be sucked into a bureaucratic black hole. On the other hand, I have been overwhelmed by inquiries from anxious candidates looking for status update only days after the submission deadline.
To attract the next generation of leaders, local governments should adapt to the expectations of future leaders or risk losing talent to the more flexible private sector. But next generation candidates must adapt as well. The following are my three biggest beefs with local government hiring and tips for HR departments and candidates to make the process a little easier.
The speed of local government hiring process can be discouraging. It can be weeks, or even months, before a candidate receives an update on their status. Organizations using electronic application management systems have no excuse for not notifying candidates fairly quickly after the application deadline. Our city does not have an electronic process but I send out an email shortly after the deadline to tell applicants who have been screened out.
Tip for HR: Include a draft timeline on the job posting so candidates get a feel for how long the process will take. Try to announce a date for the exam or oral board so candidates can make sure their calendars are clear in the event they are chosen to move to the next step.
Tip for Candidates: Have patience with the bureaucratic process. I think it’s best to mentally move on after submitting an application. If I fixate on how the job was a “perfect fit,” I risk talking myself into frequently nudging the organization’s HR for information, which doesn’t look good as an applicant.
Many times I have submitted my resume and haven’t gotten any response. It’s frustrating to read about the successful candidate’s hiring before knowing that I was screened out. Each applicant has taken the time to thoughtfully respond to the job posting. The very least an organization can do is respond in a timely fashion.
Tip for HR: Plan out your communication timeline when you prepare to post the position. Make sure to include any important information like exam start times. I once received an email that an exam was at 10:30 a.m. only to show up and find the doors closed at 10:15 a.m.
Tip for Candidates: Check your email regularly. This could be the exclusive form of communication for the organization and there won’t be accommodation for missing an exam or board. Also, read the job description carefully and follow the instructions exactly. When I post a vacancy in the newspaper it gets picked up by internet job sites like CareerBuilder. The site has a “click here to apply” button, and even though the ad says that a city application also must be submitted, many applicants just click the button and apply through the job site, which means that their application materials are incomplete.
Part of putting together a thoughtful application is reviewing the job specifications and demonstrating how my experience matches the organization’s requirements. It’s frustrating to learn that my application has been screened out for not having enough contract negotiation experience when that wasn’t specifically listed on the job posting.
Tip for HR: Be specific on the exact job requirements. It is easy to use the job description as the advertisement, but these are often out of date and do not truly reflect the duties or what a hiring manager will ultimately want.
Tip for Candidates: Relate your experience to each specific requirement. As an HR manager, I often get copied cover letters and resumes with objectives not related to the job for which the candidate is applying. If you want to best position yourself for the next step in the hiring process, go for quality versus quantity of applications.
Miranda Lutzow, MPA, is management analyst at in Oakdale, Calif., and a member of the city manager’s senior management team where she is responsible for recruitment and selection, professional development programs, employee health and welfare, and handling personnel matters. Miranda previously served as assistant city clerk at in Merced.
Lutzow earned her honors Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice & Public Policy from University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from California State University, Stanislaus.
Lutzow has spent her career active in several professional organizations including the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC) where she has served as Secretary, Membership Director, and 2016 Program Director; and ICMA where she serves on the Advisory Board on Graduate Education and the Digital Strategies Advisory Board.