At a Glance
By bringing their Fire Department job application online with CityGrows, Erie increase the size, quality, and diversity of their applicant pool. They reduced the administrative burden of processing applications, and generated new revenue for City operations at the same time.
Like many local governments, the City of Erie, PA was looking for ways to increase the size, quality, and diversity of their applicant pool for Firefighter positions. The City is also in the middle of transforming their work process to increase digital services and online access to government, in order to allow City staff to do more with scarce resources. In previous years, the application was only available to prospective firefighters on paper who were able to visit Erie City Hall and apply with paper forms in person.
The City of Erie, PA used/is using online job applications via CityGrows to address this/these challenge(s).
With job applications housed on the CityGrows platform, applicants were drawn from across the region, and applicants could apply 24/7 - at night and on weekends - using their phone or a desktop computer. The digital application was more appealing and convenient for applicants, and CityGrows lets people start, pause, and resume the same application, which came in handy given all the documentation and information required.
The City of Erie decided to solely offer a digital application. A digital application saves time and resources and is available 24/7, rather than just during “normal business hours”. For the few people who might not have internet/computer access, the City of Erie set up a computer station in City Hall dedicated to applicants for the Firefighter positions. The station was located in Human Resources, so if the applicant had questions along the way, they could get them answered immediately.
In terms of data security, bringing the application online prompted the City to evaluate when/ how they collect sensitive information. In previous years Social Security Numbers (SSN) were part of the initial application; now the City waits to collect SSN until later in the process, as part of a background check, minimizing the risk that sensitive data is collected from people who won’t end up completing the application process. When an applicant starts the application on CityGrows portal, they create a login and password. Their info is securely saved to their account, and he only people who can see their responses are the applicant and the city official reviewing the application.
CityGrows not only brought security to the application, but also transparency. Nothing’s worse than clicking “submit” and watching your application for a permit, license, or job go into a cyber black hole. CityGrows allows applicants to track their applications progress. CityGrows also provides a direct line of communication between the applicant and the reviewer with the discussion feature.
In order to make sure the application on CityGrows was easy for applicants to complete and for City staff to manage, the HR team, along with the Fire Department and Mayor’s office staff tested and revised the application before launch. Staff got comfortable using the “smart” dashboard, and quickly realized that they could process more applications in less time than when things were on paper. Applicants and staff both gave the CityGrows process rave reviews.
- Increased quality, quantity and diversity of job applicant pool (30% increase)
- Less administrative burden in processing job applications for City staff because of online workflow tools
- Increase revenue for the City (30% increase from previous years)
This was the first year that the City required an online application to be a firefighter. Because CityGrows makes it easy to collect online payments during an application process, the City decided to include a nominal application fee, and generated thousands of dollars in new revenue for Fire Department operations
Who Should Consider?
Any government seeking to increase the size, quality, and diversity of the applicant pool for public safety hires, while reducing administrative impact and costs of processing applicants.