Police Recruiting Is Not About Applications

Dr. Travis Yates Retired As A Commander With A Large Municipal Police Department After 30 Years Of Service. He Is The Author Of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide For Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His Risk Management And Leadership Seminars Have Been Taught To Thousands Of Professionals Across The World. He Is A Graduate Of The FBI National Academy With A Doctorate Degree In Strategic Leadership And The CEO Of The Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.

Law enforcement doesn’t have a recruiting crisis but rather a candidate crisis. While that sounds like “apples to apples” it’s quite the opposite. I’ll explain briefly below.

Focus on Candidates…Not Applications

Gone are the days that law enforcement recruiting could do just about anything they wanted, and the applications would flood in. Those days aren’t coming back so it’s time to get serious about what the issue is and what WE can do to correct it. 

Before you get applications, you must get interested candidates and for law enforcement along with the stringent standards, this means a lot of candidates.

Police Candidate Case Study

Everyone knows that once someone becomes interested in working for your agency, they are about as far away as Antarctica to getting hired. From testing to physical fitness to background checks, interviews, polygraphs, etc., there are more built-in obstacles within the hiring process than we can mention today.  

Those obstacles and so much more is why you need a large pool of candidates to meet your hiring needs. 

SAFEGUARD Recruiting has conducted hundreds of recruiting campaigns for clients and that data is powerful in understanding what it will take to fully staff your agency. 

I recently asked Jake Peters at SAFEGUARD what it would take to hire 20 police officers. Rather than discuss web traffic or SEO or all of the common verbiage associated with marketing pitches, Jake asked me 2 questions.

  1. What percentage of those interested in the job complete an application?
  2. Out of those that apply, what percentage are hired?

SAFEGUARD has developed processes for agencies that are converting as high as 30% from interested candidate to application. I never saw it that high at my agency, but I’ll go with that. The national average of hires from application is around 5% and while Jake told me that their processes are garnering higher numbers than that, I’ll go with the average.

So, to hire 20 police officers, you have to work the numbers focused on interested candidates first.

  • It takes 1333 interested candidates to get 400 applications (30%). 
  • It takes 400 applications to hire 20 police officers (5%)

One Step Forward…Three Steps Back

I’ve talked to many recruiters and police leaders that feel like they can’t catch up when it comes to staffing but if we focus on getting the number of candidates needed first, the hires will happen. 

It really is just a matter of finding the number of candidates needed.

But Where Do I Get Thousands of Candidates?

If you are a recruiter, you have to know how many candidates you need and all of the associated data with your efforts. More importantly, if you need to hire 20 people, how are you going to get 1333 candidates?

Keep in mind, these are not website visitors or Facebook comments. Candidates have inquired and submitted their information to your agency with an interest to work there.


Will a website or video get you those candidates? 

Will a booth at a job fair get you those candidates?

How about a billboard or pamphlets at the bus station?


Maybe they have and if they have, let me know. The data and research is pretty clear. Those marketing elements will get “eyes” on your agency but they are very poor in getting “candidates.”

Digital Recruiting Campaign

The only hope to get a sufficient number of candidates to hire is by taking your efforts to where the candidates are…social media.

This is exactly what Peters told me that SAFEGUARD does to hit the candidate numbers needed to staff agencies, but he gives caution to agencies that are considering running a digital campaign. 

Peters said that the rules are constantly evolving online when it comes to recruiting campaigns and more than one agency had had their accounts banned for violating them. He also told me that it is very easy to waste money on an online campaign if it’s not set up or moderated appropriately.

There Is a Solution

Ultimately, there is hope when it comes to police staffing because of what Peters and SAFEGUARD Recruiting have been doing. 

Jake and the team at SAFEGUARD Recruiting are rolling out a full recruiter certification course this summer. According to Peters, “we are going to tell the students everything we know and a plug and play system on how to fully staff.”

To find out more about the certification or to speak to SAFEGUARD Recruiting, fill out the form below!

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