Hiring Success

Bringing Hiring Success to Public Service

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City of San Francisco taps into modern technology to reimagine public service hiring.

Article Highlights

  1. The War for Talent in San Francisco
  2. The Secret to Differentiation: A Strong Brand & Seamless Experience
  3. Upgrading your TA Infrastructure
  4. Giving Candidates a Purpose
  5. Job Advertising
  6. Easy Apply
  7. Team Productivity
  8. Closing

The War for Talent in San Francisco

The City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) has bold plans to blaze a new path and reimagine hiring for public service jobs, where ‘purpose’ dominates as the ultimate draw for candidates.

Why? Hiring for public service jobs in San Francisco against its tech neighbors has been a fierce talent war. Coupled with the fact that approximately 30% of its workforce is expected to retire in the next decade, CCSF concluded that it needed a dramatic change to connect the next generation to public service jobs and not only tech startups. 

San Francisco (SF): the birthplace of Levi’s and the iPhone, as well as the first U.S. city to mandate composting. This city has always been a trendsetter, and its current status as probably the world’s largest tech hub has only cemented that reputation. Of course, with the likes of Twitter, Uber, and Salesforce to contend with, SF has another reputation—that of an extremely competitive job market. Companies vie for talent by whatever means at their disposal (salary, stock options, and learning budgets) but it’s not just the tech giants in the ring: SF’s city government is now a contender and they’re ready to start a new trend.

The Secret to Differentiation: A Strong Brand & Seamless Experience

For CCSF, recruiting was about more than glossy perks. In order to attract a new generation of candidates, they had to revamp their hiring process for a seamless experience that highlighted their employer brand, as millennial talent has come to expect a consumer-grade tech experience as well as a mission they can get behind.

…Government technology had a big opportunity to catch up to the private sector and equalize the playing field.

The first step for CCSF was to reimagine the recruiting process from the ground-up. Specifically, they wanted to revamp inefficient processes and outdated technology that created a problem for both candidates & hiring teams. A majority of government technology was developed & implemented in the early 2000s. In the last 15 years, technology has evolved and focused more squarely on the overall user experience, meaning government technology had a big opportunity to catch up to the private sector and equalize the playing field. CCSF wanted to procure a user-centered and data-driven solution to redesign the government hiring process and enhance the experiences of its candidates, hiring managers as well as  HR professionals. 

Upgrading your TA Infrastructure

The City kicked off an official Hiring Modernization project to find the right technology partner to help achieve these goals. David Huebner, a former Googler, was tapped as part of the team leading the project. Huebner made his transition from the tech world to public service focusing on helping more mission-driven organizations redesign their services. After a formal RFP and vendor evaluation process, the panel of HR and tech experts selected by Huebner and the CCSF team awarded the contract to SmartRecruiters as their Talent Acquisition Suite to modernize the City’s hiring practices and achieve Hiring Success. 

With their new infrastructure in place, CCSF sought to drive a smoother candidate experience while showcasing their employer brand. To accomplish this, they began utilizing their recruitment CRM to build and communicate with talent pools. A big priority for CCSF was to ensure pipeline diversity so that services are always running for the city. Along the way, they leveraged analytics to track the effectiveness of different channels for continued optimization.

Giving Candidates a Purpose

The key to attracting talent in such a competitive market is to offer candidates greater value. For CCSF, that value was exemplified through the “Choose Purpose” campaign where every job was mapped to specific impact statements & goals that said hire would be responsible for achieving. By offering real transparency & opportunity, CCSF was able to offer job seekers what they were truly looking for: a purpose. 

As CCSF set a new standard for public service hiring, Huebner and Anne Marie Monroe, leader of the Hiring Modernization Project, developed concrete ideas to leverage technology to elevate the “Choose Purpose” campaign while streaming other aspects of the recruiting process.    

Job Advertising

When it comes to job advertising, examples include standardizing every job post to contain an impact statement that outlines the problems the eventual hire will get to solve and the direct impacts they will make on the community. They’ve adopted the term “dragon statements” which they attribute to Jennifer Pahlka, founder and former Executive Director of Code for America, essentially describing the dragon you’re going to get to slay in the job. Examples are the complexities that come with building a transit system for the riders you’d transport working for SFMTA or designing a healthcare system for the patients you’d help at the SF Department of Public Health.

The strategy also evolved from “post and pray” to a more targeted and strategic approach. By integrating their job board contracts within their ATS, CCSF was able to map their candidate pipeline data directly with sourcing analytics so they knew the right levers to pull for every job based on pipeline health.

Easy Apply

Civil service hiring involves more steps than the private sector and has deterred candidates from applying in the past. SmartRecruiters’ easy 1-step apply will help remove this barrier and will dramatically improve the candidate experience and in turn allow  CCSF to hire candidates faster.

Team Productivity

The Talent Acquisition Suite also enables better recruiter & hiring manager productivity through various means. With a single system of record, the CCSF TA team was able to keep all their data in one place, saving recruiters from manually entering duplicate data across systems while tracking all their key metrics in one view. In addition, a mobile-friendly & conversational interface allowed hiring managers to leave feedback & review candidates efficiently, thereby speeding up the process and avoiding candidate stagnation.


“Choosing a job with the City and County of San Francisco means choosing a job that has a direct impact on our neighborhoods. Our goal is to find each and every person that is called to serve their community and recruit them to our team.” 

Carol Isen — Acting Director of Human Resources, CCSF

CCSF is on a mission to transform and uplevel public service hiring and be the model for governments across the country. “Choosing a job with the City and County of San Francisco means choosing a job that has a direct impact on our neighborhoods. Our goal is to find each and every person that is called to serve their community and recruit them to our team,”  said Carol Isen, Acting Director of Human Resources at CCSF.  “Our partnership with SmartRecruiters will help us transform and modernize public service recruitment and hiring so we do not lose an opportunity to connect the next generation of diverse and talented individuals with jobs that make a difference.”

Ani Sapru

Ani Sapru is a Senior Product Marketing Manager @ SmartRecruiters