How NYC is untangling the tech-hiring knot

How NYC is untangling the tech-hiring knot

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With more services moving online, quickly finding the tech talent to keep up with the pace of innovation has long been a challenge – especially in government.

Hiring within the government has historically taken about a year, according to Hillary Hartley, deputy executive director with 18F, the General Services Administration’s innovation lab.  Now, however, some government agencies are hiring within six to eight weeks, which is on par with the private sector, Hartley told attendees at the Code for America summit on Thursday.

Part of that success is due to experiments like design4nyc, a job posting site reimagined by the city’s Innovation and Design team, that spawned the new citywide tech recruitment site that launched Thursday at the summit.

The Innovation and Design team works with policy analysts, city agencies, community-based organizations and end users to build digital services that improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers. It uses its tech and design skills to create new services on behalf of the city.

But when the team wanted to expand its own ranks, a post to the city’s existing job portal produced nearly 500 results -- only about five of which were relevant to the design positions offered, according to Ariel Kennan, the team’s director.

The original job posting and PDF application approach were not attracting the quantity or quality of candidates needed, and interested job seekers still had questions about the requirements and skills for the position.

“If we want to get the most innovative design and technology talent inside government, we have to let those communities know that we not only needed their help, we want their help,” Kennan said at the summit.

So Kennan decided to use her design skills. “I created a new front door to help recruit my team,” she said. Kennan wanted to convey the importance of good design to candidates -- that a small design fix could improve lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

The website tells the story, mission and vision of the office’s work and outlines the skills sought rather than just the available positions. After submitting an email note, candidates could continue with the application process and move forward from there.

“When we put this online, we started getting a different response. The civic tech community started talking about it, and the civic design community started talking about it,” Kennan said.

Kennan’s team used the same strategy for the new site, which also highlights the city’s tech challenges and includes voices of public servants already serving the city – along with job descriptions for city software developers, data analysts and online designers. Users can even sign up and subscribe to receive the latest opportunities and postings.

Because of the success of the original design4nyc  site, other cities are already asking for similar tools. The design-recruitment site is open source and on GitHub, so any one can use to build a  recruiting tool.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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