Recruitment Tips for First Responders
Presented by the Nebraska Assoc. Of Women Police
The following information has been created as a guide to addressing the recruitment of quality candidates to first responder fields. We hope you will find the information useful and develop your own techniques and policies for recruitment tailored to your agency.
Who should I recruit?
People you want to work with! The job is changing and the skills that were important 20 years ago are less so today. Today, agencies are looking for officers who have communication skills, investment in their communities, and a strong desire to serve, a broad knowledge of technology, while still being capable of conducting the traditional duties of law enforcement. Why?
Communication Skills - That’s what we do! More and more of our calls have less to do with criminal activity and more to do with social problems like mental health, addiction, and homelessness. Officers need to be able to work through these calls and offer the best possible resources to our community.
Community Investment/Desire to Serve - You will see things others never want to see. You will be exposed to things that others cannot comprehend. You will be the one who people associate with some of the worst days of their lives. Why would you put yourself in that position? Because of your love for your community. Because your drive to serve is so strong that it outweighs those bad days. You believe you are changing the world every day and will do your best for the community you serve.
Knowledge of Technology - As long as there have been rules, there have been those who break them. Criminal behavior will always change with the times and nearly every major criminal enterprise has been impacted by the use of computers, cellphones, and online resources. Investigators are constantly being challenged to advance their knowledge and use of technology. Officers utilize body cams daily and are being asked to navigate technology-based crimes regularly. The next generation should have a wide array of technical knowledge and be ready to keep learning.
Traditional Duties - Are you ready to learn how to make arrests, conduct investigations, work with coworkers and community members to keep your city safe, and respond to calls for help? Are you looking for a fast-paced, ever-changing career? Are you physically fit? Are you resilient? Are you up to the challenge? Get ready.
Bonus points -
Background in social work or mental health
Involved with community organizations
Involved with teams/boards that are dedicated to accomplishing established goals
Background in teaching
Background in technology
What should I say?
Lead with what you love.
You may need to do some soul searching here but tell them why you love what you do. It’s not surprising or an exaggeration when first responders say they love protecting people. It’s true! We save lives. We are making a difference. Tell them about it! If your favorite part is the tactical stuff, say that! If you love community policing, tell them about it! You know your job, tell them why you love it.
Sell your agency.
Where is your agency located? What makes your community special?
How large is your agency?
What are your goals within the agency? What are you doing to achieve them?
What opportunities are available within your agency? (Specialty positions/units, training, ability to promote, special projects, etc)
Does your agency offer tuition reimbursement?
Does your agency offer overtime?
Does your agency offer child care assistance or maternity leave support?
Does your agency offer or emphasize fitness programs/incentives or mental health support?
What does your pension plan look like? Are there additional retirement investment opportunities?
What are your health, dental & vision benefits?
Know your stuff.
When/where should they apply?
What are the steps in the application process?
Are there any policies that may exclude them (tattoos, facial hair, educational requirements)?
How long of a process is it?
Don’t shy away from the tough stuff...
Set realistic expectations about the academy, the day-to-day job, and the current political climate. This job is tough and it has become harder as of late, but the people on the line next to us are the reason we put in the work. The people we protect, keep us going. This is a great career with job security, great benefits, assignment variety, and promotional opportunities. Tell them!
Successful agencies across the nation have implemented processes in their recruitment that open consistent lines of communication between recruiters and applicants. Touch base with your recruits regularly during the process and try to answer any questions they might have. If your agency has mentors assigned throughout the process, sign up! If not, let your potential recruits know that you are available if they have questions and will do your best to provide the correct info.
What else can I do to help?
Touch base with your agency’s resources.
Does Human Resources handle recruitment or do you have a designated unit? Figure it out and let them know you are available to help!
Volunteer for community events.
Community events, scout tours, safety fairs, and festivals are some of the most fun aspects of our jobs. Don’t pass on the chance to share your story with your community. People want to know why you do what you do and chances are, they think you’re a hero. And seeing a female first responder in a position of service may inspire others to do the same. After all, representation matters.
Repost or share social media resources.
This one’s easy. Click, click. Done.
Need more resources?
A list of posted law enforcement positions within the State of Nebraska
The 2019 PERF report examines approaches by US law enforcement agencies in addressing their recruitment struggles and the various trending solutions. A great read!
A 2019 list of practical strategies for developing applicants and testing your message.
We all saw the video. Now hear how they did it.
The National Center for Women & Policing created a "Self-Assessment Guide" for law enforcement agencies. The references are a little dated but the info is great.
A 2019 National Institute of Justice Special Report focused on female LEO's
A Police Chief Magazine article written by one of our very own resources, Ret. Chief of Police Ivonne Roman of Newark Police Dept., New Jersey
A 2020 article from the National Institute of Justice written by Iowa State Patrol Captain Ken Clary
Police 1 article regarding small-town policewomen
Inspiration/Strategies that work!:
Need some inspiration? Check Iowa out!
More inspiration from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy
ICE launched a great social media campaign with amazing visuals AND a hashtag #ICEwomenwork
The US Navy as well has been very successful with its "Women in the Navy" campaign. These images are powerful!
The California Highway Patrol launched a series of videos highlighting four incredible women.
Officer401's Youtube video addresses working in a male-dominated position.
Still stumped? Contact us at