Bay Area police departments using recruitment app to find candidates

A South Bay police department is turning to technology in hopes of filling vacant positions. 

Many Bay Area law enforcement agencies are having difficulties recruiting new candidates. But now, becoming a police officer or firefighter is just a text away. 

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety is the latest agency to sign up for Interview Now, a new app service that helps organizations attract recruit more candidates. 

Rob Cate created the text message-based service, which uses artificial intelligence to interact with applicants.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for people," said Cate. "You don't need to download an app. You don't need to go to a web address, you just send a text."

Applicants can text the number placed on bumper stickers. From there, job candidates will essentially text with a computer that personalizes replies based on the recruit's answers. It filters candidates based on job requirements such as age. 

If an applicant is deemed a high-value candidate, they launch a phone call directly to multiple recruiters cell phones within the police and fire department. 

"We're in the heart of Silicon Valley, we're hoping we can use some of this technology to our advantage and that's what we believe we're doing here," said Sunnyvale DPS Captain Craig Anderson. 

Anderson said traditional recruiting such as career fairs can be costly and time-consuming, and that the response time by the texting service is instantaneous.

"We felt this would be something that would really resonate with our target audience of who we're going after and hoping to recruit to Sunnyvale," said Captain Anderson, adding tech-saavy millennials and Generation Z are in that target group.

Anderson hopes the new tool will help the department fill the dozen current openings, and said more job vacancies are expected next year because of pending retirements.

He adds his department isn't the only one facing the staffing challenges.

Sunnyvale DPS said it will pay $9,000 for one year of the texting service, pointing out it would spend that or even more to attend one out-of-town recruiting fair.

Interview Now's founder said three other local police departments starting using the service in June, including Oakland, Berkeley, and Daly City, along with Torrance Police in Southern California.                        

Sunnyvale DPS officials said starting November 1, they will become the first agency in Santa Clara County to start using the hiring tool.