How does a former theatre school dropout, watercolorist, folk musician, and veteran police officer fill a contingent sourcing/recruiting contract for the industry's leading online real estate giant? What has he learned about an industry that appears light years apart from his previous career in public safety? Those two questions are best answered starting at the beginning, like any good story. I promise this exposition will not expose the "decrepit American police culture" and will be more of just an overview of critical points in my professional history. Then, I will move into the meat of what this audience is probably wanting to know.
My apologies to any vegan humans for the previous analogy and preemptive apologies for anything else I may write that twinge of a carnivorous nature. I spent most of my professional life in what can be described as a physical, emotional, political, and in some cases, literal "meat grinder." My vernacular may have suffered from those experiences.
I had always felt the pull of police work since I was a child, and the events of September 11th, 2001, only solidified my desire to serve my community by driving fast, shooting guns, and wrestling drunks. I applied and was accepted to the police academy. I served as a patrol officer, sergeant, arrest techniques and firearms instructor, and police chief, among numerous other roles within the field. But my favorite years were the twelve I served in plain clothes as a detective specializing in person crimes like death and homicide, sexual crimes, child abuse, and narcotics. Now all brashness aside, I believe police work is a noble and honorable profession, but only when done by noble and honorable people.
During my time in public service, my wife finished her college education with a Master's Degree and was offered a desirable professional opportunity in a neighboring state. She had supported me for twenty years while I chased my law enforcement dreams, and I had peaked too early anyway—detective at 24, sergeant at 34, and chief at 37. The national average for sitting Chiefs of Police is 4 years. I made it 6. It was time to go, but to what? My wife and I sent out the message to a few of our trusted friends with our plans, and nothing seemed to coalesce.
After 20 years in law enforcement, a job that tends to take over lives and leave few opportunities for diversifying or furthering one's education, except within the field, left me overqualified for some jobs and underqualified for most other positions. I was highly skilled, no doubt, but not in any skills that the private sector seemed to want. Sure, there were security contractor jobs with the Federal Government, but my opinions and personal moral alignment don't fit with the contracted private/government security position. I was a peace officer, not a hired gun or bullet sponge. A few management jobs presented themselves, but after interviews, it just seemed like the powers that be couldn't believe that a former detective and police chief could transition into managing people or projects outside of a paramilitary structure. No matter how I explained my personal alignments, opinions on hot button topics, or thoughts on law enforcement officers being their own worst enemy (all issues for a different audience). Offers just didn't come in.
My wife's long-lost high school friend reached out and connected me with a recruiting manager from a large, online-based corporation. Conversations ensued, and it was decided that I might fit within a sourcing role in the corporate recruiting space. I was offered a 90-day contract—a tryout or an extended call-back workshop for those with experience in the performing arts.
There is a lot of talk about "transferable skills" in this job market. I don't particularly know if I agree with this term. Skills are skills, and I tend to think it is more about being able to use the same skills within a different environment. The skills don't change, but their use and intent certainly do. I think a better term may be "generally applicable skills." Please indulge me while explaining two essential skills a seasoned police officer should possess and how they are "generally applicable" to the sourcing and recruiting space.
Application of the law
I was told once by a very respected prosecutor, who is now a magistrate judge, that a cop with five years of experience is better at executing the law than most criminal lawyers with ten years in the courtroom. This isn't a dig on lawyers. It is just a question of function. The courtroom is where facts must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That's a lot of procedural junk that doesn't interest a police officer. The police officer is at the top of the funnel for the criminal justice system. They are tasked with knowing the elements of a crime, gathering evidence and testimony that corroborates the commission of those elements, and articulating them to develop probable cause sufficient enough for an arrest and or charges to be filed. The prosecutor's job is to prove the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge and defense's job is to ensure due process is not violated, rights are preserved, and justice is satisfied.
A well-written law accurately defines a criminal act, assigns elements required in the commission of the act, and the possible defenses to the elements or criminal act. A good job description is strikingly similar to a well-written law. It includes a detailed description of the job responsibilities, required qualifications, and exceptions to those qualifications.
A sourcer's job is to take that job description, its included responsibilities, qualifications, and exceptions, go out on patrol and find people possessing them, then present them before the magistrate for charges. I mean, to the recruiter and hiring manager for consideration.
Matching facts and circumstances (qualifications and experience) to written law (job description) is most of what police work and sourcing is. Of course, there is the part where sourcing and recruiting are tasked with enticing qualified candidates to enter the hiring process. In law enforcement, we call that entrapment, and it's a no, no. But police do interview and interrogate. That is pretty similar, but an in-depth comparison; deserves its own discussion. I'll say this, police officers know how to ask questions, and after only six months on the job, their B.S. meter is finely calibrated.
The art of canvassing applies in many ways to my current work environment. In the realm of criminal investigation, even with the advent and exponential growth of technology, there is no substitution for "good old-fashioned police work." This means research, knocking on doors, and talking to people.
When responding to a burglary, after the fact, when the suspect has made their escape, and the owner realizes his prized possessions are missing, it is elementary for the patrolman to take the report, file it, and let the insurance company attempt to make the victim whole. That's fine and may be appropriate depending on the circumstance and call load. But, is that really service? No. No matter the level of seriousness, every criminal investigation should include a canvas.
Canvassing serves three primary purposes. One is locating potential witnesses. Two, the discovery of additional evidence in the form of witness statements and testimony. Three, further suppression of crime by showing those in the immediate area that the police are present and engaged. Guess how often additional evidence, a suspect description, or even the suspect themselves were located while conducting. (Spoiler alert) It was EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
When canvassing, it is equally important to understand what questions need to be asked of those potential witnesses that are located. These questions need to be thought out and very specific. Most potential witnesses don't even remember or realize what they witnessed was suspicious or potentially criminal behavior until you ask about it. That's why they didn't phone it when they saw, heard, or even sometimes smelled or felt it. Then there are the potential witnesses that know something, or saw something, knew it was suspicious but didn't come forward because it was none of their business. Nevertheless, now that an officer is asking them about it, it is their business, and they will tell you what they know.
How is a skill taught to rookie cops applicable to my current position? Sourcing. Potential candidates are precisely like potential witnesses. They might not realize they are interested in a job until it is presented to them. They might not think they are a possible fit for the position until someone else does.
Knowing what questions to ask and how to elicit good responses is also key to the sourcing and recruiting process. This is useful in screening potential candidates and communicating with recruiting business partners like H.R., hiring managers, and others involved in the process. They all have the information you need to find the right candidate that might not be as detailed in the job description. They might even know of a person of interest with a similar M.O. (modus operandi) who could be the suspect you are looking for. Excuse me. I meant to say "an associate with similar qualifications and experience as the potential candidate you are looking for."
It seems to me that good canvassing skills are a must in this sourcing and recruiting space. Get out there, knock on some doors, and ask informed, thought-out questions. This is not an exhaustive list of skills experienced police officers have, nor are they the only ones that apply to sourcing and recruiting. Upon further examination, most skills developed and used in law enforcement can be used in the sourcing and recruiting field. This is a little reminder to those with more time in this industry than I do. Keep an open mind.
There are a lot of people out there that want the jobs you have and have the skills that you want. They might need some help seeing how their current skill set can be used, but you also might need some help recognizing and accepting skills you didn't know could apply.