When the Hinsdale, Illinois police department is looking for job candidates, it is increasingly turning to the web. Deputy Police Chief Bradley Bloom says he finds “a significant advantage” to using the Internet to advertise job vacancies. While the village continues to include the more traditional recruiting advertisements and academic networks to recruit, he points to the relatively low cost and the large number of people that online ads can reach versus a generally limited geographic area in which a print ad circulates.

“Since many of the candidates we target in our search for police officers attend school out of the area, the Internet provides the best way for us to spread the word,” says Bloom.

Law enforcement agencies today have a number of options when it comes to advertising job vacancies. In addition to the traditional help-wanted ad printed in the local newspaper, posted on a bulletin board at City Hall, or even published in a trade magazine, the Internet provides the opportunity to reach a markedly larger pool of candidates.

While local newspaper ads reach people in a limited geographic area, notices in trade publications often reach only subscribers or association members. Online ads have no geographic boundaries and – perhaps one of the greatest advantages – they are free to the job seeker.
From general to niche and “ultra-niche?” 
Some agencies turn to general job boards, like Monster.com, which typically result in a large number of applications. In response to an advertisement for a Police Officer position on Monster.com, the City of Arvada, Colorado received over 600 applications between January and September, according to Cindy Stauffer of the Arvada Human Resources Department.

While the ad has helped to significantly increase the number of applications the City receives, Stauffer notes that it is impossible to say how many of those applicants were actually hired or even qualified for the position.

Job sites that specialize in public-sector positions – like Govtjobs.com, Govtjob.net and Careers in Government – reach a more targeted audience.

Because it is a niche web site, Govtjobs.com is heavily marketed to government agencies and employees, explains Gerald Pecinovsky. “We are currently experiencing over 1.3 million visitors per week, and these are people specifically interested in government employment” he says. “I do not believe mega-job boards can make that claim.”

The niche narrows even further with sites that specialize in law enforcement employment. The Blue Line says that it has had great results publicizing law enforcement recruitment in Illinois, and is working to duplicate that success nationwide. The Blue Line began as a hard-copy publication in 1993, and launched its web site in 1997. Kevin Woodside, Publisher, says that the site gets a “conservative average” of 6,500 visitors each month.

According to feedback from “featured departments” that advertise positions on the site’s home page, more responses have come from the Blue Line than from any other – including major newspaper classifieds, Woodside tells us.
Calling itself an “employment portal,” 911hotjobs.com is another web site that specifically focuses on law enforcement jobs. According to the site, over 322 law enforcement positions were posted in November. The site also offers online practice exams, an online bookstore and a message board.

Some of these “extras” – that can include resume and tools, interview tips, and other resources for the job seeker – help increase the number of visits to these sites, hence increasing the exposure of job advertisements. E-Mail notification helps spread the word. The ability to reach a large and/or targeted pool of candidates is just one advantage offered by the aforementioned web sites. Many of these sites offer an e-mail notification service through which job seekers can learn about new employment opportunities when they are posted online.

Pecinovsky says that about 50,000 persons are registered for the Govtjobs.com email notification system – over 9,000 of them in Criminal Justice and Public Safety category. That means that when a human resources manager posts an ad for a police officer on Govtjobs.com, for example, over 9,000 e-mail messages are sent to registered users with a potential interest in the position. “No human resources manager would have the time or the financial resources to contact that many people by phone or U.S. mail.” Increased visibility + target audience = greater effectiveness of online ads Many of the municipal human resources managers we contacted were unable to provide specific information about how many applications resulted from a specific ad on a given web site. But the consensus was clear when it came to measuring the overall effectiveness of advertising employment opportunities on the web: the greater exposure to a larger number of applicants – and, in many cases, a more focused target audience – gives online ads a decided edge over print ads in local papers and trade magazines.

There will always be a place for print advertising – particularly for municipal employment notices – as long as there are people without access to the Internet. But that population is shrinking, and the potential for online advertising is ever-increasing