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San Francisco Works to Speed Up Tech Staff Hiring

As a recent RFP shows, the consolidated city-county is updating its hiring process for technology employees in an effort to improve its chances at competing with private-sector tech companies.

For five years, San Francisco has been modernizing how it hires technologists, with the effort culminating in a recently concluded RFP to build a cloud-based applicant tracking system.

Like other local governments across the country, San Francisco must compete with private-sector tech companies to recruit skilled tech workers. But the city is also home to perhaps the largest concentration of tech firms on the globe, which has its benefits and drawbacks. The city’s Department of Human Resources has access to a deep market of tech talent, but it also must compete with the likes of Google and Facebook.

While San Francisco has some advantages — chief among them its appeal to those who want to help and serve their community — one of its main obstacles in competing for talent against private-sector tech companies is the lack of speed in its hiring process. In fact, when San Francisco’s HR department first set out to explore modernizing its hiring processes, an audit found that the average time to hire was a whopping 118 days.

To make the hiring process go faster, the city has launched the Hiring Modernization Project, which includes a website,, to explain everything.

“Our Hiring Modernization Project is helping us transform our processes and systems in order to hire more quickly,” said San Francisco Human Resources Director Micki Callahan. “We want the best and brightest doing the meaningful work of running a world-class city. If we can’t move quickly, we may lose great candidates.”

The project’s RFP recently reached the deadline for proposals earlier this month and will be followed by interviews to take place in August, with a contract to be awarded that same month. The desired start date for the work is set for October.

The city hopes the RFP will result in replacing an applicant tracking system that was first contracted back in 2007. Part of the motivation behind the Hiring Modernization Project is to get a product that is tailored to San Francisco’s unique needs. Officials involved with the project said the applicant tracking system is at the center of all potential improvements.

“San Francisco hires nearly 9,000 people every year,” Callahan said. “More accurate and consistent tracking of our time-to-hire metrics will ensure that we identify and fix bottlenecks in our hiring process.”

If the project proves successful in speeding up how it hires IT workers, the city will use the system in other departments. Better yet, the system could be emulated by other cities. They can learn how San Francisco’s modernization project is faring by following progress on a city blog.

Hiring has changed for city halls across the country. Past generations of government workers valued the security and benefits of lifetime government jobs while millennials often change employers more times by age 30 than their parents or grandparents did in their entire careers.

The days of simply posting a job on a city-managed online board somewhere and waiting for applications to come in are perhaps ending, if not over. With the private sector always working to quickly find, interview and hire their own candidates, cities must also compete in that space, often without the same recruiting resources of their counterparts.

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology magazine. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas.