Very INTERESTing!

interesting

Have you ever heard about or seen a Civil Service Job but cannot find an open job announcement for it? Now you can submit a job interest form to the City of Philadelphia, Office of Human Resources and be notified when a specific job title is going to be announced. Search for the job class specification here:

http://www.phila.gov/personnel//Specs.html

When you see a job that you’re interested in, click on the little feather icon to the far right on the row of the job title you are interested in. This will take you to the Job Interest Form. There you can fill out contact information and be notified via email when the City of Philadelphia is announcing that specific job title.

The City of Philadelphia will attempt to contact you via email when this job opportunity is open for applications.  Remember, though, that the City can’t be responsible for misdirected, undelivered, and/or email flagged as spam or other delivery problems or issues.

As always, job postings are updated every two weeks and potential applicants are encouraged to visit our website frequently to see if a particular job has been posted.

Busting the Myths of City Employment

Myth

We’ve all heard or read things about City employment:  Things like, “You have to take THE Civil Service Test,”and “You have to know somebody to get a City job.”   Not all of the things you read or hear are 100% correct.  In many cases, while there may be an element of truth to the statement, the facts can’t be communicated in a simple one-sentence message.

One of the things we hope to do here is to provide some factual information that helps people understand how the City is organized and to better navigate the employment process.  Our processes and rules are not always straightforward and this sometimes makes it tough to get through “the system”. The next few posts will address some of the misunderstandings we frequently hear about applying and competing for City employment, starting with the first two statements, above.

For example, it’s true that the majority of City positions require applicants to take A test.  But is there only one test?  Are there different types of tests?  Do you only have to take a test to get hired?  How do you get to take the test?  What does the test say about the person who took it?

So…what about that test?  To discuss that, we should probably first try to define the Civil Service.  About 80% of the City’s 30,000 employees are in the Civil Service.  (The other 20% are those employees that are hired directly by elected officials.)  These employees are selected based on “merit”.  Merit is determined by whether an employee meets the minimum qualifications for a position and, if they do meet these qualifications, how well they do on some test.

There are different tests for the various positions and they often reflect the specific work.  That is, a test for automotive technicians might ask about repairing an engine and a test for a chemist might ask about laboratory procedures.  So every test is designed to get at knowledge, skills, or abilities needed to perform the work.

There are also different types of tests.  I’ll leave an explanation of each for another post, but we don’t give only written, multiple choice tests.  Some tests are done orally, like an interview but with much more structure.  Other tests require that a person actually perform some aspect of the work, like laying bricks or composing a letter.  And sometimes we just use information provided by the applicant regarding their education and specific work experience to arrive at a test score.

So, applicants meet the requirements, take a test, if they pass the test they get a score, and that score is used to rank them on a list of everyone who also passed the test.  We call that list the “eligible list” because it is a list of everyone who is eligible to be considered for hire.

As the City has vacancies, the names of people who are eligible to be considered are given to the hiring managers and interviews are conducted.  It’s from these interviews that hiring decisions are made.  Because this process relies on an applicant meeting requirements and, in some way demonstrating that they are able to perform the work, it is referred to as “merit selection.”  And THAT is a little more about how the City of Philadelphia’s Civil Service works.

There are tests…but there is no one, special, magic test that we rely on to tell us who to hire.  And the test we do give are usually pretty specific to the job for which a person is applying.

As always, please feel free to suggest topics that you might want to see addressed.  If you’ve had a question or heard something about City employment that you would like to know more about, we will attempt to provide the facts in as clear and honest a way as possible.

 

It’s More Than a Job…

Career-Ladder-300x300

Many people come to work for the City of Philadelphia right out of high school. For various reasons, they want or need to enter the workforce at this time in their lives, and they know that the City is an employer that offers good benefits and job security.  Often, the first job that people take with the City of Philadelphia is Clerk 1 or Clerk Typist 1.  In many cases these folks begin their employment with the City when they are still in their teens, at 18 or 19.

It can be difficult to go back to the life of a poor student once a person begins to earn a paycheck and is able to independently provide for themselves.  So, many of the young people who came to work for the City right after high school, buy a car and a home, begin families, and take on additional costly responsibilities instead of more exploring and pursuing additional education.  The thought of large tuition bills and juggling work and home responsibilities with class assignments makes it difficult to realistically consider school.

The City of Philadelphia offers many career opportunities and paths that do not require post high school education.  It is quite possible to progress through the clerical ranks to supervisory and advanced administrative positions and have a career that provides for a comfortable lifestyle.   It is not uncommon for employees to have 20 year, 30 year, or longer careers.  The combination of competitive salaries, excellent health and fringe benefits, opportunities to grow and advance at work,  the ability to have some balance between work and personal life, and the prospect of earning a pension that allows for some security in retirement, creates a work environment that leads people to stay employed with the City for many years.

So what about people that enter the workforce right out of high school, dedicate their work life to the City, and have the skills and talent to be leaders…are they limited in their opportunities to advance?  What if a person aspires to be a manager, division head, or even lead an entire City Department?  It is fair to say that many, if not most, people in leadership positions have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.  But not all of those people had that degree when they entered the City’s workforce.  In spite of the increased challenges in returning to college after having been in the working world for a while, many City employees have done so.  And the City has some programs in place to assist its employees in achieving their educational goals.

There is a “Returning to Learning” program available to all employees, in which the City has partnered with a number of local universities to provide for discounted tuition.  Some departments that have promotional opportunities requiring advanced degrees provide qualified employees with significant assistance with tuition, fees, and time off to complete internships and practicum necessary for the degree.  In return, employees commit to work for the City for a period of time after completing the degree.  Often a City Department has flexible hours that permit an employee to adjust their schedule to attend class.  And, in some cases, a Department can afford a portion of their budget to provide for tuition assistance when an employee takes a course or courses directly related to their work duties.

The City as an employer takes pride in the members of its workforce and values all employees, because it is as a team of people dedicated to providing services to the citizens of Philadelphia that we all succeed.  It is through values like this, and programs like the ones described above, that we are proud to offer some outstanding examples of dedication by individuals and the City’s recognition of their hard work both in and out of the workplace.  Just as examples of the quality of the City’s employees and our commitment to recognize and support our employees, the current Human Resources Manager for the Department of Public Health, Deputy Director of Human Resources, and Deputy Commissioner for Public Property all came to work for the City of Philadelphia in entry-level clerical positions, earned college degrees while working for the City, and progressed to positions of leadership.

We recognize that the employer-employee relationship is a mutual agreement and that rewards for good work comes in many forms.  The City’s Home Rule Charter, and a guiding principle, is that whenever possible, we strive to promote from within.  It is preferable to retain and develop dedicated staff.  We hope that as you consider your employment options, you consider the City of Philadelphia for a career.

What Do YOU Want to Know?

question-yikA5pBiE

Do you have questions about applying for a job; a specific position; what the Civil Service is; benefits of employment; the kinds of jobs the City of Philadelphia hires for; and so on?

This site is moderated and, if you comment below, someone will see it.  In some cases a question may be answered in a few sentences.  But in other cases, your question might be one that can be a topic for a full post and start a broader discussion.

Employment and human resources with the City is sometimes confusing.  It’s likely that if you have a question that many others wonder about the same thing.  One of the things we hope this site can do is help people better understand how to find out what jobs the City has and be better informed about how to get employed here, if that’s what they want to do.

So, please leave a comment below if there’s something you’d like to know more about.

 

Banning the Box

Ban-the-Box

What is this box that the City of Philadelphia has banned?  If you’ve ever had to complete a paper or electronic employment application, you may recall having to answer a question like “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”  If you have seen this, you may also remember that you were asked to indicate your answer to this question by checking a box. That box that asks you to disclose or deny any previous convictions is THE box we are referring to here.  In 2011, the City of Philadelphia removed the question regarding previous criminal convictions from its Application for Civil Service Employment.

Now that you know what box we’ve banned, you might ask why we would remove it from our employment application. Given the City’s mission of responsibly spending citizens’ tax dollars to provide important public services, isn’t it important to insure that those we hire deserve the public’s trust?  How do the citizens of Philadelphia know that the City’s workforce is qualified to serve them?

There are some good reasons to reconsider when and if a pre-employment criminal background check should be conducted.  Most importantly, people should first be evaluated based on their qualifications to do the work they’re being considered for.  If a person is highly qualified and the work might be considered in some way as sensitive, only then should their background be taken into consideration.  Many states, cities and towns now consider it to be unfair to look at a person’s past mistakes first instead of basing hiring decisions on their skills.

People who have been convicted of crimes and served time in jail or on probation often have a difficult time getting a job.  Once a job applicant admits or is discovered to have a criminal conviction, employers choose not to hire the person or fires them if they have already been hired.  Even when the crime has nothing to do with the job or happened a very long time ago, having made a mistake follows the person throughout their employment life.  Faced with the frustration of finding legitimate gainful work, some feel forced into less legal means to provide for themselves and their families and a cycle of repeat offenses begins.  This cycle only further discourages employers from giving consideration to applicants with a history of criminal convictions.  Providing someone a chance at a good job may also help them to keep out of legal trouble since they are able to make a competitive salary with real benefits.  They are able to meet their needs through legitimate work and they have something very real to lose if they return to criminal behavior and get fired.

It seems that the longer someone who once committed a crime doesn’t repeat criminal behavior, the less likely they are to ever do so.  Additionally, young people sometimes make mistakes before they develop the maturity that comes with adulthood.  So, the City of Philadelphia only looks back for the last 7 years so that mistakes made by a person a long time ago or when they were very young are not unnecessarily weighed against them.

The City of Philadelphia only considers crimes that are directly related to the position the person is being hired for.  This is Pennsylvania state law.  And recently, local law was changed to reflect the considerations above.  We are working hard to insure that the City employs people who are qualified in every way for the job they’re being asked to do and that opportunities are given for those who once made mistakes so they are less likely to do so again.

Do you believe that in the long run, looking more closely at a person’s job qualifications and positive traits is a better approach to making hiring decisions than focusing on their past mistakes?

Police Officer Recruit Requirements

Police Officer Recruit Requirements

As you may have read in the press or heard elsewhere, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Human Resources and Civil Service Commission, in partnership with The Philadelphia Police Department and Police Commissioner Ross, is preparing to revise the minimum entry level requirements for application to become a Police Officer Recruit.  For some time in the recent past, applicants needed to demonstrate that they had completed 60 or more credit hours of college course work, or have had between 6 months and 2 years of active military service, to be approved to compete for an entry-level police officer position.  Beginning in the near future, the requirements will be amended to include in the selection process those with a high school diploma or the equivalent.  Additionally, the minimum age of entry will be raised from 19 to 22 years old.

The City of Philadelphia continues to recognize the value of additional education and/or service in the Armed Forces for prospective Police Officers.  We want to insure, however, that individuals who were capable of succeeding at the other various hurdles in the screening process and ultimately at the job of being a Police Officer are being included and given the opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications.  Applicants continue to need to meet stringent requirements after meeting the preliminary qualifications.  These requirements include a reading proficiency test, meeting physical agility qualifications, completing a medical psychological screenings, and a cooperation with a rigorous background investigation.  Meeting the minimum requirements and being successful at the other pre-employment hurdles maximizes the likelihood that those applicants that become Police Academy Cadets are well suited to assuming their important public safety role.

It is our hope that by expanding the educational requirement and by considering candidates with 3 additional years of life experience, we will be able to increase the number of qualified applicants and be better positioned to meet the City’s hiring needs in this important position.

The Office of Human Resources will continue to work in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department and Commissioner Ross to assess and evaluate the effects of this initiative.  When we are able to analyze the results of these changes, we will meet again to discuss and determine whether additional adjustments to our strategy are in order to better attract, recruit, and retain highly qualified candidates for this crucial public safety position.