Hiring Tips for PSAP Managers

Written by KOVA Corp

When you’re hiring someone for a high-stress job like a 911 dispatcher, the hiring process must be as thorough and precise as possible.

While there are always new hires who will end up not working out - sometimes before they even begin working - it’s important for 911 centers to do what they can to minimize these numbers. The turnover rate for 911 dispatchers is high, and many counties are incredibly short-staffed. These factors, plus the financial cost of losing new hires, make it especially difficult for 911 centers to lose employees during the training period or shortly after.

So what can hiring managers do to ensure that they’re hiring not just dispatchers, but great dispatchers?

Make sure you’re hiring people who can handle stress.

Every candidate knows that being a 911 dispatcher is a stressful job. And most people think they can handle stress just fine. But as any 911 center manager knows, once someone is actually on the phone with someone in a life or death situation, they may find that their ability to handle stress isn’t as great as they thought.

While there’s no surefire way to test a person’s performance under stress, even with simulated training calls, one thing you can do is seek out people who’ve previously proven themselves in stressful situations.

To do so, make sure that it’s a prominent question during the interview process. You can also ask follow-up questions about how the person relieves stress, both at home and on the clock.

Pay attention to body language.

Any HR professional will tell you that body language can offer revealing insights into a person’s personality and work style. For a job like this, you want to look for people who convey confidence, without appearing arrogant. This means individuals who sit with their backs straight and their chests open, who project a calm demeanor.

Red flags to pay attention to are:

  • Excessive hand gestures, which can indicate excitabilty or nervousness - neither of which are good traits for a 911 dispatcher.
  • A handshake that’s too strong, which can mean the person is extremely anxious to make a good impression.
  • Constant touching of the face or playing with hair. These nervous habits don’t bode well for a person’s ability to handle stress.
  • Crossing of the arms, which indicates defensiveness and standoffishness.

Pay attention to the person’s specific strengths, not just work experience.

In order to increase your chances of hiring the right person, it can help to assess the job position you’re hiring for in terms of necessary strengths, rather than just job functions and experience.

To become a 911 dispatcher, a person must be resilient, practical, compassionate, efficient, and able to multi-task - among other traits. Are you asking questions that will allow you to see whether your candidates possess these qualities? Or are you stuck mostly on experience, asking more about a candidate’s previous work than anything else?

Assess how well the person will fit into your organizational culture.

For professions that are regularly short-staffed, like 911 dispatching, it can be tempting to simply assume that a promising candidate will also naturally fit into your organization’s culture.

However, this can be a pricey mistake to make. It’s important to assess your candidates’ personal qualities as well as their professional ones to ensure that if they are hired, they’ll fit in well with the rest of your team.

Even though dispatching is largely a job in which one works alone, there are always times - in any profession - in which workers must come together as a team. If one person has a strikingly different personality or skill set than the rest of your workers, it will be much harder for that person to succeed.

To learn more about making your PSAP an efficient and successful workplace, read our post “How to Avoid Common PSAP Workplace Problems.

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