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Using CityGrows for Human Resources Workflows: Automating Fire Department Job Applications for the City of Erie, PA

July 8, 2019
Success Stories

The City of Erie started working with CityGrows in late 2018. The City started with its “311” process (the Citizen’s Response Center) and has added workflows including the Large Item Pick Up, the Mayor’s Proclamation Request, as well as special event permits. Under the direction of Mayor Joe Schember, the City is working with CityGrows to “update City Hall technology, streamline and automate processes, modernize our website, and create a City Hall culture based on helping residents.”

Erie is really embracing innovation - it  is the first government to use CityGrows for a job application workflow, and they started with the process to become a City of Erie Firefighter.  In previous years, the application was only available to prospective firefighters on paper who were able to visit Erie City Hall and apply with paper forms in person.  In 2019 the City omitted paper applications-- only accepting online applications via CityGrows.


Digitizing the Firefighter Application workflow was a huge success for the City of Erie. The city saw a 30% increase in application volume (and, because the City charges a small fee for the complex application approval process, a 30% increase in application revenue, generating close to $8,000).  


Applicants didn't have to be physically present in Erie, and could apply 24/7 - at night and on weekends - using their phone or a desktop computer. This contributed to an applicant pool that is drawn from across the region and is more diverse than in previous years, helping the City reach its recruiting goals. The City of Erie is looking for the best of the best when considering applicants to protect its constituents, and it prides itself on being a melting pot.  Online applications help the City build an applicant pool that reflects the diverse group of constituents that call Erie “home.”  The digital application was more appealing and convenient for applicants, and CityGrows lets people start, pause, and resume the same application, which came in handy given all the documentation and information required. 


When the City of Erie was first considering making the Firefighter Application digital, they had a few initial concerns:

  1. Would there be both an online and paper application available?  
  2. If online only, would anyone be excluded? 
  3. Would applicants’ information be secure?
  4. How easy would it be for applicants and city employees reviewing applications to use?


The City of Erie decided to solely offer a digital application. A digital application saves time and resources and is available 24/7, rather than just during “normal business hours”.  For the few people who might not have internet/computer access, the City of Erie set up a computer station in City Hall dedicated to applicants for the Firefighter positions. The station was located in Human Resources, so if the applicant had questions along the way, they could get them answered immediately.  


In terms of data security, bringing the application online prompted the City to evaluate when/ how they collect sensitive information. In previous years Social Security Numbers (SSN) were part of the initial application; now the City waits to collect SSN until later in the process, as part of a background check, minimizing the risk that sensitive data is collected from people who won’t end up getting far into the application process. When an applicant starts the application on CityGrows portal, they create a login and password.  Their info is securely saved to their account, and he only people who can see their responses are the applicant and the city official reviewing the application. 


CityGrows and Mayor Joe Schember are both “committed to being open, honest, transparent and accessible.” One of CityGrows core values is transparency.  CityGrows not only brought security to the application, but also transparency.  Nothing’s worse than clicking “submit” and watching your application for a permit, license, or job go into a cyber black hole.  CityGrows allows applicants to track their applications progress.  CityGrows also provides a direct line of communication between the applicant and the reviewer with its discussion feature.

In order to make sure the application on CityGrows was easy for applicants to complete and for City staff to manage, the HR team, along with the Fire Department and Mayor’s office staff tested and revised the application before launch. Staff got comfortable using the “smart” dashboard, and quickly realized that they could process more applications in less time than when things were on paper. Applicants and staff both gave the CityGrows process rave reviews.


We’re looking forward to helping Erie and other communities with their next round of public safety job applications. If you’d like to learn how CityGrows can help your HR department, Fire Department, or Police Department improve the quantity, quality, and financial impact of job applications, alarm permits, or other public safety workflows, please get in touch!


Jasmine Burns

Jasmine Burns is CityGrows' Customer Success Manager. She's an Erie native, studied cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, and has been part of the CityGrows team since 2018.

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