As the District grows, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) needs to hire more officers without lowering standards. To help MPD achieve its hiring goals, The Lab used insights from behavioral science to redesign MPD’s online recruitment process and tested whether the new design improved application rates. We found that streamlining the process did increase the number of applications started, but it did not have an impact on the number of people who signed up to take a qualifying test. Following this study, MPD reduced the number of steps in its application process and launched a new recruitment website.
Why is this issue important in DC?
MPD requires sufficient staffing to support the growing District’s public safety needs. Mayor Bowser has set a goal of expanding the MPD workforce to 4,000 active officers. MPD will dedicate additional officers to community policing on foot, bike, and Segway. Currently, MPD employs over 3,800 sworn officers. Without enough staff, MPD has to pay its current officers overtime, which increases both payroll costs and the risk of overworking officers.
What did we do?
We redesigned MPD’s online recruitment information and application process to make it shorter, simpler, and easier for potential applicants to navigate.
To test the impact of the redesign, 3,000 visitors to the MPD website who clicked on the “Join the MPD: Apply Today!” button were randomly redirected to either the existing version or the redesigned version of the recruitment web pages. We then compared application completion rates between these two groups.
What have we learned?
The redesigned process increased the number of applications started by 4%, but we did not find any impact on the number of applicants who signed up to take a qualifying test, which is the final step in the process.
What comes next?
In 2017, following this study, MPD redesigned its recruitment website to highlight why it is a “Great Time for YOU to Be MPD” (see image above) and provide easily accessible information about employment opportunities within the Department.1
What happened behind the scenes?
Neither The Lab @ DC nor MPD has a team of web developers on staff ready to create a whole new website whenever we need it. Because we were most interested in whether we could streamline the application process, we created the new application on a secure, low-cost survey platform. The platform gave us a clean but no-frills look that allowed us to focus on process improvement. We had to do a little bit of coding to set up the experiment, but on the whole, we were able to test out our idea without spending a lot of money on a website redesign.