City & Government, Springfield

Springfield City Council discusses city administrator hiring process

Before Springfield City Council met for its 7 p.m. regular meeting on April 1, the mayor and councilors had a work session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the hiring process for the new city administrator position, particularly the merits of using an online interview.
Mary Bridget Smith, attorney representing Springfield City Government, and Human Resources Director Chaim Hertz explained the process.
The online interview would have applicants record themselves answering a handful of questions, Smith said. She added that there were no rules and everyone does it differently. The method is used as another tool to evaluate people, but she cautioned the counselors not to judge what they are seeing.
Ward Six Councilor Joe Pishioneri asked about the implications of receiving protected information, such as gender, age, physical handicaps or children from these videos, and if it was too early in the interview process to release that information.
Hertz said even from the resumes, certain protected information like gender is already released, and the focus of the video is to show how candidates present themselves and communicate; however, he agreed that it is risky and it’s important for the counselors to refrain from focusing too much on physical indicators, especially in notes.
”It is difficult, although we do it all the time,” he said. ”I wish it was just an audio recording, but this is the process.”
Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg asked if there was a way to have the online interview just be audio, but Hertz said that the way the interface is set up, there is only an option for video.
Ward One Councilor Sean VanGordon said when he’s used online interviews he found them to be ”awkward at best” and it’s hard to get their real presence. He suggested cutting this section and adding question one to the written assessment, especially because the three other questions were similar to the written questions.
Pishioneri disagreed, saying that the video has value because it shows body language; however VanGordon said that without a person present, the recorded body language isn’t accurate. Ward Two Councilor Steve Moe added that he thought the video puts pressure on the candidates, which is a good tool.
Ward Five Councilor Marilee Woodrow wanted to add to the first question that described the candidates reasoning for wanting to work with the City, what drew the candidate to Springfield in the first place. Ward Three Councilor Sheri Moore added that an introduction of the candidate in the video would be a nice addition; however, Hertz explained that would also release protected information and advised against it.
Smith said that they could just ask the first question for the online interview and keep that section short.
The board also discussed the written questionnaire, which is the first section of the hiring process and comprised of 14 questions focusing on experience with budgets and economic development, work culture, leadership strategies, strengths and work history.
The council members struck the question asking about 30-day gaps in employment history and asked to change the wording in two of the questions, in order to clarify intent and make the language more accessible.
Lundberg asked to add a question that would touch on their leadership values and what kind of work culture applicants thrive under, as well as what they look for in applicants to hire. Pishioneri also wanted to add questions that would see how an applicant first gauges the work environment and what someone who doesn’t like the applicant would say about them.
After the online interview, candidates will meet for a panel interview and answer around 9 to 10 questions; this is expected to take place in August. Smith said the idea is to have a multi-day interview that will consist of a panel interview, round robin meetings with councilors, a city tour and engagement with the community.
When it comes to panel questions, VanGordon said he would prefer questions that built on the written questions, to keep from having candidates repeat themselves.
Smith said she’ll have the questions revised for the next work session and have more information about the city tour.
This is the first of two city manager work sessions to receive guidance from the counselors for the interview and hiring process.
At this moment, there are 29 applicants for the position, stretching from Oregon, California, Washington and Iowa, with backgrounds ranging from the private sector to government, the recruiter told Smith.
The work session adjourned at 6:53. The next council work session about hiring the city administrator will be on May 13.



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