Civil Service Commission Approves Proposal to Expedite City Hiring in San Francisco

The new process improvements spearheaded by Mayor Breed will expedite hiring and bring innovative updates to the City’s recruitment process, cutting hiring times by up to 40% and helping fill thousands of open job vacancies
January 26, 2023

San Francisco, CA — Today, the Civil Service Commission approved a proposal spearheaded by Mayor London N. Breed to change civil service rules to improve and speed up the City’s hiring process. San Francisco’s vacancy rate for permanent positions is approximately 13.3%, double the pre-COVID rate and it currently takes about 250 days to fill a permanent position.    

The new civil service rules are expected to reduce the City’s hiring time by up to 40% for certain positions, while maintaining the fundamental principles of the merit system. During this first phase, the proposed changes give the Human Resources Department greater administrative authority to determine how long a test will be available for a particular position, decide the length of time that certain jobs will be posted to match the specific needs to a recruitment, and create more consistency throughout the entire hiring process.    

"Our hiring process is outdated and it takes way too long to hire workers to deliver the services our residents deserve and rely on. We are losing applicants who are interested in joining the City, but cannot afford the time it takes under the City's current hiring process,” said Mayor London Breed. “One of the fundamental goals of good government is modernizing how our city works, including filling City positions faster so we can be more responsive to the needs of the people of this City.”    

The City has nearly 4,600 vacant positions across all agencies. This includes vacancies for critical positions that help keep essential services moving, such as bus operators, analysts, police officers, and public works personnel.    

In last year's budget, Mayor Breed funded the Government Operations Recovery Initiative, which is led by a team comprised of analysts tasked with streamlining the hiring process and reducing the City’s job vacancy rate. During their review, the team found that layers of regulations added over the last 120 years since the civil service system was established have contributed to the City’s lengthy hiring process. The review also revealed that hiring practices in San Francisco do not account for the tools, technology, and best practices available today.    

Additionally, the team conducted a study of more than two dozen cities, counties, and states to learn best practices and updated innovative methods used to design a merit-based hiring process, which helped inform the City’s improvements included in Phase I passed today.     

“The City’s hiring process is complex and requires changes at every stage to make it work for City government, applicants, and the community we serve,” said Carol Isen, Human Resources Director. “I applaud the commission for moving these changes forward today and look forward to working with commissioners and our labor partners on future proposals to streamline our hiring process.”    

In addition to the rule changes passed by the Civil Service Commission today, the Department of Human Resources will implement a number of administrative changes to improve the City’s hiring timeline that do not require approval by the Civil Service Commission.     

Reforming City Testing   

The City will be moving to online, on-demand testing for job classes with high vacancy and turnover rates. On-demand exams will allow candidates to participate in an exam within minutes of applying for a city job. Candidates will automatically be placed on a continuous eligible list for consideration by departments looking for qualified candidates who are also actively looking for jobs.     

Provisional Appointments  

Provisional appointments allow a department to conduct an open and competitive recruitment without an exam when there is no active eligible list of candidates. Expanding the use of provisional appointments will allow the City to quickly fill vacancies while we work to implement online, on-demand examinations.    

Additional administrative changes will expedite the candidate vetting process for current City employees moving into new roles and streamline the approval process to fill vacant budgeted Permanent Civil Service (PCS) positions. All proposed rule changes approved by the Civil Service Commission today will be shared with City labor organizations for review.   

San Francisco continues to explore and implement a variety of strategic initiatives to ensure economic vibrancy, including the revitalization of downtown. Retaining and recruiting private sector talent from the City’s abundant talent pool is vital to this effort. The City offers competitive benefits in competitive industry roles. More information about available positions can be found at