San Juan County Sheriff’s Office


Located in the very heart of the Four Corners area (Aztec, NM), the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for enforcing the laws of New Mexico within San Juan County. Home to more than 128,000 residents, the county covers 5,500 square miles. The Sheriff’s Office is frequently looking for individuals who take great pride in their positions, and maintain a high standard of service to those they are sworn to protect.

Challenge: Recruiting for the Right Skills

Mark Pfetzer, Administrative Lieutenant for the Sheriff’s Office, likes to “think outside the box” when trying to solve their recruitment challenges. He suspected that the tests they had been using for new Sheriff Deputies may not reflect the actual work of the job as it existed today. Testing math skills, for example, which was a challenge for many job applicants, led him to raise the question “When do we use math on the job?”–not that often was a frank admission. Making good hiring decisions means spending public dollars — “It is incumbent upon us as to utilize the taxpayer’s money in a wise and efficient manner.” declared Mark.

Solution: Cognitive Skills Testing & Training

Old recruitment tests were replaced by WorkKeys® assessments. Applicants were asked to take three WorkKeys tests-Workplace Observation, Listening For Understanding, and Business Writing. The local Workforce Solutions Center and San Juan College both provided free testing to all applicants, as well as any remediation needed by offering the KeyTrain curriculum. Applicants were given an opportunity to retest once after 24 hours and then again after six months. Four to five applicants had to retest and met the desired skill levels, indicating a level of perseverance that Mark found desirable in applicants for the position. In one great example, a seventeen year veteran of law enforcement, who had previously failed the older written tests, was allowed to take the WorkKeys assessments and “passed with no problem”. This demonstrated to Mark that WorkKeys is more applicable to the job-the applicant knew his job and the tests were directly related to the skills he had acquired during his career.

Early Results: Improved Hiring Efficiency

  • More efficient hiring process—saving both time and money.
  • Identified qualified individuals earlier in the process.
  • Candidates more likely to succeed at Academy because they started with the basic work skills required to do the job.