City of Baltimore, MD Mayor’s Office

Building a Digital Service Team with Intentional Hiring Practices


The announcement of the City of Baltimore’s digital services team had been a long time coming. Over the last few years, the City has made strides in modernizing and securing its infrastructure. Looking forward, they were looking to create a small and agile team that could hone its user experience skills and improve City services.

The City focused on building a robust and talented technical team that would make it easier for the people of Baltimore to get the services they need from their city government. What’s more, Baltimore allocated a portion of their American Rescue Plan Act funds to create the team.

But recruiting and hiring are challenging - especially for technical talent and in government. The City wanted to capitalize on attracting technically talented public servants looking for a new opportunity and reach tech talent who were looking to make a career switch. As their recruitment period matched massive tech industry layoffs, the City knew this was their moment to attract and build a stellar team.

Our approach

Justin Elszasz, Baltimore’s former Chief Data Officer, knew they needed help to launch the recruitment cycle. Understanding that technical hiring is often an overwhelming process, U.S. Digital Response (USDR) developed a set of strategies and deliverables that would help the team build its technical pipeline while emphasizing the ability to replicate the process for future hires. USDR delivered:

1. Interview and Evaluation Toolkit: Developed resume sifting, interview, and evaluation process, including panel interviews, interview scripts, scoring criteria, reference check guides, and email templates for hiring managers to communicate with applicants.

2. Communications Toolkit: Templated communications for social media and emails publicizing the roles, helping to streamline the process and time needed to amplify the roles.

3. Network connections: A direct plug-in to USDR’s community of over 8,000 people who have raised their hands to volunteer with local, state, and federal governments. Baltimore could advertise their open positions to an engaged and interested community.

4. Virtual Job Fair Informational Sessions: In partnership with the Digital Service Network, a virtual event was held showcasing the roles, the potential work of the team, the culture of the City, and Q&A.

“When USDR offered up exactly what I needed, I knew it was going to be fruitful. Working with the team at USDR, who has a lot of experience in this work and how other cities have worked, we knew we were working with a tight, experienced team.”

Justin Elszasz
Chief Data Officer (Former)
City of Baltimore, MD Mayor’s Office


The team filled the four job openings and had a full Digital Services team by March 2023. What’s more, the group feels set up for success in filling future technical roles and recruiting top-tier talent. Through intentional documentation and templates, Baltimore reported that they won’t have to “reinvent the wheel” the next time they hire. They’re looking forward to scaling the team with these resources and the ability to better work with their human resources team to streamline processes.

“We learned how awesome USDR and your volunteers are! We learned hiring best practices, good tactics in communication, and what to say. There’s immense value in documentation and templates.”

Shelby Switzer, City of Baltimore's Digital Services Team Director (former)

Meet the team

Krista Canellakis
Krista leads USDR’s Digital Delivery Program. Previously, she served as Deputy Secretary, General Services for the State of California and Chief Innovation Officer for the City and County of San Francisco.
Hernan Chiosso
Hernan (he/him) is an HR Innovation consultant and HR tech Product Manager. He has a background as a web developer and designer, and 25 years of experience in the tech industry, assembling and leading high-performance remote teams.
Persis Howe
Persis is the Content Lead for Digital Services, City and County of San Francisco. She heads a team of content translations experts to set standards, build and translate services and websites for San Franciscans.
Get the help you need, now.
USDR is fast, free, and nonpartisan.
We’ll get back to you within 48 hours.
Contact us