the Police Structured Interview
Most law enforcement agencies include an oral interview with candidates before final selection. It might be called the Structured Interview, Oral Board or Panel Interview as it usually involves more than one interviewer. Regardless of what it is called, any face-to-face job interview is an opportunity that can make or break your final acceptance.
The personal interview is used to test a candidate's verbal skills, and get an idea of the candidate's overall reasoning abilities and common sense. As with any job interview, the initial impression you leave with the board members will be crucial in determining your final ranking on the eligibility list.
The personal interview is usually held at department headquarters. Some agencies conduct personal interview at your home. It can include one of more members and may consist of active officers, sergeants, lieutenants, even captains, and a member of human resources or a member of the business community.
Prepare for the Police Oral Board
Step one in your preparation is to learn as much as possible about the organization. Start with the agency website. Get a feel for the community, news and events and agency departments. Get a copy of the annual report. The annual report is chock full of information to include the budgets, crime statistics, calls for service, arrests made, etc. By reading a few pages you can learn more about the agency than most of its officers will know.
Next go to the agency website. Scour the website. Go into every nook and cranny to unfold the department's mission statement, the chief's vision, community law enforcement policy, crime analysis, criminal investigations, traffic enforcement, dispatch center and traffic safety program, to name a few.
Talk to department members. Pick their brain. What's a typical day, swing, and graveyard shift like? What types of calls for service do they encounter most frequently? Is the city mostly residential? Are there many businesses, or a combination of both? How many 'hot spots' such as 7-11's, banks and schools are there? What is the diversity of the department? Knowing these things, even some, will give you points of reference when answering oral board questions.
Do a Ride Along
Do a Ride Along. Many police departments allow civilian riders. Make sure you tell the person who approves the ride-along that you are a police candidate. Though I personally never relished the thought of taking a civilian rider on patrol (they're a pain) I did enjoy police candidate riders.
Departments often limit the time a civilian can ride, so take advantage... ride as long as possible. While I just stated ask questions, be mindful that the officer is on the job observing, listening to the radio, and responding to calls. Be respectful of his duties, which takes priority over your questions.
There will be lulls when the officer is just driving -- that's when your questions will break the silence, and often be welcomed. Learn everything you can. If this is your first ride along it can be a real eye opener, depending on the call load.
At the end of your watch, thank the officer for his or her time, and for answering your questions. If you formed a rapport with the officer, you now have a friend on the department. He or she may even put in a good word for you. Not only that, but now you can use the ride along in the oral board. For instance, if asked a question such as, "What have you done to prepare yourself for this position?", you can state (along with other examples) something like, "I did a ride along with Officer Evans for five hours on a Friday night. We responded to several calls including a burglary in progress, a vehicle break-in, a prior sex assault, and a bar fight."
Not only will the board members know you care enough about the department to complete a ride along, but I guarantee you'll score extra points with them. Points that could make a difference :-)
"Tell Us About Yourself"
There's no crystal ball to tell you what questions you'll be fielding in your interview, but many are classics that you'll have a 95% chance of facing—and with solid preparation you can ace every one.
So, what kind of questions are 'classics'?
"So, Tell us about yourself?"
This isn't a question at all—this is your opportunity for your "second first impression."
If you did well with the initial introduction at the opening of the interview, this is your chance to cap that great start with a great finish. If you haven't prepared a rock-solid answer, you'll be in for a long, uphill battle for the rest of the interview.
To set things straight, the interviewer does not want to know your favorite color, music or food groups. The interviewer wants to know about the "you" that wants to be on their law enforcement team - the Professional You.
Your answer must showcase the attributes you possess that relate to law enforcement work: your education and intelligence, your confident enthusiasm and dedication to goals, your perseverance and reliability.
Keep your answer brief (90-120 seconds), well-defined (make your point and move on) and easy to follow (say it so they hear it and remember it.)
Police Interview Questions
Here is a partial list of interview questions you should be able to answer without hesitation or panic.
1. Tell us about yourself.
2. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
3. What are your career goals?
4. What do you expect from this job?
5. What are your greatest strengths, assets, and qualities?
6. What is your biggest weakness?
7. Why do you think you are the right person for this position?
8. What makes you qualified for this position?
9. Give us two reasons why we should hire you.
10. What experience do you have for this position?
11. What do you know about the position? Organization?
12. What have you done that shows initiative? Problem solving?
13. What major problems have you faced in your career? In your life? And how have you solved them?
14. What did you like most, or least about your last, or present job?
15. What did you like most, or least about your last, or present employer?
16. How do you get along with co-workers, supervisors, and subordinates?
17. Why have you held so many, so few jobs in the past five years?
18. Why did you leave (each job)?
Answer these questions by showing the interviewers how you possess as many of the major qualities the employer is looking for. Matching those qualities to the questions is an important factor for a successful interview.
Situational Judgement Questions
There are actually two parts to the police oral board. The first part examines your personality and why you would make a good police officer. The second part of the oral board involves scenario type questions that test your judgment and problem solving capabilities.
Here is a typical example question that might be asked on an oral board: "A fellow officer calls for assistance on a family dispute that is getting out of control. Upon your arrival to the house you see the requesting officer struggling with a male subject on the floor. The male subject is on top of the officer attempting to punch him in the face. What are you going to do, and why?"
Knowing the force continuum is imperative if you are going to answer this question correctly. Every situational question of this type will involve your knowledge of the force continuum. Your chances of leaving an oral board with a passing score depends on it. Oral board members want to know what course of action you will take in a given situation - how your mind works - that you won't over react.
Or, that you won't under react and get someone killed. Because of this one of the most important tools you can bring to any oral board is a comprehensive knowledge of the force continuum. It can open or shut the door to your career in law enforcement.
Great Preparation for the Police Structured Interview
The law enforcement Oral Board is one part of the hiring process where you CAN significantly improve your performance by getting good coaching and practicing. Sgt. George Godoy's acclaimed police prep course includes an entire section on "Mastering the Oral Interview." It will help you with any job you are applying for.
You will learn valuable insight about the following:
- How to Sell Yourself
- The Most Important 5 Minutes
- What Interviewers are Looking for
- The Single Most Important Quality you can Show
- Handling Negatives
- Winning Responses
- Knowing Your Priorities
Do you know the Second Most Important Quality an interviewing candidate must exude?