By Ian Scofield
We hate them but we all have to do them, interviews are a natural part of getting a new job or getting a promotion. Despite the fact we call them oral boards, law enforcement interviews aren’t too much different. You can benefit from these interview tips.
Be Earlier Than Early
You never know what might come up on your way to any interview. Your car could get broken, traffic could arise, you could get lost, any number of things happen. One of my worst interviews was when my garage door at my apartment broke and I couldn’t leave in my car. I was late and the interviewer was luckily understanding. But I wasn’t qualified for the job anyways it turned out. I typically plan to arrive 25-30 minutes prior to an interview and prepare for a while and relax. Then at 15 minutes before, I will go in and make sure I can find the room and fill out any forms necessary.
Arriving early also gives you time to double check your appearance and fix anything that might have been thrown amiss by sitting in the car.
Read The Room
Different departments expect different levels of familiarity or professionalism in an oral board. While some might want you to have you back rigid and looking straight forward, others might want to talk a little more personally so they can get a feel for who you are. Do not assume an oral board will be either way. Go into the interview and introduce yourself professionally and take it from there. Remember though, you are still interviewing for a job so it would be wise not to get overly friendly in the oral board.
Research, Research, Research
Whether you are trying to get a job at McDonalds or the FBI, chances are they are going to ask you what you know about the position and the company (agency) as a whole. It is important that you be able to articulate a logical and thought out answer. In order to do that you will need to do a little bit of work researching before your interview.
Find out some of the biggest issues about the agency you are applying to how many officers and staff they have, what their jurisdiction is, how many people they serve, the community as a whole, and anything else that you can think of. Having this information alone shows your level of interest in the position. It shows that you went above what others did to get the job.
Get To Know Officers
It never hurts to get to know officers of an area that you are thinking about working in. This can give you help with the step above, researching. They can help you to establish department culture and more. Not only that but you can list these on your applications/personal history statements.
If you can’t think of a way to get to know the department, sign up for ride alongs and go to community events that the agency hosts.
A lot of people think that interview answers are about impressing people with your knowledge and as such you should have long answers. This is not true. Even interview preparation classes I have taken have stated this. Short, concise answers show that you have put thought into what they are saying and have knowledge without the need to go overboard.
A good rule of thumb is to prepare answers that are 2 minutes or less. Just because you want short answers doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared to elaborate if asked. If the board feels that your answer isn’t thorough enough or if it skipped something they were looking for, they will ask for more information.
Dress The Part
You are going to an interview and you should know already that dressing for the interview is an important part of the process. I have seen people show up to interviews in sweatpants (granted, one of those people got the job, but that is the exception that proves the rule). You should wear a suit and tie for most agencies.
Some may give you an interview with a dress code, use that instead if issued. Just remember that you are aiming to impress but not be fancier than all of the others.
Another good idea is to wear business casual to your written examination as there may be people from your agency there. The only exception to this is places like Washington where the test is administered by a third-party, private entity. They even state that you can wear your PT attire to the written test so that you are ready for the physical.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice makes perfect make be a phrase that is over used but it is also a phrase that is accurate. The more you prepare for your interview the more confidence you will have but the more ready to answer questions you will be. Either use a camera or a friend and practice your interview. Review your first try and try again, and if necessary again and again until you feel ready.
Some private testing agencies such as National Testing Network and Public Safety Testing offer Oral Board Preparation Classes.
Here are a few other important tips that don’t need as much explanation:
Maintain Proper Posture
Make Eye Contact (Especially With Those Asking Questions)
Project A Confident Air
Shake Hands With A Firm Grip
If you mess up, don’t appear upset during the interview. We all make mistakes and that is fine. One mistake doesn’t always eliminate you from getting the job. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Good luck and get that job or promotion that you want.
About the Author:
Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Department of Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others.
Did you just get a job as a law enforcement officer or are you trying to get one?
Law enforcement is a very rewarding career, one that can enhance your life and benefit you greatly. Preparing for a job in law enforcement shares some similarities to other careers. At the same time it has unique challenges to overcome.
Let’s take a moment to examine how you can prepare for a job as a law enforcement officer.