An oral interview is usually one of the final steps in a police officer hiring process that also includes written testing, a fitness and agility test, a physical exam and a psychological evaluation. It can be a nerve-wracking experience. But proper preparation, and an understanding of the types of questions that will be asked, will make the process easier.
Verifying and Probing Questions
A police interview usually includes verifying, probing and hypothetical questions. In verifying questions, the candidate confirms basic personal details. The questions require little preparation and focus on areas such as schooling and previous employment. Probing questions are designed to learn a bit more about the candidate. For example, the board may ask the candidate about himself, explain why he wants a law enforcement career and what his goals are, or explore areas he needs improvement in. Some of the questions may also delve deeper and ask about previous jobs, drugs or alcohol use, arrests and tickets, and physical activity.
Hypothetical questions explore how a candidate reacts in specific situations. The questions have the candidate take a stance, or make a difficult choice. The scenarios presented usually revolve around judgment choices, questions of integrity or the use of force. Candidates should also expect some questions related to leadership style in a supervisory role and interactions with co-workers.
Candidates should understand the position, the department and its community. They should also know the laws, procedures and policies of the jurisdiction. But beyond that research, take the time to ask police officers for tips prior to the interview and have someone role-play the interview with you. Many websites and books have lists of common police interview questions, so be sure to prepare and practice your answers.
Where warranted, always provide examples with your answers. It is best that the examples come from your personal experiences. If the interview is for a police officer promotion, be sure to reference specific cases. If it is a police recruit interview, you can draw from other life, job and academic experience. Be prepared to point to prominent cases or draw reference to departmental guidelines or laws.
For hypothetical questions, make it clear you understand the choice by restating the problem. Very briefly discuss the possible approaches and then firmly highlight the route you’d take. Explain how you evaluated the available options and why you picked that action. If you have an example of an experience similar to the scenario presented, this is where you can use it. Describe what you learned in that situation, why it helped you make this decision and how it could be applied in the future.
Always stay positive with your answers -- especially avoid bad-mouthing former supervisors or complaining about previous jobs. For questions that specifically ask you to highlight a personal failure, spin it into a learning experience. Avoid vague answers. Use the interview as an opportunity to tell a story about yourself. Highlight your experiences, your knowledge of the position and procedures and to demonstrate your unique qualities and enthusiasm for the job. Remember, too, that body language counts -- so don’t fidget, command your space, maintain eye contact and be confident.
- Police Link - The Nation's Law Enforcement Community: 15 Tricky Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
- Police Jobs Info - Careers That Make A Difference: Law Enforcement Interviewing Tips
- Police Link - The Nation's Law Enforcement Community: 10 Tips for Mastering the Police Oral Board
- POLICE - The Law Enforcement Magazine: Oral Interview Tips
Based in Toronto, J.A. Zander has worked as a full-time journalist since 2004. Zander's work has appeared in Canadian and American magazines, newspapers and websites.