The job of a police officer is often one of the top career paths for many men and women. To become a police officer, however, it is as simple as deciding which police department you want to work for and checking the job openings. There is a comprehensive hiring process that includes several stages which can last months to complete.
While many candidates worry about the written test or the background investigation, there is yet another component that you need to be prepared for in order get hired – that is the police oral board interview.
This is an important part of the selection process for many police agencies and most of them place significant importance on it. Thus, it is necessary to be aware of what the oral board interview looks like and what type of questions you can expect in order to answer them properly.
What is the police board interview?
The oral board interview plays a significant role in the hiring process of police agencies. As a candidate, you will need to not just pass it but receive a high score in order to continue with the hiring process. The higher your score, the better your chances of being hired.
The interview panel is usually made up of 3 to 5 members depending on the size of the agency. Some smaller departments may even have only one person conducting the interview. The members include officers who are either lieutenants or sergeants, patrol or field training officers, an HR representative, a representative of the city council or from the community. Remember that the panelists are neither your enemies nor your friends. They are simply doing their job and trying to select the best candidate for their department.
You will be asked a series of questions in order to determine how suitable are you for the job of the police officer with their agency. Depending on the number of questions and your answers, the interview usually takes between 20 or 40 minutes but in some cases can last a bit longer.
Your answers will be evaluated by the members of the oral board and you will get a score that will determine whether you will proceed further or not. The overall score is 100 in most of the cases and the passing score is 70. Scoring 90 or more, puts you on the top tier of the list and gives you more chances of being hired in case you perform well on the other elements as well. A score between 80 and 89 is also in your favor while a lower score significantly diminishes your chance. Hence, it is a good idea to use an online prep course to get the idea of the structure and elements of an oral board interview and its questions.
The panelists are looking for a person who can communicate their ideas clearly, who can be a team player, has the ability to work under pressure and take decisions and last but not least will be a good fit in the department. The questions asked will give you the chance to prove that you are the person they are looking for.
Type of oral board interview questions
The police oral board interview questions are basically two types:
- Personality-related questions
- Scenario-based questions
The questions are selected in such a way as to determine how good of a police officer you can become. They tackle different aspects of your life so far – such as your experience, education, preferences, values, way of thinking, and aim to place you in various situations in order to see how you will react.
The aim of the panelists is to see whether you can speak openly and honestly about yourself, whether you can make quick decisions, and how you will react under pressure or in an uncomfortable situation.
The interview begins with personality questions that are basically three types:
- Questions related to you, your values, attitudes, opinions, your reasons to become a police officer. Here is the part where you need to try and present yourself in the best light you can and show all your abilities, strengths, skills that will make a good police officer. Some of the questions you can expect include:
Tell us about yourself
Why did you decide to become a police officer?
Why did you select our agency?
What are your career goals?
Why do you think you are qualified for a police officer?
List your biggest strengths/weaknesses
What do you know about the job?
What do you know about our organization?
- Questions related to your previous job experience if you have any. In case this is your first-time job, you may be asked about your studies or if you have done any volunteer work. Some of the questions, that you might have to answer are:
Why did you leave your last job?
What was your greatest responsibility/achievement in your last job?
What you liked/disliked about your last employer?
Why did you change your job so many times or Why did you stay on this job so long?
What part of your studies did you like the best?
- Moral questions that aim to determine your critical thinking, attitudes, values. this part can include questions such as:
Would you arrest a police officer who is performing a crime?
Would you write a speed ticket for your sister?
Would you follow an order by a superior, if you know it is against the regulations?
Would you cover a minor crime performed by a friend or family member?
You can think of the best answer for this type of questions but try not to force yourself to memorize an answer. Thus, you will sound artificial and you will lose the trust of the oral board members. You need to be honest in your answers and you need to sound confident, convincing, and yet represent yourself in the best possible light that turns you into a suitable candidate for the position of a police officer.
Once you pass this part of the interview, you will be asked scenario-based questions that aim to check how you will react in a situation typical for the life of a police officer. Note that you don’t need special training, knowledge or experience in law enforcement in order to answer those questions. Just some preparation and an idea of what they look like.
Personality-related oral board interview questions and how to answer them
It is true that personality questions may be quite hard and tricky to answer. You need to be both completely honest and yet select an answer that reveals your best qualities without compromising you in any way. Here are a few of the most common police oral board interview questions with a few ideas about how to best answer them.
- Tell us about yourself
This is one of the first questions that you will be asked at the interview and it is your chance to make a good first impression. For this question, it is a good idea to prepare a statement at home and practice it over. Your answer shall include a brief summary of your studies and career achievements, your preferences, strengths, and why you have decided to work as a police officer in this department. Try to be brief and avoid getting into too many details, especially about things you dislike. The aim of this short presentation is to give the panelists an idea of your personality and to present you as a good recruitment option.
- Why do you think you would make a good police officer?
Everyone has a reason to choose the career of a police officer. Tell the interviewers what are your reasons. It might be because of a personal example you want to follow – a relative or a friend is a police officer and you respect them. It might be because you are not satisfied with your career sitting in an office and you want to be closer to people and serve the community. Mention that you have the passion and skills to do the job.
There is no wrong answer here, except perhaps saying that you will look cool with a gun and thus you can nail a partner.
- What have you done to prepare yourself for a career in law enforcement?
This question aims to check whether you really want to work as a police officer. You can tell the board what made you decide to pursue such a career and mention the steps you have made so far. This can be a degree that is suitable for a law enforcement career, for example. Or you have done some community-related work, or that you have taken special courses in a given language or how to cope with teens, etc. If you are POST certified, which is the new secret of getting hired as a police officer, do mention it and explain that you are determined to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Naturally, an answer to avoid here is that you have watched all seasons of CSI or read a lot of detective books as that will sound too shallow and you won’t be taken seriously.
- What are your weaknesses?
It is much easier to talk about your strengths but you will most certainly be asked about your greatest weakness as well. This is a tricky question as you need to provide an honest answer but still an answer that gives you some credit.
Choose a weakness that can become a strength in certain circumstances. It can be that you are used to working independently but you are learning how to better work in a team and share the load. Or that you are never satisfied until a job is properly finished and you look into the details a bit too much sometimes. Whatever you choose, you need to present it as a flaw that will not hinder your work as a police officer and that you are working on improving.
Note that too harsh answers such as “I cannot put up with stupidity!” or “I am not handling well stressful situations” or “I am not good at following orders” will automatically disqualify you. You also need to avoid answers that aim to avoid the actual question such as “I work too hard” or “I care too much”. The panelists on the board have sufficient experience to recognize these as cop-outs and not as true answers.
- Would you give your sister a speeding ticket?
These are some of the toughest questions to answer as they fall into the category of moral questions. Try to be honest in your answers and explain your reasons. The interviewers will be expecting you to say the truth about yourself and will check whether you are able to keep the integrity of the department.
So, if your answer to the question is “No, but I will reprimand her and explain in details why this is dangerous and warn her that a second time there will be no compromise” won’t harm you as much as “Oh, yes, of course, she is an offender!”.
Do not try to please the board too much. Try to be honest to the best of your interest.
Note that it is essential to be prepared for the oral board interview but in order to pass it successfully, you need to be honest and open in your answers. Do not try to memorize answers as this may play a bad trick on you on the day of the interview.
Get a good rest and dress well, put a smile on your face and face the board members as calmly as you can. Listen carefully to the actual question asked and do not try to give excessive information. Never attempt to lie or hide information as that won’t do you any good and can prevent you from getting the job.
While the oral board interview may differ slightly in terms of board members or number of questions asked, it has the same purpose and format in all police agencies. Therefore, using a prep course such as Mastering the Oral Interview by Sgt Godoy will help you get the best possible results and top the ranks of prospective hires.