Becoming a police officer requires patience, determination, and proper preparation on behalf of the candidate who is applying for the job. It is essential to know what can stop you from becoming a police officer prior to applying to positions from the listed job openings.
The hiring process of each department includes several common elements such as a written exam, police oral board interview, background check, physical agility test, polygraph, and a few other tests and checks. It is necessary to be aware of all the components as each of them is important and failure means that you won’t be hired.
While the written test is one of the most common elements for which the candidates prepare, it is essential to be ready for all of the components. The police oral board interview is one of these crucial elements which can make or break your application for police officer. While the interview panel expect you to answer honestly all of the questions, it is vital to know what to expect during the interview and how to stay calm and present yourself in the best light possible.
In order to prepare, you can use an online prep course to become familiar with the general information about the interview. The answers to the questions below will give you an idea of the basic elements of the police oral board interview and how to pass it successfully.
How many panelists are there?
One of the main concerns of prospective police officers is how many people will participate in the oral board interview. The board consists of a panel of people, usually 3 to 5 in number. In smaller agencies, it is possible that there is only one person carrying out the oral interview but this is more of an exception rather than a rule.
The panelists on the oral board interview consist of three or four officers, who are a lieutenant or sergeant in most of the cases, 1-2 patrol or field training officers, and quite often there is a representative of the HR department of the police agency and/or a city council representative. The head of the department is usually not present in those interviews but in some cases may be part of the team as well. The panel may include non-law enforcement personnel from other areas within the overall agency doing the hiring such as personnel from other city or county departments.
The aim is to have a team of panelists who are able to assess the candidate objectively by asking a series of different questions and giving a final score (usually 100 being the maximum).
You should not be worried by the people present at your police oral board interview. They are neither your enemies nor your friends but a group of professionals aiming to select the best recruit who would be able to perform police officer duties and serve their community.
How long is the police oral board interview?
The police oral board interview is not very long and usually takes between 15 and 40 minutes. Still, there is no particular rule set in stone about the length of the interview and it depends a lot on the questions asked and mainly on the way you provide answers. The interview is usually held at the department headquarters but if the agency selects another location, you will be duly notified.
Some of the shortest interviews may take about 5 minutes, which in general means that the panel has judged the candidate as unsuitable and decided to skip the rest of the questions.
The interview can last as over one hour as well if you get into more details on certain questions and if there is more small talk or additional questions at the end of the interview.
It can be summed up that the general time is about 20-30 minutes though candidates who have done the interview say that it generally depends on your perception of time and how prepared you feel for the exercise and how calm you are. It may look like a few minutes or a couple of days. Hence, it is essential to be aware of the process and to get ready to answer all the different type of questions asked.
How many questions does the police oral board interview contain?
The general duration of the police oral board interview is about half an hour, so you should not expect too many questions. Usually an agency will have a set prepared list of questions that they ask every interviewee. The board may or may not be able to ask follow-up questions.
In general, the panelists will ask you 2-3 short-answer questions that are mainly about you and your ideas about your work as a police officer. Then, you will be asked a few personal experience questions – usually 2-3 more detailed questions about what you know about the department and your qualifications to work for that department. Finally, you shall expect 3-5 situational-based questions, where you shall present your opinion about a given situation typical for the job of a police officer.
Types of questions asked on the police oral board interview
The interview starts with some introductions and small talk to help you relax and get ready for the rest of the questions. Afterwards, you can expect three types of questions that are included in the interview. We can say that the interview consists of two parts:
1. The first part of the oral board interview examines your personality and aims to see how compatible you are for the job. Here, you can expect three types of questions.
The first will be related to you, your values, attitudes, opinions. You can expect questions such as:
• Tell us about yourself
• Why did you decide to become a police officer?
• Why did you select our agency?
• How do you see yourself five years from now?
• What are your career goals?
• Why do you think you are qualified for a police officer?
• Tell us why we shall choose you?
• List your biggest strengths/weaknesses
• What do you know about the job?
• What do you know about our organization?
The second type of questions will be related to your previous job experience if you have any. Some of the questions, you might be asked 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?
The third type of questions will be moral questions such as:
• Would you arrest a police officer who is performing a crime?
• Would you write a speed ticket for your mother?
• Would you follow an order by a superior, if you know it is against the regulations?
While these are tough questions to answer, make sure that you are honest and open about them. Remember that you are judged by experienced officers who will catch a lie and that won’t work in your interest.
2. The second part of the oral board interview tests your judgment and problem-solving abilities via the so-called scenario-based questions.
You will be presented with a situation typical for a police officer and you have to tell the panel how you will react. It can be a scenario like the following: “You are called to assist a police officer in a bar fight. Upon your arrival, you see your partner on the floor with a male on top of him trying to punch him in the face. What would you do and why?” This type of questions requires you to know a bit about the powers of a police officer and what type of force it is normal to use in a given situation. The aim of scenario-based questions is to show your reactions and whether you are inclined to overreact or underreact in a given situation.
It is good to have an idea in advance about the type of questions and think about the answers. However, do not attempt to learn by heart answers and try to reproduce them during the interview as that may fail you.
Once the interview is over, the panelists will ask you if there is anything else you need to say. It is a good idea to use the time to once again reinforce your position and state why you are a good candidate for the job. It is not a good idea at this point to ask questions such as: When can I start? What is the payment? Are there any extra holidays? And the like.
You can use the time to say that you have researched the department and that you are aware of the basic challenges that you may face and that you are ready to do so. Shake hands and leave the room with this strong last impression.
How is it scored?
During the oral board interview, the members of the panel evaluate each candidate to see if they are suitable for the job if they can pass through the Police academy, through probation, and whether they will fit in the department. Each candidate receives a score which determines whether or not they will proceed with the selection process.
Usually, the maximum of the scores is 100. Almost all of the departments place successful candidates into three groups/tiers/bands. The minimum passing score is usually 70 points.
The first group is candidates with scores between 90 and 100 and those stand the highest chances of getting recruited if they complete all the other tests and elements successfully.
The second group includes candidates with scores from 80 to 89 points. If you are in this group, you still have good chances of becoming part of the agency.
The third group includes candidates with scores from 70 to 79 points. If you have ended up in this group, your chances of getting hired are quite slim but still, you have not failed the interview.
Hence, it is essential to be prepared for the interview and score high if you want to join the law enforcement forces.
How to prepare for it?
One of the best ways to prepare for the police oral board interview is by getting an online prep course that can help you get familiar with the format of the interview, the possible questions, and proper behavior during the interview.
It is also a good idea to research the agency you are applying with so that you are familiar with their requirements, policies, specifications, history. A visit to their official web site can give you a lot of important information.
Asking for help in some specialized forums and reading articles on the topic will also give you an idea of the oral board interview along with some hints on how to pass it successfully.
What is the panel looking for in a candidate?
The oral interview is a complex assessment of the candidate and their abilities. There are several things, that the interviewers are looking for in an applicant and that form their decision.
The most important elements are:
• The ability of the candidate to communicate verbally and efficiently express their thoughts and give reasoning to their statements
• The ability of the candidate to evaluate a situation
• The ability of the candidate to make decisions, work under pressure, and apply their problem-solving skills
• The ability of the candidate to fit within the department
If you demonstrate that you can meet the above-listed criteria, you stand a great chance of being hired.
Tips for passing the police oral board interview
The most important advice for passing the police oral board interview is to be prepared for it and to stay calm and focused on the day of the interview.
Make sure that you are well-rested and properly dressed as this will help you perform well. Answer all of the questions honestly and give your reasons for the answer. Try to be assertive, positive, and remember to maintain eye contact and behave naturally.
You can learn other tricks by getting the right prep course such as Mastering the Oral Interview by Sgt Godoy.
The oral board interview is an essential part of the hiring process. It gives you a chance to impress your future employer and present all your strengths. You shall review it as a possibility rather than another obstacle on your path to becoming a police officer but you shall not underestimate in any way.