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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Oral Interview Tips

There is no secret strategy; just be yourself.

March 18, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author


Image via Alex France (Flickr.com)

You have applied and that was a pain. The written tests were tough but you passed. Physical agility test? You were in shape and smoked the track. You're getting good vibes on getting that dream job until the envelope comes with the oral interview appointment. Now, you're worrying...but there's no need to. Let's go over a few things. 

Prepare with proper practice.

Talk to some cops for suggested questions to work with. Research and read about oral interview questions for applicants. There is a science to it - or as I say, a method to the madness.

Once you find some questions, practice them in front of someone and make sure to do it aloud. Sitting in your room whispering them will not cut it. Standing or sitting in front of a mirror may help but you need to get used to the human interaction...and follow-up questions. Again, practice these aloud; your mind needs to get the words out of your mouth, not a rewind in the brain. Make it natural.

Integrity questions are common place.

The usual line of questioning includes a scenario such as, "You find a store open and there is a senior officer helping himself to some goods. Now what do you do?" Do not laugh or say, "Something like that would never happen with this great department!" The interviewers do not want to get a warm fuzzy feeling; they want real answers.

The standard answer of "I would follow the book" is a train wreck. We are talking about integrity - and yours, at that. A department is no better than its worst employee. You will have to validate your answers. And just when you think that question is over, there will be follow-ups; be prepared.

Personality-based questions are also my favorites.

"What is your biggest weakness and what are you doing to improve it?"....and your answer is? We all have a weakness. To sit there and state that you don't is a one-way ticket out the door. Tell us something about you here: you have a weakness and you are making strides to improve that aspect of yourself. This shows me moxy.

How about, "Tell me of a time you failed in your life, and what did you learn from it?" We all have failed at something. Don't be afraid that this could show a weakness but tell us the learning experience that came with it. How it does not happen any longer for you have made changes to avoid this pitfall again.

On these questions, do not give a Pollyanna answer. I don't want to hear about your not learning to tie your shoes at age four. I want real-world situations to show the inner you and how you can overcome. Get it?

Look sharp but be comfortable.

When you interview, look sharp in that suit. Get a haircut a few days before so you don't have the sidewall look. (This tells me you always look sharp. If you get a haircut the day before, it might be too obvious you did it just for the interview.) Make sure the clothes fit. We all pack on a few pounds in life and the skinny suit may work if you stand up, but if it doesn't fit you when you sit down - and you will - you are going to be uncomfortable and look disheveled. Wear the best-fitting suit.

Also, keep the bling in check. Most all departments have a jewelry policy. If you don't know what it is for the agency you're applying to, look at the officers for an example. Do not go in with five rings on, two necklaces showing, and such. You are looking to wear a uniform, that means conservative and conformity to regulations. This is not an audition for some reality show.

In closing, be yourself. This is not a stand-up routine, but the entrance to the door of the job you want.

Training and preparation equals success.

Tags: Professional Image, Job Applications, Job Interviews


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