FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

Be the Best Job Candidate

Save some aggravation; read the fine print, and do your best to meet the requirements.

April 20, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

You can't peruse the newspaper today without reading of a city in financial distress and laying off cops. Hey wait a minute, some of my readers out there want a job and can't get their foot in the door. What gives here?

Well, back when I was getting out of college in the late '70s (yes, I am that old) there was an influx of Vietnam-era vets returning to the world and taking up law enforcement jobs. There was also a slight recession back then too. It was hard getting a start, but many of us did. Learn from our lessons.

You've got to make yourself the best candidate.

Granted, there will be many applying to enter this vocation that to them is just employment but to you is your dream job. Don't lose heart. Finding a way to stand out and rise to the top is the real goal.

Read job descriptions, talk to people, research...finish school. In college? Stay there and finish. Get that degree. Even though some departments don't require college, having it on your resumé is a bonus.

Get in shape and stay that way!

I've heard a million different excuses from young men and women for failing the physical agility or readiness test. If you know you want the job, you should know the physical requirements. Set the goal to be in shape for whenever the call comes.

Additionally, if you are a tobacco user; quit now. Many departments are requiring tobacco-free candidates. Trust me, I know this can be hard. I still take it a day at a time...could use a dip now.

Read the physical requirements.

Research the medical requirements. I've seen candidates booted for hearing, vision, and even unknown heart issues. Talk to your physician and ensure you meet the requirements if you have a physical issue.

Find out your state's POST requirements, for they usually set the standards for all agencies within the state. Find out if you fit the bill. I don't want you wasting your time if you have a medical issue that will prevent you from succeeding at the outset.

Have all paperwork ready.

Nothing will drive a human resources person over the edge faster than an applicant who can't produce the necessary paperwork. Before you even start the application process, put together a file of the necessary certifications, licenses, and so forth. Have fresh, clean copies ready for presentation. Hint in dealing with civil service or human relations: Make their job as easy as possible; have your packets ready and complete.

Read the job description.

Fully understand the entire job description. Some cities have residency requirements with exceptions for the military. Some require everyone to live within their jurisdiction within, say, a year of hire. Can you afford to live in the city or county to which you're applying?

Some have other requirements. I mentioned tobacco use being an issue. Other agencies will eliminate candidates who have visible tattoos or piercings, recent (or sometimes any) drug use, and criminal convictions or traffic violations.

Think, what is on your record that would remove you from the list? Read the fine print and if you don't understand, ask to have it clarified.

Check the Web for listings.

There are several sites that post law enforcement openings, including's Police Career Finder. Don't forget to check the Web weekly! Search online newspapers, professional classified ads, and create a job search on your workstation. Getting the right job is hard work.

Be prepared for the applicant gauntlet.

You know you can expect oral interviews, background interviews, and tests (polygraph, voice stress, and urine). There are several books and sites regarding how to interview. Just remember, be yourself and true to yourself.

Memorizing pat answers? Forget about it. These interviewers can see through you. This is a conversation with a purpose, not an interrogation. Have a trusted friend interview you for practice. Sitting in a chair mumbling is not practice; work at it until words come naturally.

Have a list of five questions that you hope they don't ask you, and have answers ready in case they do. Also have a few questions that you hope they ask so you can really excel. Keep the pace the same. You'll have a tendency to speak faster when responding to the favorites or softballs, but you can improve this with, again, the all important practice.

You can do this.

I have told you that getting the right job is hard work, and it is. But it's worth the struggle.

Train to win, win to train harder.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

matt23 @ 7/21/2010 8:33 AM

This was a great article and the perfect morale boost. As someone who has actively searching for some time, it's tough to not get in a rut every now and then. But you keep on pushing and keep on searching. So thanks again for this posting! "Commitment is doing the things you said you'd do, long after the mood you said it in has left you." -Bear Grylls

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

How the Bond between Cops and Kids Might Help Solve the Police Recruitment Crisis
Many police departments have a pop-up tent, a folding table, and a bunch of knick-knacks...
How the Threat of Terrorism has Changed Since 9/11
Now that law enforcement — particularly the FBI — has placed such an emphasis on...

Police Magazine