Eight Ways to Impress the Recruiter
Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith
As a former member of my department’s recruitment team, I’ve seen it all. The best and the worst of potential candidates approach us at career fairs, drop in at the department for a tour or stop by for an application. There are always certain candidates that make us look at our fellow recruiters and say “wow!” There are others that make us roll our eyes, shake our heads and inwardly groan. Here’s a few hints on how to be that “wow” candidate and impress those law enforcement recruiters.
Do Your Research
Learn about the departments you are most interested in and do a little research on them. Find out how large they are, what their primary mission is, how their command is structured, what type of community or area they serve. You’re going to have the opportunity to ask the recruiters lots of questions, but you’ll impress them if you’re able to make informed, in-depth inquiries as opposed to simply peppering them with basic questions that can probably be answered by reading their brochure.
Dress the Part
Regardless if you are attending a career fair, an applicant orientation, or just stopping by to pick up an application, your appearance is important. If you are visiting different booths at a law enforcement career expo, make sure you dress as if you are actually interviewing for a position. I’ve been to many a college campus where law enforcement students work their way through the booths and exhibits of an employment fair having just rolled out of bed. It may be fine to go to class that way, but it’s not acceptable to speak with potential co-workers and supervisors dressed in yesterday’s sweats and with a bad case of “bed-head.” Even if you’re just stopping in to pick up an application, check you’re appearance before you walk into the station. The sergeant working the front desk that day may be the same sergeant who conducts your background investigation six months down the line, and cops are like elephants; we remember.
*This Is About a Career, Not Just a Paycheck
Don’t start out by immediately asking about the pay and benefits. If you’re thinking about police work for the big paycheck, find another way to make a living. Don’t get me wrong, I make a great living as a cop, but a recruiter wants to know you’re interested in the job for the right reasons, like a desire to fight crime and a willingness to serve the community. There is nothing wrong with a discussion about salary and benefits, just don’t make it your first and most impassioned inquiry. As I’ve talked about before, police work is a lifestyle, not just a job; and recruiters want to know that you’re in it not just to make a living, but for the “love of the game.” We want to work with people who share our values, our ethics, and our passion for crime fighting.
Have a Resume
There’s some debate amongst police recruiters whether a resume is a necessary tool but it certainly can’t hurt you as a candidate. A resume doesn’t have to be long and impressive, but it has to be factual and well-organized. Highlight your education, past and current employment, and any service groups you belong to or volunteer work you have recently done. Keep it relevant; a recruiter will want to know if you were ROTC in college, they are not going to care that you were class treasurer in 8th grade. Print it on quality paper and make sure it includes all your contact information. Even if the recruiter declines to take it, having a resume in your hand says “I’m serious about this job.”
Ask Questions, and Be Ready to Answer Some
Start by asking the recruiter what they like about the organization and about the profession in general. If someone is on the recruitment team, they should be a cheerleader for the agency, so you may want to ask them not only why they joined this particular police department, but why they decided to recruit for them. After you get your questions answered, if they don’t ask you any questions in return, feel free to say “is there anything you’d like to know about me?” If the answer is “no,” shake their hand, thank them for their time, and get their contact information if you’re interested in their agency.
Think and Behave Like a Potential Co-Worker or Subordinate
Its okay to ask about the department’s homicide unit, it’s not okay to ask if the recruiter has any “inside information” on last month’s double murder. Be especially cautious if you are speaking with the recruiters at your hometown agency. Don’t tell them that your first experience with their department was the “minor in possession” ticket you got in the parking lot of your high school homecoming dance (they will find that out soon enough if you end up applying for their agency). Don’t ask them where all the speed traps are and does their department really have ticket quotas. And don’t try to impress the recruiter with any “inside connections” you may have at their agency. They don’t care that your aunt’s next door neighbor’s cousin used to be a lieutenant on their department; they want to know if you’re serious about working for their agency.
Be Professional at All Times
If your best friend’s father is a recruiter from the sheriff’s department but you want to become a federal agent, don’t hang out at the sheriff’s department booth, telling stories about your high school antics with your buddy’s dad. Any time you are going to be in the proximity of potential employers, be professional. Use “sir” and ma’am” when talking to people, make eye contact, shake hands, be polite. Even if you’re nervous or a bit shy, act confident. And don’t stroll around a recruitment event holding hands with your boyfriend (even if he is also looking for a police job) or incessantly texting your girlfriend. Recruiters are impressed by serious, business-like candidates. Leave your social life and any associated drama at home for the day.
Get contact information from each recruiter you spent more than five minutes with and send them an email or a note (no texting!) thanking them for taking the time to meet with you. If you are really interested in an agency, arrange for a tour and / or a ride a long. If the recruiter suggested other things, like picking up an application, attending an orientation, working out more, or speaking with human resources, do it. Like any other field, law enforcement is competitive and there are limited positions available. Remember that everything you do as a potential candidate can affect you as an applicant, an interviewee, and even as a recruit officer. One of the best ways to start out your law enforcement career is to impress those recruiters! As always, good luck!