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Answering Common Oral Hiring Board Questions

Answering Common Oral Hiring Board Questions

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

My last Law Enforcement Career Expert column for PoliceLink.com covered ten tips for mastering the police oral board. This column covers how to answer the questions themselves. While I can’t give you the exact wording that will work for you, understanding why certain questions are asked, and how to formulate the answer that fits you, is the key to getting hired in the competitive law enforcement hiring process. Of course that presumes that all political or favoritism issues are removed from the oral panel’s judgment of the candidates.

As mentioned in the previous articles, as a police academy manager and former police chief, I have seen many people bomb that first impression formed at an oral board (usually within the first 15 seconds). Having been on both sides of the process as the interviewer and the interviewee (one large agency that I interviewed successfully with told me I scored the highest of any sworn applicant to that date – “Half a point away from a perfect score.”), I have learned a few tricks that may help you. Some applicants may be well-dressed and appear sharp on oral board day, but when they open their mouth, it all goes out the window.

Here are some typical questions or concepts posed at oral panels and how to view them. Note that I could not possibly address all questions, but here are the more common ones that crop up. All of these broadly based answers will need to be refined by you to reflect the details that are unique to your life and circumstances.

The key here is to give an honest, heart-felt response that also falls within the acceptable broad parameters of oral interviews. Remember, oral board panels are made up of seasoned patrol officers and law enforcement executives. They are experienced, trained interviewers who are adept at ferreting out answers from people that are deceptive or not genuine.

1) Tell this panel about yourself. This is an open-ended statement, usually posed in the beginning, and it gives you a terrific opportunity to create that great first impression. It is also the point at which many people turn the panel members off. In the words of my good friend and recruiting guru Commander Mark Anderson, of the Altamonte Springs, FL, Police Department: “Tell me the time, don’t build me a clock.”

All too often the long-winded answer starts with: “Well, it all started 21 years ago when I was born in a small town…” The background sound everyone hears next is the snoring of the panel members. You should only hit the highlights that are relevant to their judging you as appropriate for the position. Relevant information includes education (college degree in criminal justice, etc.), work or volunteer experience (police explorer, sales or managerial experience, and military service), or family background and familiarization with the job (relatives or multiple generations that have served as police officers) that could be used to show your potential success as a law enforcement officer.

Practice your delivery of this brief, albeit important, synopsis of your life in front of a mirror or video camera. You may even want to hold a mock oral panel to hone your delivery and answers. Your answers, as with all of these panel responses, should be delivered with a confident tone that does not trail off at the end of each sentence. If they can’t hear the end of your sentence, you convey the message that it’s not worth hearing and consequently, they won’t exert any effort to do so.

2) Why do you want to be a police officer/deputy sheriff/trooper? (depending on the type of agency you are applying to) Try to avoid the cliché answers of “I want to serve and protect” or “I want to give back to the community.” Cynical panel members are on the lookout for people who tell them what they think they want to hear.

I advise people, when you picture yourself as an officer, what is it that you are doing? If it is helping small children and being role model because the same thing occurred to you when you were a child interacting with a neighbor who was an officer, then say so. If it’s because you’ve tried the indoor, office cubicle type of career path and you are looking for a more varied, outdoor type of excitement, then say so. If it’s because you want to help bust drug dealers because your best friend from high school died after graduation from an overdose, then say so.

You have to help the panel understand that your desire stems from more than just the cars are pretty or you want to carry a gun and drive fast. Try not to focus solely on why the agency is good for you, but rather show the synergy between what you can bring to the agency and how that in turn will help you.

3) Why do you want to work for my agency? Here’s where something more than the vague “it’s the best department” is appropriate. You need to be more specific. First hand knowledge of the agency that you have gained from doing ride-alongs or talking to the officers is crucial to helping you to come up with an answer that is truthful and works.

For example, maybe, after riding with a variety of agencies in your area, you were particularly impressed at how officers on a particular shift handled people at calls for police service with dignity and respect which reflects how you want to practice the art of policing. Or perhaps you found that the agency is heavy into DUI and traffic enforcement, which has meaning for you since a relative died from a drunk driver crash.

4) Tell me about a strength you have. This isn’t something like “I can benchpress 500 pounds.” What about your character is illustrated in a trait. Are you a hard worker? Are you full of integrity and honor? Do you have a personal story that illustrates that trait in concrete terms.


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  • Badge2_max50

    Vested

    2 months ago

    8 Comments

    This is a great article that really spends time on each of the different questions and gets into the varied aspects of what the interviewers are really looking for. Excellent article brought to you by a guy that knows police work. A great manual that has helped many pass the oral review board is Police Oral Board Tactics Manual. It gives over 40 questions along with detailed explanations of each question. You can check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Police-Oral-Board-Tactics-Manual/dp/149979312... Good luck!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jryanlk

    over 1 year ago

    2 Comments

    Notooltokickbutt I must say its a very subjective process I have interviewed for 10 agencies myself and must say most of them chose not to sponsor me. Keep moving forward. When they ask a question about your employment be honest but don't throw yourself under the bus: I have worked at multiple companies and have gained invaluable experience. It wasn't until my 40's that I realized my true calling was to become a police officer. I really want to help people succeed in life. (See how I really downplay your lost and feel like a loser bit?) Ot you can just hack yourself and say: I have had had so many jobs and fired from a few. To be quite frank I'm a loser and screw up. Which one is better?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    nottoooldtokickbutt

    about 2 years ago

    6 Comments

    I recently took an oral board a failed. Needed a 3 and received a 2.55. I believe my employment history was the culprit. My employment history was very unstable from the time I graduated high school at 18 years of age until around 32 years of age. I've had so many jobs during that time I can't remember them all, some I can't recall the time frame that I worked some of the jobs, and then there are three terminations all in my twenties, and two resignations with improper notice again in my twenties. This past decade I've kept a job for four years, but my wife did not like the NYC and wanted to get away from cold weather states so we relocated, and I took a job for a year in the new State and it just wasn't a good fit so I resigned and took a job and kept it for five years and was recently terminated due to restructuring. The restructuring caused a work load I simply could not keep up with and the company was not prepared to hire additional support staff therefore it was a challenge that I failed. How do I handle the recent termination and the shoddy work history on any other oral boards I undertake because I have feeling its going to come up again. Any advice is appreciated. BTW I'm 43 now for those who didn't feel like doing the math.

  • Blueline_max50

    dsteele2

    over 2 years ago

    2 Comments

    I thought this was a very good article that will help many men and women when they have to go into an oral interview. I remember when I had to do mine, I was a nervous wreck! I am the author of http://www.HowCanIBeACop.com the #1 Online Resource for people considering Law Enforcement as a career.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Sergio714

    over 3 years ago

    2 Comments

    My name Sergio next month is my oral with the border patrol can any of you guys gave me some tips I will appreciate it . You can send it to sepulidoh@yahoo.com. Thanks

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    ddeangelo

    almost 4 years ago

    176 Comments

    I get the idea, Sir. 1014 Coppy Sir, over and out. I knew that my whole life, my dad was a cop after all.

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    ddeangelo

    almost 4 years ago

    176 Comments

    I wanted to become, a policeOfficer because, I know I can make a differnce, in someones life, and help them. No matter, what The problem maybe, I can help. If I don't have the answers, I'll find someone who does. I know, I can make a differnerents in someones life.

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    ddeangelo

    almost 4 years ago

    176 Comments

    This has, been my dream my whole life, I will not let any stop my long tearm goal to become a cop.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    america_health

    almost 4 years ago

    252 Comments

    Great information, Thanks

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    evepk

    almost 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    hello, My name is prasanna. I got my written and oral exam for Montgomery county police department(MD). This will be my first time going for the exam and oral interview. I would really appreciate any additional advice you may have. Please email me at evepk@aol.com. Thank you very much.

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50

    AKangel

    almost 4 years ago

    4976 Comments

    Great information, Thanks

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50

    AKangel

    almost 4 years ago

    4976 Comments

    bradblack check your Blog, it's inappropriate for this site.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    guarddog45

    over 4 years ago

    218 Comments

    Another great article...thanks so much, they are helping me immensely! I just wanted to let others know that the "tell me/us about you" is a typical clincher in an interview process. You have just reinforced my previous thoughts on the Q as being a disqualifier type Q. Most folks as you said, start a life story and that is NOT what the interviewer(s) are looking for. They want to know why you are choosing this particular profession, why you have made a career change. Every article you write helps me to answer these sneaky Q's even better, so keep them coming! GuardDog45

  • Sfa_iv_max50

    revCCBeasley

    over 4 years ago

    2944 Comments

    Yes great approach.

  • Bang2_max50

    Bloodhawk

    almost 5 years ago

    142 Comments

    Question! would it be ok if I had some notes written down for when I go in or would it be better not to? and is it ok to take notes while in the interview as well

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