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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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  • 013109_17351_max50

    kmrob81

    over 6 years ago

    372 Comments

    Thanks for your input. It was very helpful. This will be my next step in the process I'm in.

  • Hpnx0377_max50

    1GUNSLINGER

    over 6 years ago

    268 Comments

    Thank you for the post. I have been interviewing, waiting for a return to Law Enforcement. I have another interview tomorrow. I will study this eve.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 6 years ago

    I serve as an interviewer on our Oral Board from time to time and I am amazed how often police applicants fail to mention "integrity, honesty and ethics" as one of the most important characteristics of being a police officer. Good read, Richard and thanks.

  • 3225_541527388055_44403931_31987246_224403_n_max50

    j0ksta2000

    over 6 years ago

    932 Comments

    yea it's been my experance being on boards and being in front of them that they are only ment to get you riled up and see how you handle stress. there's other tricks that i've found some pd's use and some don't. over all it's defenetly an experance.

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    jbenz8604

    over 6 years ago

    56 Comments

    Thanks for all the advice in this & your other articals. They have been very informative & helpful.

  • Img_1288_max50

    rghstkcwby

    over 6 years ago

    1134 Comments

    good advice....jOksta2000...as he said in the begining he can hit every question...and well with those questions you ae gonna have to think for yourself on what you would do...in an oral board one thing is for sure...ther are no "standard" answers to an of the questions.....

  • Peter_max50

    Knuckles

    over 6 years ago

    70 Comments

    Thank you so much for the information. very helpful..

  • Badge2_max50

    nash79

    over 6 years ago

    524 Comments

    Thank you for the great information - A++

  • Skins_fan_max50

    LP_MD

    over 6 years ago

    1358 Comments

    Excellent, Thank You!

  • 3225_541527388055_44403931_31987246_224403_n_max50

    j0ksta2000

    over 6 years ago

    932 Comments

    they forgot the question: " it's 3am. your patroling the city, you pull over a car for swirving, no lights, and appears the drivers intoxicated. when you go up to the window, you see it's the chiefs wife and she's smelling of alcohol, blood shot eye's, slurring her speech. She takes a SFST and fails. what do you do"

    and the question " your working a Burg. of Business. you see your partner take a candy bar. what do you do"

  • Heather_2_max50

    hmfitzpatrick

    over 6 years ago

    30 Comments

    Good advice cntymnty!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 6 years ago

    When they ask "Why do you want to be an officer?' DO NOT say it is because you like to drive fast and don't want anymore speeding tickets!

  • Heather_2_max50

    hmfitzpatrick

    over 6 years ago

    30 Comments

    Very helpful! Thanks!

  • 100b6120bnwcblur_max50

    tinamarie

    over 6 years ago

    452 Comments

    Thank you excellent information

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