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Rules of Engagement

Paul Patti

The following is an excerpt from Paul Patti’s Confessions of a Hardass. Designed to reveal what law enforcement managers are looking for in today’s police applicant, this bestselling book provides an insider’s advice on passing your law enforcement interview.

During the Police Pre-Employment Oral Interview: They question and you answer – how to handle negative information and make them score you higher:

1) KNOW THYSELF. Nothing seems more suspicious to an interviewer than a person who is not 100% familiar with their own background and history. Your words and explanations must match what you have handed in for a résumé or application. If the discrepancy is large enough, you will be presumed to be fabricating and hiding information. They WILL ask about dates and job titles, for instance, and if they believe you are fabricating these items, they will believe you are fabricating more important items as well.

Most importantly – practice never sounding “ashamed” of negative information. Do not sound or look evasive. Maintain eye contact and quickly give brief details of the matter – whether it is a job termination, drug use, minor arrest or any other difficulty. Then, immediately do 2 things:

i) Follow through with what you did to correct the situation – what you learned and how you applied that knowledge. Let them know why that problem could not surface again.

ii) Continue to follow through with a summary of the excellent service and advanced accomplishments in your career – showing that the negative information was an aberration, not part of your general makeup.

If the board members press the issue by continuing to question aspects of the negative information, continue – at all cost – to be positive and reinforce what you have learned to correct the problem and why it can never be a problem again. Do not apologize to the board – you don’t owe them an apology! Stay positive, and look and speak plainly and without distress. You are simply stating truthful facts that must be stated – there is no point to being stressed – unless you are covering up or misstating fact – which is what the board members will surmise from any overflowing apology, excess nervousness or evasion.

There are some simple, basic truths about interviewing that you should know, especially from the police interviewer’s viewpoint;

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1. Interviewing can be stressful and also very boring to the interview panel as well. Doing 3 – 6 interviews a day for a whole week can wear on your nerves. As an applicant, remember to not get too far off the topic and cause an embarrassing cut-off – they’re not really interested in family, pets, hobbies or jokes. (I remember one applicant who launched into 10 or so blonde jokes. We didn’t stop him – we laughed. He lost points.)

2. Stick to the “3-5 minute rule” – which is to say that on any question that calls for details or an explanation, you can reasonably expect to hold the panel’s attention for 3 – 5 minutes. If you cut yourself off quickly on an important answer, especially with very positive details, shame on you! Use the time you have. The more time you spend on the positive and the less on the negative, with all else being equal, will mean the higher your score. If you go over 5 minutes in reply to almost any question, you will begin to lose the panel’s interest rapidly. Those 5 minutes are a long time – get on to a different positive topic, you’ve probably already scored all the points you can there.

3. Relate negative answers as quickly as possible and get back to the positive. On the other hand, overly quick, snappy answers to questions that call for some explanation will make you appear evasive or arrogant.

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