Part 3 - The Application
Deputy Bob Cooley
First, and this is quite obvious, go to the agency or agencies you’re interested in applying and obtain an application. Please do yourself a favor, ask for more than one preferably three application forms. If you make mistakes and you only have one you’re going to feel very foolish when you have to go back and ask for another. Don’t use “whiteout!” Fill out one of the applications as a guide for yourself to be used when you transfer the information to the “final” copy you plan to submit to the agency. Remember the “worksheet” tax forms you can use while doing your taxes, same reason here. It’s better to make mistakes on the “practice application” than your final draft.
Second, read each question carefully! Many people breeze through the questions too fast in their excitement and make mistakes. Read and read again each question if necessary before you answer. Write down your answers in pencil on the practice copy that way if you do make a mistake or want to change something just go back and erase.
Third, now that you have completed the “practice application” it’s time to move on to the final copy that you’re going to submit. If you know how to type by all means type the application unless the instructions tell you to write the answers in your own hand! If you don’t type find someone who does and is willing to help you. Here is another reason for the “practice application.” The person doing the typing will have an easier job (unless they can’t read your handwriting) by simply taking the information from one page and typing it on the other. But, what if you can’t type and you don’t find anyone to type it for you? PRINT the answers to the questions on the application. When I’ve worked on applications for prospective law enforcement officers for my own agency I like to see the answers clearly written whether it be on a typewriter or printed. It will slow the process down if the person assigned to the background investigation can’t read the answers to some of the questions and then they have to call you for clarification.
Fourth, contact family, friends and coworkers at your current job who you plan to use as references and tell them that you have applied to become a Law Enforcement Officer and you would like to name them as a reference. Some people would prefer not to be used as a reference for whatever reason so give them a chance to say no. It is a common courtesy for the reference to know that they will receive a call about you. And, you should ask your references if there is a convenient time for the background investigator to call them where they have a better chance of making contact.
Fifth, when filling out your application and you’ve come to the part of your past and present work history follow the instructions for the information that the agency is seeking. I’ve seen applications that list a persons complete work history taking the reader all the way back to when the applicant was a teenager. This would only apply if the person was in their early twenties and the work history was not extensive. Typically an application will ask for the work history from your current and three to five of your most recent employers. If the background investigator assigned your application needs more employment information then supply the additional information he/she will need. This also applies to any information the background investigator may require.
Sixth, watch those application deadlines! Post a note to yourself in a convenient place to remind you of the application deadline. I have watched as prospective applicants walk through the doors to our agency after a deadline has passed only to be told “sorry, but the deadline for filing applications was last week.” Please don’t let yourself fall into this trap and this goes for open examinations for larger agencies that hold examination sessions. Memorize the deadline date if you have to!
Seventh, and this is the most important, answer the questions truthfully to the very best of your knowledge and belief. I have conducted background investigations where the applicant has lied and at our agency that’s grounds for immediate disqualification. Be sure to answer all of the questions as fully as possible and if you come to one that needs further clarification be sure to bring it to the attention of the agency representative when you turn it back in.
Eighth, be prepared to have your fingerprints taken as well as a photograph for submission to the various agencies that will be contacted as part of your background investigation. At the very least you’re looking at a set of fingerprints for the FBI, the state police and the agency you’re applying to. If you’re ex-military a set for your branch of service may need a copy of your fingerprints as part of the verification process.
Applications are different for each agency and I can’t possibly address each and every question an application may contain. Our application clearly states, “Should you have any questions regarding this application do not hesitate to contact this office for clarification. Personnel staff will take whatever time is necessary to explain any part of the application which you do not fully understand.” If you have questions about any part of an application then by all means call or go by the agency and seek clarification.