Getting Hired: It’s About the Patterns
Dr. Richard Weinblatt, Ed.D.
Through all of the law-enforcement hiring articles, emails, and discussions I’ve been involved with, one thing has become clear: a person’s ability to be hired is not in the stars. It’s in the patterns you can read in their lives, and police chiefs, sheriffs, and the recruiters and background investigators that work with them, are looking for those patterns. The best way to get hired is to develop patterns of positive behavior in your academic record, your job history, your financial life, and more. We’ll show you how to do it.
Simply put: agencies are looking for patterns of responsibility and patterns of irresponsibility. More specifically, they want all of the end documentation in the file to reflect a pattern of responsibility. That pattern can emerge in one area; though it is preferred to see it in multiple facets of an applicant’s life. Larger agencies tend to have tougher requirements than smaller agencies where the applicant pool may not be as plentiful.
Academic PatternsA red flag that I’ve seen many times is an academic transcript riddled with “F”s. Even worse, an academic record with lots of dropped classes can indicate a pattern of giving up when faced with difficulty. On the flipside, “A”s aren’t necessary (although they are nice to have), but a pattern of “A”s and “B”s shows someone who consistently gives their best effort and does not give up on a task.
One recent applicant I came across had some 23 jobs in 26 years. Some of those slots were held for barely a month. Allowances are often made for applicants who have spent time in industries with high turnover, such as the construction and restaurant industries, but job stability is an important pattern to display.
The quality of military service and the type of discharge given to a military veteran applicant are also examined. Standard applications require a copy of the DD-214. Many police chiefs, sheriffs, and police recruiters are military veterans, and they understandably take military evaluations, commendations, and discharge paperwork very seriously. An applicant’s military records will be given extra scrutiny to ensure there are no inconsistencies in comparison with other portions of the background investigation.
Debt, in and of itself, is not an issue, but failure to make regular payments shows up as a red flag. To keep up with payments shows a pattern of living up to one’s word and legal obligations.
Driving has gained a new level of importance as governmental entities face pressure from their insurance carriers. Police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers spend more time behind the wheel of potentially lethal vehicles than in any other high-liability area. An applicant’s driving record has been used in many cases as the deal breaker that cost an applicant the conditional job offer.
Likewise, a criminal record—even a minor one—will bode poorly for the aspiring badge bearer. Because felons are prohibited by law from possessing firearms, most states, such as Florida, stop the process if even one felony pops up. Some agencies may be open to misdemeanor transgressions, especially if they are honestly disclosed during the application process and happened some time ago, but all of that goes out of the window if the incident is repeated several times.
Minor drug usage follows the same line of thinking. Again, agencies are looking for a pattern. However, even the single use of a serious drug, like cocaine, may disqualify the applicant in some jurisdictions.
An honest self-appraisal of patterns you may have, along with a behavior adjustment to halt the bad ones and highlight the good ones, will enhance your chances of being hired by the agency of your choice. Thus the answer, oh job applicant, is not in the stars: it is in the patterns.