Getting Too Comfortable
I’m going to share a little known tactic with you that a good number of oral board panels use, and a few chiefs (myself included) that’s meant to pull from you, something you should never say or do.
If you’re in an oral board interview and the panel is made up of a group of stern faced, stuffed shirts, you’ll likely not be facing the tactic that causes me to write this post.
If, on the other hand, your panel seems to be very, or even exceedingly friendly, read this post in its entirety, you could be in danger. This can be an interview killer.
I’m not much of a trickster when it comes to interviewing. What I mean is, I’m a pretty straight forward Chief, but there is a tactic or, better put, maneuver that I employ at EVERY interview.
It’s critical that you’re aware of this stratagem. I’ve eliminated many, MANY candidates through the years, by way of this interview ruse.
Blue Jeans, at an Interview?
Because I’m not terribly fond of traditional oral board interview practices, in the administration of my agency, I’ve mixed things up a bit over the years.
Once my staff has pared down the number of viable applicants to a reasonable number, before they move on to any phase of the oral board process, I phone the officer candidates and ask them to come to my office for an informal interview.
I do this for two specific reasons.
To determine if they will fit in with my current staff.
Every department has its own unique personality and I spent years molding and grooming ours.
Quite frankly, I don’t want a cowboy to come in like a tornado and screw things up. A new, energetic starry eyed officer or two is fine, I’m not trying to eliminate those types.
Rather, my goal is to weed out the type of applicant that just doesn’t fit the mold.
My informal interview practice is much like the concept “fail fast,” if you’ve ever heard the term. I can usually tell in the first 10 minutes, if that applicant I’m interviewing is going to make the cut.
To make them as comfortable as possible.
I encourage them to attend the interview dressed very casually.
Now, this is very rare and you’ll likely never be asked to “dress down” as I ask my applicants, but I do this to make them as comfortable as possible.
I even go so far as to tell them that I’ll be wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they should too.
A man dressed in a suit or a woman in a professional pants suit is likely going to play the part of a professionally dressed applicant.
An applicant dressed in every-day, casual clothing on the other hand, will often let their guard down, and that’s what I’m looking for.
Don’t take the bait
Wearing street clothing to a chief’s interview goes against everything we’ve ever been taught about interviewing, and I know this, so if they show up wearing kakis and a button down, I get it.
It still serves the purpose of my intended goal. When the interview begins, I’ll also have one of my command staff in the office with me, and they know the drill.
I thank the applicant for coming to my office and start chatting with them. Nothing I say is of a terribly serious nature, no heavy topics and no hard hitting, hard to answer questions. Just light banter.
As we move into our conversation, I get them as relaxed as possible and both my brass and I begin using speech with a lot of slang. This is where the conversation gets VERY relaxed.
Very often, the applicant will become too relaxed and for lack of a better term, take the bait.
Am I trying to trick them?
Not really, but I am providing a door for them that they should NOT open, but sometimes do. When that door is opened, they’re done!
The door that I’m analogizing, is the “talk to me like we’re best friends sitting around a camp fire drinking beer” door.
Who would use foul language in an interview? Who in their right mind would drop a few “F-bombs” when they’re interviewing with a police chief?
Who would tell a police chief and an administrative captain about their fondness for dating long legged blonde women with tattoos?
Would an applicant really slouch in his chair and prop a foot on the corner of a table?
You’d be shocked at the things I’ve heard and seen applicants say and do over the years.
An officer looking to lateral to my agency once told me that when he’s on patrol and bored, he enjoyed stopping attractive women! He justified it by telling me that he “always had probable cause.”
I don’t bait them by using offensive language myself, or by telling inappropriate stories, but the door I spoke of is plainly visible to them, made available by the manner in which I speak to them and by use of my own body language.
I will admit to putting my foot up on my desk occasionally but then, it’s my desk and my office, I’m just presenting the “door.”
The majority of applicants don’t go there, yet off the top of my head, easily 20% do. That’s one in five!
If I didn’t employ this interview method over the years, I would likely have passed a good number of applicants on to the oral board panel, applicants that I would NEVER want on my agency, but that may have been hired.
The psychology behind this ploy is pretty basic.
If an applicant feels comfortable enough in the office of a police chief, to drop the F-bomb or to share stories that are inappropriate in the workplace, let along in an interview, I shudder to think what they’d do once they pass road training and are on the street, unsupervised.
Surely if one feels that he or she can use gutter-speak in a chief’s interview, chances are 100% they’ll speak to my citizens the same way, and that’s unacceptable.
Let’s face it. Anyone that conducts interviews on a regular basis knows fist hand that every applicant presents themselves as completely flawless.
Affording an environment of cheerful placidity is a great tool that I and a good number of chiefs and oral boards use, to weed out would-be problem applicants.
As an applicant, should you find yourself in this type of environment, enjoy it. You can and should be relaxed.
The applicant that comes out of this type of interview looking like a star, is the man or woman that has treated this as a golden opportunity to present themselves in a conversational manner.
When the chief or the oral board panel gives you the opportunity to converse with them, use it to your advantage!
In the end, while this may seem like a sneaky poly, it really isn’t. Yes, 20% of the applicants blow it, but the other 80% present themselves in a manner that allows us chiefs and oral boards to really get to know the good side of them.
We want to get to know the real you when we make conversation. Let us see your best side in these relaxed moments.
At the end of the day, our goal is to employ intelligent, reasonable people with good personalities. Now that you know our goal, you can plan yours.