When you’re in the interview, will you know how to answer questions about internal change?
Most applicants don’t!
Adapting to societal changes , can be challenging for any business or organization. This is so very true for interdepartmental change in law enforcement.
Cops don’t necessarily like to alter how we conduct business and officers can be obstinately resistant to change. It’s certainly true that traditionally, law enforcement can be slow to recognize the need for change.
Agency supervisors and administrators (those tasked with implementing change) know this all too well.
If the agency for which you’re interviewing is progressive, they’re going to want to know that the applicants they hire are going to welcome modifications to policy if not department wide transformation when or if it’s ever needed.
If you’re the candidate that can speak openly and comfortably about the need for, and your desire to accept a change-filled environment, you’re going to set yourself apart from the applicants that haven’t so much as given this topic an ounce of thought, let alone, any amount of research.
Because you’re reading this post, you’re already miles ahead of your competition.
The infection of the traditionalist
Amongst the troops, the street cops, there is a common opinion shared by many. The idea of changing how cops conduct business is akin to turning one’s back on good old fashioned, traditional police work.
Some of the more hard-nosed cops will go so far as to assert that to change how they’re doing business is to submit to being weak or wimpy.
The people that are in charge of hiring new officers greatly dislike this mentality and we, (the brass) struggle with changing, even tweaking department philosophy, as so many of our officers resist change.
We also know that there are a handful of officers that are going to take a sense of ownership when new policy is implemented. It’s those officers that the administrators look at, to help steer their own coworkers in the right direction.
Resistance however, can be strong and this is particularly true among the older and more seasoned veterans.
Let’s walk through this scenario
Imagine you’re a police captain, charged with vetting 20 applicants for your agency. There are two positions open, hundreds of applicants and you’ve culled the pack down to 20 oral board candidates.
Imagine also, that your agency is progressive enough that they’re responding proactively to public perception and are in the midst of changing policy.
The new change will directly affect the manner in which traffic stops are documented. Most assuredly there will be a number of officers on that agency with a “This is BS! We’ve never had to do this before!” attitude.
Imagine now, that as that captain, it’s YOUR job to find applicants that openly accept new change and new policy. How in the world are you going to pull that information from a candidate?
I’ll tell you exactly how we do that.
With a little bit of rope…
Oral board panel members are masterful at wording questions in a manner that allows you just enough rope to hang yourself with an improper, or worse, and inappropriate answer.
There are times that we can’t just come out and ask a question in the manner that makes the proper answer evident. If we panel members were to do that, candidates would likely recognize the obvious answer.
Consequently, we’d get the same answer from every applicant, and not necessarily, the REAL answer.
Here are two examples of oral board questions that, in essence, ask the same question, but are worded in a substantially different manner.
Example question #1.
If the police chief were to execute a policy that you didn’t care for, but asked you and all officers to employ and abide by that policy, would you follow that policy?
Example question #2.
Let’s say the police chief made a policy that you and nearly every other officer felt was absolutely ridiculous. How would you manage working around that policy in order to still do your job, but not necessarily by the letter of that policy?
The first example question is cut and dried and very ease to answer. The answer is, “yes, of course I’d follow that policy, even though I didn’t like it.”
The question really answers itself, and you can bet, oral board panels don’t generally ask questions that are too easily answered. They want to get into your head and learn how you think, and example question number one, don’t get them there.
The second example question however, gives you the rope. Candidates will do one of two things with this one.
The first candidate will use that rope to make a noose, causing a quick-death to their chances of getting hired. The second, prepared candidate, will make a lasso and wrangle up a fantastic answer, leaving the oral board panel no other option than to give your answer a top score.
Sorry to go all western on you, but I love analogies, not only because they draft a great mental picture, but that analogy is going to help you remember this rule of thumb tomorrow, and six months from now when you’re sitting at your interview.
A proper answer would sound something like this:“I’m of the opinion that change can often be difficult for people, and particularly when an organization’s staff has been conducting business in a certain way for many years. I’d also like to think that a police chief is in the position he or she is, because they possess the skill to manage an agency, and policy making is a tremendously important measure in that capacity. With that in mind, it’s never a patrol officer’s position to determine that a policy is ridiculous. I doubt this would ever happen, but if I were to feel that one of this agency’s policies wasn’t appropriate, I’d recognize that not as a shortcoming on the part of administration, but rather, my inability to comprehend the propose of that policy. In that case, I would seek the leadership of a superior and ask him or her to educate me on the expectations of our chief, in following the policy. Finally, in your question you mentioned that many other officers had come to the conclusion that this wasn’t a good policy. It’s important to lead by example and I’d like to think that I will have a positive impact with my coworkers when they see me abiding by the policy.”
Lead by example
After you get hired (and if you consistently answer questions with the type of confidence embedded in the example answer above, you WILL get hired) I encourage you to lead your peers by example.
Leadership by way of example, is what ultimately makes for a well-respected officer. That respect will come first from your peers, later, by supervision and eventually, administration will recognize you as being a true front-runner.
When it’s time to move forward (join the SWAT team) or ahead (interview for detective) or up the ladder (become a sergeant), or wherever you want to move in or on your agency, you’ll have already done the legwork, by way of example.