There are a great number of questions that oral board panel members will ask candidates that are designed for one purpose…
To determine your level of loyalty to THEIR agency.
Answer these questions inappropriately and it’s likely the next letter you open up will say, no thank you.
I’m going to highlight three questions that you MUST be prepared to answer. If they don’t ask them, I still want you to answer them in brief, narrative style, at the end of your interview.
You can call them trick questions as the sub-headline suggests, or you can simply recognize them for what they are, measures of your loyalty.
If you could work for any agency, what department would you choose?
The truth is, most every applicant has a dream department they’d like to work for. It may be as close as the next jurisdiction over or, at the other end of the country. Many law enforcement candidates just want a foot in the door and for starters, any agency will do.
Their plan is to make a name for themselves and later, lateral to the agency they really wanted to work for in the first place.
If you don’t think we administrators know this game, you’re mistaken. That’s why we ask what I call, the hidden loyalty questions.
When you’re asked this type of question, you can bet that your interviewing agency has watched one too many applicants get trained up and bail.
Hiring and training are very expensive endeavors for any law enforcement agency. When they invest time and money in you, they want to reap the benefit of that investment.
If you give them ANY indication that you’re not staying with them, you may as well get up from your interview and put your application at the bottom of the heap.
You must make it perfectly clear that you want to work for THEIR agency, and no others, and you must be able to articulate very clearly, exactly why you want to work there, and why.
How does this agency measure up to others you’ve applied for?
Have you applied to 47 agencies in the past month, or, are you applying at three agencies. Maybe you’ve only applied at this one.
The oral panel is, again, looking to see if you’re carpet bombing the state, or country with applications.
You may well be, and if you are, you must explain that of all the agencies you’ve applied for, THIS, is your chosen agency, and why.
Police chiefs and the staff they empower to interview applicants do know that by nature of competition, law enforcement is a difficult profession to enter.
We also understand that many applicants, in fact the majority, will send out dozens of applications and take test after test hoping to get invited to an interview.
One of the best, HONEST answers I received to this question went something like this.
“Chief, I’m going to be very candid with you. I’ve been applying at absolutely every agency that has openings. But you also need to know this. I so desire working in this profession that it’s my intent to remain employed with the agency that hires me, for as long as they’ll have me. I want to begin and end my career at one agency and I truly hope it’s here with you at your department.”
That was the winning answer for a few reasons. This applicant was, in my opinion, very honest.
She didn’t try to snow me into believing a contrived answer. She also admitted to throwing out a zillion applications. Candidates almost never admit to that.
Finally, she looked me in the eye and said something I’d hear before, I’d just never heard it the way she said it. She said it was her intent to begin and end her career with the first agency that hired her.
In other words, she chose a very eloquent way of saying, if you give me a chance I won’t let you down. I’ve heard that way too often, the “give me a chance” plea.
When an applicant says something you’ve heard a million times, in a fluent and expressive manner, it goes a long way.
She was hired and has moved up the ranks. I have no doubt that in the future she’ll be a chief herself.
What about your current employer makes you want to leave?
You need to tread lightly when you answer this type of question. We really don’t care much why you want to leave, unless…UNLESS, you start ripping on your current employer.
Then, we’re REALLY interested and you don’t want us to be. Praise your current employer as much as you can without being too soupy.
If you’re leaving a civilian position to become an officer, this question can be pretty easy to answer as long as you remember to say nice things about your employer.
As a civilian, you simply want to begin your lifelong career as an officer.
If however, you’re leaving one cop job to move into another cop job, you’re going to have to give your interviewer every indication that you’re happy at your current agency.
Simply indicate that the agency you’re interview with has been your dream department since shortly after you entered this profession.
Tell them why you, and others, feel they’re an outstanding agency.
Finally, don’t ever, EVER make it all about you!
You want to work for this agency because they are so well respected, etc. If you blather on about all the stuff they can do for you, you’ll come off a self-serving.
What if they never ask me a loyalty question?
That’s fine. At the end of the interview, or if there’s an appropriate place to work it in, it’s your job to tell them that you are in fact a very loyal person.
Tell them why you want to work at their agency, why you aren’t just looking to get your feet wet at their expense, and finally, why you want to retire from their department.