Oral board personalities
The makeup, disposition, character and even the personality of any law enforcement oral board panel can and does vary from agency to agency, but there is a common fear among law enforcement candidates and it is, the “mean cop” panel member.
This fear is common because unfortunately, the practice of putting a hard-nosed cop on the panel is common. I have never allowed this to take place on any of the panels that I’ve conducted for my own agency, but over the years I’ve assisted other departments that employ this tactic.
For that reason, I want to share a few tips with you as they relate to interviewing before a panel such as the one I’ll describe.
In doing so, I’m going to share some insider knowledge of police oral board tactics, some of which might be a bit surprising to you, particularly if you’ve never interviewed before a panel.
As you read my dissertation, please don’t assume that I’m referring to all oral board panels. If I’m guilty of anything in this article, it’ll be the fact that I’m generalizing.
That’s not a disclaimer nor is it a veiled apology to anyone who might read this and who have themselves served on a panel, it’s just fact. Sometimes truth offends people.
I’m okay with that, so here’s the somewhat dirty side of some law enforcement interview panels.
Good cop, bad cop, new cop!
Every oral board panel is different, just by virtue of the fact that they’re made up of people, and all people are different. With that said, panels take on a life of their own and often, that “life” is structured and planned in advance, well before the first applicant walks through the door.
Let’s put a panel together right now, and structure its purpose:
Captain Nichols is going to be the friendly guy that’s been around the block a million times. He’s a 23 year veteran and has done so many interviews he could ask the questions in his sleep. He’s calm, smiles a lot and appears as though he’s genuinely happy that you’re there interviewing with him.
Lieutenant Lindsey has been on the job nearly as long, but this guy is high strung and doesn’t appear to be anything other than a hard-nosed stuffed shirt. He’s the scary one and you just get the feeling that anything you say is going to be challenged by this guy.
Officer Brandes the third and final panelist. It seems to you, he’s sort of going with the flow. He’s been on the department for six years and was just picked by his sergeant to manage the field training program. He’s actually loving the fact that he gets to be part of the selection process. For Brandes, this is going to be a blast, he can’t wait!
When the interview begins
Captain Nichols introduces the panel and of course, asks you to tell them about yourself. You finish giving them a rundown of who you are, as best you can in two minutes and then, the scenario questions start.
They start with a fury, Lieutenant Lindsey gets the first crack at you. He asks you what you’d do if you were on a traffic stop and the driver refuses to give you his driver’s license.
As you begin to form your answer, the Captain is looking at you off and on and taking a few notes, the Officer is taking notes too, but the Lieutenant is GLARING at you. You can’t help but think you’re getting this answer ALL WRONG, just by virtue of Lindsey’s crisp and not-too-friendly facial expressions.
Sure enough, Lindsey fires back at you with a challenge and you begin the dreaded internal meltdown, fearing that you blew it! As you justify your question you can feel your face turning flushed, you hope the Lieutenant gives you some sort of indication that you’ve satisfied his need for a more robust answer, but he doesn’t.
The move to question number two, three, four, and seven questions and a gallon of sweat later, the interview is over. The Captain was nice, friendly and only challenged you one time, and it was a pleasant challenge, more of a clarification sort of inquiry.
The Officer was the boring one that just asked a couple of questions and didn’t challenge you, but the Lieutenant was, for all intents and purposes, a jerk. He challenged nearly everything you said and never seemed quite satisfied, nor did he show any type of emotion.
In the end the panel thanks you and invites you to leave the room by saying, “You should hear something from us in a week or two.”
The interview is over and when you’re dismissed, you have NO idea how you did. You may have felt your answers were good, and some even great, but you’re ultimately doing what nearly every candidate does after their interview.
You spend the next week replaying every question, every answer and every facial expression give to you by the panel over and over in your head. You do your best to convince yourself that the facial expressions of the panel will be the answer to the burning question, DID I PASS?
Just when you’ve convinced yourself you think you did pretty well, the letter comes. You rip it open and it begins with the dreaded line…
“Thank you for your interest in employment with Smith Falls Police Department. At this time we regret to inform you…”
What went wrong?
This article could have gone in a number of directions but my point here is particular and very narrow in scope. I’m hopeful that you don’t make the error in a real life interview, that you did in this interview.
Unfortunately, Lieutenant Lindsey got under your skin. He rattled your cage, made you nervous, and caused you to become flush with fear which materialized with a red face and in the end, he won! His entire purpose was to stress you out.
When that same panel goes to town with the next group of candidates a year from now, during a new hiring process, friendly Captain Nichols may well be the hard-nosed crusty cop with a pit bull attitude, and Lindsey might be the friendly one.
Often, it’s a ploy and if, in your next interview, after you’ve prepared properly, you’ll know this is all an act. These guys are playing you and while a crabby mean guy may seem sincere, he’s acting. Your job, is to put simply enjoy the moment, interview well and DO NOT let the “bad cop” get under your skin.
The cure is coming
In an upcoming article, I’m going to discuss in detail, the proper management of oral board objections and challenges. You know as well as I do, there’s a right way and a wrong way to justify an answer, even when the panel has convinced you by way of their challenge, that your answer is wrong.
Here’s the good news. In many instances, the better your answer, the more likely they are to challenge you! We’ll talk about that tactic, and much more very soon!