Eleven Tactics for Oral Interviews
SHINE OR DIE
DONT LIE PRETEND
SMOKE EM OUT
RECOGNIZE, DONT MEMORIZE
AINT WALL PAPER
BE THAT PERSON
The single biggest mistake that interviewees
make is to interview for he position they already have. For instance, say you
are interviewing for sergeant. You go into the oral and tell them what a great
police officer you are. Guess what? When you leave the board thinks What a
great cop. Best thing to do is leave him there. Be the position you are
interviewing for. Approach each question as if you are already that person.
When you talk about your previous training, education and experience relate it
directly to the job for which you are interviewing.
If they ask you about your leadership skills,
you can tell them you are a great peer leader, but then relate that to how you
are going to be a sergeant. Sergeants arent peer leaders, they are first line
supervisors. While the two concepts can be connected, many applicants fail to
make the jump for what they have done to what they want to do.
SHINE OR DIE
If you go into the interview looking like an
duffle bag with arms you will have to talk past your appearance. Yes, its true
you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That means do
everything you can to look your best. I have:
Had my haircut three days before and then
sat in the sun to get rid of the line.
Had my teeth cleaned
Purchased a new, tailored suit.
Shined my shoes to a mirror finish.
Any thing, no matter how small, gives you an
advantage. Think about it. If there are 100 applicants and there are ten
spots.if you beat number eleven by a fraction of a point you are the sergeant.
KILL THE BEAST
Many of us could not go through our careers
without breaking something. The beast is your past, the bad thing the
department said you did. The beast is waiting for you, in the package. But,
the beast is weak if you know what to do and you stab it in the heart at your
During my career I crashed
police cars. Ten of them prior to my sergeants interview. The beast was in my
package waiting. First thing to know is the beast ages fast. The more time
that passes, the weaker the beast. Second, while vampires require a wooden
stake, this beast can be killed by paper. Finally, the beast is a coward he
really wants to ambush you.
I went into the sergeants
and a commander asked me, So, you are a new sergeant on patrol. You see two
officers obviously overdriving on their way to a code two call. You decide to
handle the situation by conducting roll call training. Tell the board what you
would do. I realized immediately that the commander was giving the beast the
ambush advantage. If I answered the question, no matter how good, the follow-up
would be the beast jumping out of my package and shouting ha, you fool, you
cant drive worth a damn, what qualifies you do even give roll call training.
No way Mr. Beast, I attacked head on. I said, Commander, before I answer that
lets talk about my driving record.
The beast is killed in the interview by:
Even if there were mitigating circumstance you have to admit you did it. The
department sees the first sign of recovery as admission. Hello, my name is
Raymond and I drive like crap. Well, actually, just take responsibility.
ACTION: Show you are contrite by what you
have done. A suspension, a letter of reprimand or training is what the
department did. You dont get any credit for taking it on the chin. You do
get credit for seeking out alternatives. Did you speak to wiser people?
Seek training on your own? Contemplate you actions? Do something that shows
you took action.
LEARN: Tell the board what you learned by the taking responsibility
and action. What did you learn about your job and yourself?
TRANSLATE: Translate the experience into a
positive. Tell the board how you are better able to relate to your peers.
Now, because of the experience and what you did, you will be able to recognize
when your subordinate employees are walking toward that path. You can now
steer them back onto the path of righteousness and prevent their evil doing.
The beast can be killed, wounded or at least
weakened by paper. Make sure the good things you have done are documented and
in your package. More on this in the section, it aint wall paper.
Think about two different foot pursuits. In
the first, you are chasing the knucklehead through an alley with which you and
he are thoroughly familiar. In the second, you are on temporary assignment,
chasing the knucklehead through an alley with which he is thoroughly familiar
and you are clueless. Who has the advantage?
Before the interview,
go to the
interview place. Ask the receptionist to see an empty room. Become familiar
with the terrain. I know, its so simple. But, when you walk in you will know
where everyone is suppose to sit, where you should go, etc. Me, I wanted to be
a lieutenant so I volunteered for entry-level orals. I became very at home in
the room, relaxed and prepared.
Make at least one dry one to the location
during the time you are suppose to be there. Know the traffic pattern, where to
park, etc. This helps ensure that you will not only be on time, but you will be
DONT LIE PRETEND
Dont ever lie. But, they are going to ask
you questions about stuff you have never done. Suppose the board asks you,
Tell us about a complex investigation you have led. A complex investigation
is not getting your children to find the remote control. You have no clue, no
experience. You could, of course, talk about the burglary investigation at
Walmart, make it sound complex, but the board will see through that.
If you are asked a question
you have no experience. Say, I have never done that before. Can I tell you
what I would do? The board is going to say yes. They will pretend with you.
Now, you get to be the lead investigator on the Mansion murders. Pretend, but
KSA OR ELSE
All interview questions are designed around
the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities necessary for the job. Every department
must develop KSAs and they have a copy. It is not secret information. Get a
copy. Once you have the KSAs, you can use them to craft answers designed to
get the highest score. You will know what KSAs are necessary to demonstrate
leadership, etc. So, when you get a leadership question you answer with the KSA
SMOKE EM OUT
Talk to everyone who has been in a similar
interview. Take those questions they were asked and compare them with your KSAs.
Really, the questions havent changed in 25 years. Yes, the departments are
more sophisticated, but if you know the KSAs and some of the previous questions,
you can craft excellent answers.
RECOGNIZE, DONT MEMORIZE
If you memorize answers, an opening statement
or a closing statement you are doomed. You brain will seize up and your score
will plummet. Put your potential questions on index cards. Throw the cards in
your personal vehicles glove box. On the way to work, pull out ONE card at
random. Out loud, answer the question, throw the card in the box and talk to
yourself about the answer. Talk for 2 or 3 minutes. Take out another card and
repeat same. Talk it through. You mind will begin to recognize the best
IT AINT WALL PAPER
All the commendations, rating and citizen
letters in your package are not wallpaper. Review your package at least a month
before the interview. Make sure every positive thing ever written about you is
in the package. Recall, the paper kills the beast. Also, before you walk into
the room your package gives the board an impression about you. If a copy of
your BA diploma isnt in your package they assume you dont have one. And, most
boards will not consider documentation that is not in your package. You could
bring them a commendation from the Pope and it wouldnt matter. Dress your
package before hand. Also, go through it for beasts. They hide in your
personnel evaluations as faint praise. Ferret them out and prepare yourself.
CLOSE EM OUT
How many times have you asked a question and
the person went on and on with the answer. When they finally stopped talking
you werent sure if they were done. There was that awkward period where you
waited to see if there was more. If you make the board feel awkward they are
going to score you lower. Make them happy and comfortable. At the end of each
of your answers have a phrase like, And, that is how I would handle that
leadership issue. See the point. You turned the ball back to them. They are
comfortable and think you are really special because you took control and told
them, Hey, Im finished. This is a subtle, yet powerful tool. It makes you
seem professional and knowledgeable even if youre a little stupid.
THE RAMBLING MAN
Great Ricky Nelson song, bad interview
technique. If you start to ramble, stop immediately. It aint a freaking
secret, you know and the board knows you are rambling. So, stop. Take a deep
breath, re-state the question, using you fingers if you have to and recap in
short-short points what you said and then close the question out. Its the best
you can do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.),
MPA is the author of Police
Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004) and the co-author of Leadership:
Texas Hold em Style and From
NYPD to LAPD: An introduction to Policing. In addition to being the
author of well over a hundred magazine articles, he is the editor of the
Hi Tech Criminal Justice Newsletter,
Police-Writers.com and the
War on Terrorism Blog. He can be reached at