Every one of us can recall our entry level police interview. You were properly attired, groomed and nervous. The interview board sat across the table and probably shot you the usual boilerplate questions. Why do you want to be a cop? Do you like helping the public? And so forth. I almost get creeps thinking about this; where did the years go? But now you must prepare for a promotional interview. Well, the same suit probably does not fit today. The grooming may now include a gray touch-up and the questions are not the same. So how do you prepare for this interview?
Preplanning is everything
One thing most all will do is forget to obtain the background on past promotional processes in your department. If this is your first, you should study the process. Seek out those who interviewed last time. Who was on the dais? What where their questions then, and are they still applicable now? Do you know the dais, and what could be their pet peeves? In the smaller agencies this is a cinch, but in larger agencies or when assessors are brought in--just have your best "A "Game' ready.
If you believe you have a list of possible questions, get someone to quiz you on them. Do not just sit and stare at them on a paper and imagine you are answering them in your mind. Have a trusted colleague or friend quiz you. They may ask you to limit your response to two minutes or less, or they could ask questions for you to expand. These are not simple questions, but often compound and complex ones. It is important that your brain can formulate the answers and get your mouth to say them. Verbalization is very important, for the more you have this inculcated in your memory, the more believable you will sound.
You should also ensure that your answers are correct; do your homework. If the questions are department specific--rules and regs, SOPs or general orders; it is extremely important to get these correct. Even if you do not know the paragraph number, it is important to relay that you know the general wording or spirit of the rule and where it is located. No guessing and you show you have the ability to research.
When you are practicing your interview responses, do it correctly and properly every time. If you ramble, rush or even put in humor or a vulgar word; it will haunt you later. I have witnessed candidates go "you know," "yada, yada, yada," and my all-time favorite, "**** if I know!" Practice can refine your answers. If your practice is refined and definitive, the answers will be. If you prepare in a less-than-committed manner, the answers will not be the ones you want. The stress factor will take a toll on you; the sharper you are, the better!
Where did that question come from?
No matter how much you prepare, there will be some days you will not predict a single one of the questions and you will be dumbfounded at best. What do you do to avoid this? One measure is to stay current with department events or changes. If your department has some form of accreditation or certifications, count on something in that arena.
Recent events, lawsuits or trendy topics floating around the head shed? Seek them out now and study them. What are the media reports about the department? New initiatives, reorganization, programs--are you up on the current events?
I have mentioned to know the panel if you can. Does the chief have a pet peeve? What was the last departmental training focused on? Be familiar with this. Often training is the catalyst to change. There will always be one sure winner--count on this. If you are interviewing for a supervisory position, you can bet the ranch on an integrity question of some form--the "can you manage your old partner" or discipline him or her. These are sure winners, so work on these.
The deodorant commercial "on never let them see you sweat" applies here as well. No, I am not pushing a toiletry item, but rather your confidence. If you have practiced verbalizing aloud, you will have command of the message. If you feel nervous, rattled and show lack of confidence; so will your voice. I do have a confidence pill to prescribe for you, other than to know yourself and be prepared. Make sure the answer you give is yours. Do not regurgitate pat answers, and be ready to add your personality and inner strengths to the answer. You need to convince the panel that you not only can see a problem, but define it and be a solution to this and other future perplexing issues. You are the logical choice for this promotion. Good luck and go get that promotion!