Should I Put Down My Competition?

In a previous article I explained how you should not answer the question "If we don't choose you for this position, which candidate should we choose?" Basically, don't say someone other than yourself is better for the job. On the other side of the coin, when you are asked the above question, do not "put down" your opponent, because these types of answers can backfire. It will not make you look any better in the eyes of the raters but will, in fact, make you look very insecure with yourself.

For example, some officers will answer this question by stating something like, "Officer Joe should not even be considered for this position because I have more time in grade and more education. He doesn't believe in school and only registered for classes when he heard that this promotion was going to take place. He doesn't even believe in all of your policies like I do, and he can't be trusted. Look at my record and when compared to his, there is no comparison. I am the better person." Or, "I don't think you could possibly be considering Officer Jane because she has no self-esteem and would make a terrible supervisor. Besides, you don't want a female supervisor running your troops out in the field. You need me."

Naturally, the above statements are somewhat exaggerated, but believe me, I have heard similar statements during oral board presentations, as well as in chief's interviews. These types of answers tend to show that the officer does not possess a great deal of self-esteem, and in my book, this is definitely not the #1 candidate for the position.

So, what do you say when a rater does ask you these types of questions? Well, the first thing you want to remember is that your competition is just that--your competition; they are not your friends during this testing period. They are trying for the same position as you; they are attempting to enhance their career the same as you; they want to improve their salary just like you. So, as you can see, they should not be viewed as your friends, but instead as your competitors, during this testing process.

You may feel that this kind of thinking is cruel. You couldn't possibly think that way about individuals who are your friends. These are people you depend on for assistance out in the field; with whom you socialize when you are off duty. How could you possibly think of your friends as competitors? Because, to repeat, this is a competition and should be viewed as strictly business!

When I was asked: "If we don't choose you for this position, which candidate should we choose?" during a promotional exam, I always felt there was no other competition and I would state something to that effect: "If I were not chosen for this position, I believe the board would be making a mistake by not giving my police department the best person for the job." Then I would explain why I felt I was the best person for the position. Again, you have to feel comfortable with this kind of response. For example, I always thought that if I wasn't the best person for the job ,then why go through all of this trouble to begin with? With this type of answer, I did not give the other candidates any accolades (let them earn them on their own) nor did I put anyone down. I wanted the board to focus their attention only on me and my achievements.

"Nothing demeans you more than your demeaning of a fellow competitor!" Now, specifically for female candidates, there are some answers to certain questions that do more harm than good during your presentation before the oral board or the chief's interview. For example, some female officers have stated to me, "I will be your first female supervisor if I am appointed," or "It would be good public relations for the department to show that you are an equal opportunity chief by promoting me," or "I hope you don't think that because I am a woman that I cannot do the job." Don't demean yourself by placing these conditions in your answers. The raters and the chief know you are qualified to take this exam; otherwise, you would not be in the testing process. Just how qualified you are for the supervisory position will depend on your prior work history and the answers you give to the oral board and during the chief's interview. So, state who you are and why you think you are qualified for this position based on your own merits.

Closing Statements

In an oral board setting, when the raters have completed their questions, they will usually say something like, "This is your time, is there anything else you wish to add?" It is at this point that you would give your concise closing statement. Usually, this statement will be a recap of what you had just said. For example, "As you can see, I have worked extremely hard throughout my entire career for this position. Given the opportunity, I am confident that through my various assignments, especially those in command positions, as well as my continuing education, that I have gained a breadth of knowledge that will assist the department in the development of its personnel. Also, I will not only continue to improve upon the service the department gives the citizens of our community in providing a safe environment for everyone, but will also improve upon the high standards for which we are known." You can include whatever fits your needs, but as you can see, this is a very short recap of your entire career history and goes directly to the point that you are the person that should be chosen for the position.

When you have concluded your closing statement and the oral board thanks you, and they begin to stand, you should also stand and again look each of the raters in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them by using their rank and name. For example: "Thank you, Lieutenant Swan," then turn and walk out the door with your head pointed forward and your eyes looking towards the horizon. Maintain this posture all the way out the door because you are being observed by the board until the door closes. The reason I bring this to your attention is because I have observed many individuals slouch their shoulders and hang their head while walking out the door because they felt they did poorly during their presentation. Don't let the raters know how you feel as this may--and I repeat may--have some influence on their final appraisal of your entire interview. Besides, you really can't determine how well or poorly you did because you were under so much stress that you probably don't recall every action or question that took place during those last 30 or 45 minutes of your life. How many times have you heard people say when they left an exam, "Boy, I really blew that test!" when in reality they passed it with flying colors; or on the other hand, "Boy, I aced that one!" and later found out they failed. So don't jump to conclusions.


Now that you have completed your mock oral, take a deep breath and sit down with the raters and ask them to critique your performance. You may get some hard hits, but try not to take it personally. Remember, this is a learning tool, and you want the raters to be honest with you and help you in improving your presentation. Do not get discouraged. This is the time to change the negatives into positives. Don't say, "Well, that is the way I am and if they don't like it, then too bad because I am not going to change." Uh-uh, wrong attitude--because in reality, it may be the time to change. Remember, we are not the same person that we were when we were first sworn in as police officers. We evolve with time and mature. We must change or grow stagnant.

Be open to any criticism from the raters--that's what this whole process is about--and let them assess you while you take notes. When they have completed their critique, ask questions on how you can improve. For example, if they say there were parts of an answer they did not understand, discuss it with them and figure out a way to improve that answer. If they stated you rambled, determine how you can be more concise with your answers. And if they did not like your appearance or your gestures, make sure you have the answers on ways to improve any concerns prior to the rater's departure. This is your future we are discussing and these raters have taken a lot of time to assist you, so take the time to pick their brains and utilize their experience.

When the raters have left, take the time to sit down alone and review your mock oral video tape. See if you agree with the raters' critique and again determine ways you feel you can improve your performance. You will notice things that you can't remember doing (i.e., facial tics, gestures, eyes wandering, stuttering, the use of "ah" throughout your presentation, and so forth). Again, take notes and be tough on yourself.

On the other side of the coin, compliment yourself for a good presentation. Build on the strengths of your actions and answers. This process gives you visions of improvement and strengths, so always be positive and utilize these areas to your advantage.

When you have finished your solo review, ask your significant other, partner, close friend, or relative to review the tape with you. These people know you the best and may be able to assist you in determining if the person they see on tape is the "real deal" or someone they have never seen before. They may determine that you look and sound great or very phony. They do not have to have any experience in your profession; they are rating you on your appearance and how you present yourself to a group, which is very valuable feedback.