Make Your Next Interview Yours!

As I have stated before, preparation for your oral interview is paramount to succeeding in your promotional process and it all starts when you enter the room and greet the raters.

When you enter the room, stand tall with command presence. There is nothing worse than watching a candidate timidly enter the room, looking scared stiff. Maybe you are shaking on the inside, but demonstrate confidence on the outside. Show the raters that you are in control and confident. I remember there was a deodorant commercial that stated, "never let them see you sweat," so don't.

Let the raters introduce themselves, and repeat their names as you firmly shake their hands while maintaining eye contact. Now, take your seat, pull the chair up to the table, and place your hands either in a flat position, fingers interlaced, or the palm of one hand on the top of the other hand, on top of the table.

Pulling the chair closer to the table is not an aggressive move, but merely a move that demonstrates your confidence. There was one assessment center that I participated in as a candidate, and the raters placed the candidate's chair approximately six feet from the table. Many of the candidates entered the room, sat in the chair without moving it, and held their interview over six feet from the raters. These raters placed the chair away from the table to determine which candidates had confidence in themselves to move the chair closer to the table and begin their interview.

Do not place your elbows on the table, or form a steeple with your fingers in front of your chin. Try as hard as possible to keep the palms of your hands flat on the table. If you place your hands on your lap, this could cause your shoulders to stoop (and you may not even be aware it is happening) or you could display poor posture, which again shows body language that can be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem. Placing your hands on the table helps promote correct posture throughout your interview. Then, too, if you are like me and have some Italian blood coursing through your veins, it will be next to impossible for you not to talk with your hands, but try to keep the gestures at a minimum, and be aware of what you are doing with your hands.

While sitting, do not lean back in your chair or cross your legs, as this gives a poor impression to the raters. It makes you look too relaxed and can depict an air of aloofness, or it may be interpreted as low self-esteem because you are trying to look too cool and imply this testing process is no big thing. Lean forward with your chest close to the edge of the table and both feet flat on the floor. This will help you remain in a position that will further your command presence at the table.

Opening Statements

Prepare an opening and closing statement. Usually, the board will begin the session by trying to have you relax. They will say something to the effect, "Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?" This is your time to shine. Tell them what they want to hear. State how many years you have in law enforcement; explain your various assignments; highlight those assignments that had command responsibility (i.e. S.W.A.T. team leader, personnel and training officer for the department, K-9 officer responsible for coordinating an area search of a crime scene, etc). Then, explain your educational achievements and your current education endeavors. Remember to just highlight these accomplishments because you are on a schedule. Practice this ahead of time so you are comfortable with it. Make it yours, but do not memorize it, because the minute you stumble, you may have difficulty getting back on course. You are already nervous--don't make it any harder on yourself. Be concise. You will be surprised how much information you can deliver in a short period of time if you plan your statements ahead of time.

Let the Process Begin

When the questions begin, listen to the entire question before answering. Don't think you know the answer and interrupt the questioner prior to him finishing the question, because you may guess incorrectly and you will also appear rude. Chances are you will only have to wait a few seconds before the rater finishes his question, and then you can proceed to give your answer. When you answer the question, be sure to look at each rater. Look them in the eyes when you talk to them. Do not let your eyes wander or dart around the room; this gives the impression that you are unsure of yourself or do not know the answer. Start with the person who asked the question, and then rotate to each of the other raters. Do this in a flowing motion so as not to look robotic. When you speak, be sure to project your voice so the raters will not have to strain to hear you; but on the other hand, don't shout. Your mouth may be dry; if they offer you water, use it. It is placed there for your use, and it won't be marked against you. If you can draw on other answers you have given when answering the current question, it will look as though you can pull together different kinds of information and organize it in a meaningful manner.

When you first begin to talk, your voice may quiver due to nerves. Don't let this bother you; just overcome it. Clear your throat, take a deep breath, and continue speaking. Don't tell the panel that you are nervous; they understand this because they have been in your position several times. When you begin to answer their questions, keep your hands away from your mouth so as not to block your answers. Also make sure you don't do anything to distract the panel, such as tugging at your ear, pulling strands of your hair and winding them around your fingers or cleaning your fingernails while you are answering their questions.

Remember, you are not writing a report, so don't answer in the form of a report. When you are asked a question, respond in a clear smooth cadence such as you would experience in a regular conversation. Don't chop it up with "cop slang" or sound like you're testifying in court. For example, if you are given a hypothetical situation where you are in charge, and a disturbance occurred, don't use the following terminology to answer the question: "After receiving a call of a P.C. 415, I responded to the location in question and immediately made contact with the victim and necessary witnesses. I put out an APB and then deployed my personnel to circulate through the neighborhood in an attempt to locate the perp and other individuals who may have witnessed the incident."

As you can see, this type of answer does not flow and makes you sound very stiff. Tell the raters exactly what you would do at the scene. Explain that upon arrival you would evaluate the situation, use your available manpower effectively to contact witnesses, maintain a perimeter to contain the area and attempt to locate and arrest the suspect or whatever else you felt would be necessary to complete the scenario. My point here is to keep your answer to the point and avoid unnecessary articulation and cop slang.

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