Throughout my 17 years as chief of police, I have always advocated that the candidate participate in several mock oral board presentations prior to the real exam. This is the best way to become more comfortable with the testing process. Several of my following articles will deal with the preparation and involvement in the mock oral process.
So let's begin. First of all you must know what to wear to your oral interview or assessment center.
Dress for success, but don't go overboard.
Men, there is power in a good tailored suit, a freshly pressed shirt, and a new tie. Also remember that the shoes you wear should match your suit and definitely should be highly polished. The heels should be in good condition and not worn down. Don't wear patent leather, uniform dress shoes. They have a special need with your uniform--not with your suit. Leave your gold chains, bracelets, and diamond pinky rings at home. I would also advise against any lapel pins during your presentations. As a reminder, be sure your haircut, facial hair and sideburns are within the department regulations, unless you are in a specialty assignment and your supervisor gives you permission to maintain your hair out of regulation. Also, do not wear earrings during your interview. If you're not sure about accessories for your ensemble, seek assistance on the internet, or contact your local men's store. They will be more than happy to discuss your options.
Ladies, the saying "dress for success" applies here and, thankfully, you have many styles from which to choose. According to Ilse Metchek, Executive Director of the California Fashion Association, "Women need to think about how they portray themselves. You don't want the attention to be on your clothing, you want it to be on your work." Keep things simple. Keep makeup to a minimum and in good taste, and utilize soft colors for your fingernails. Again, if you are not sure about accessories and makeup, you can check on the internet or consult your local women's store for assistance.
For both the male and female candidate, be sure your fingernails are properly trimmed and clean. Make sure your hygiene is impeccable. Remember, the last thing you want to show are underarm stains on your suit, shirt, or blouse. You also do not want to emit an embarrassing odor of any kind.
When wearing cologne, aftershave lotion, hand lotion, or perfume, make sure the scents blend nicely. Apply your perfume or aftershave lotion a couple of hours prior to your appointment so it has a chance to dissipate.
Men, get a haircut a couple of days prior to the oral board. If you dye your hair, make sure the roots are evenly colored.
Ladies, if at all possible, have your hair cut and or styled prior to the oral board; and if you color dye your hair, be sure your roots are not showing.
Many of these items sound so basic, you may ask yourself why I am even bringing them to your attention. Well, the truth of the matter is that each of these situations has occurred with several candidates when they appeared before me as a rater on an oral board or during the chief's oral, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Candidates have appeared with exceptionally bad body odor or heavy dandruff, which created a very poor impression. Other areas that will detract from your presentation are wearing shoes that have scuff marks, worn heels, or shoes that look as though they were polished with a candy bar. Take the time to look, and feel good about yourself, and the dividends will pay off in the future.
You only have one chance to make that first impression
Now is the time to begin preparation for you mock oral board. This is a very involved process if it done correctly, but the time involved will pay off in the long run.
"Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand."
You may have given speeches, handed out citations, talked to your family and friends about your career, but I doubt if you have ever sat down and studied yourself after your presentations or how you reacted in a stressful situation. Now people may have approached you and stated you did well, but ask yourself: Is "well" good enough to beat out my competition?
What I strongly suggest is that you videotape yourself while answering questions during a mock oral board. I don't want you to ask yourself questions while sitting in front of a mirror to watch your reactions, because you will miss many of them. And I don't want you to stand by yourself and ask yourself questions while standing in front of the camera. Nor do I want your significant other or a close friend to ask you questions while you are sitting in front of a camera. Why not, you may ask? Because you want to feel the stresses associated with the testing process, especially the oral board or the assessment center exercise, and the above situations do not initiate enough "real life" pressure. So, there's no stress in messing up in front of your friends or significant other; they are very close to you and may have difficultly giving an honest critique of your performance. It is difficult to tell a close friend that they "stink." Plus, since they are friends, it is too easy to laugh it off if you make a mistake.
No, I want you to contact three respected associates from an outside agency, and ask them to be raters on your mock oral board. If possible, the rank of the raters should be at least one rank higher than the position for which you are testing. Since these individuals are well-respected officers whom you admire because of their achievements within their agencies and throughout their careers, you would probably feel embarrassed or upset with yourself if you performed poorly in front of them. Ask them to "put me through the wringer." They will take this assignment seriously, will work diligently on being an excellent board, and will rate you accordingly.
Now that you have your oral board ready, pick a date, time, and location away from your residence. Your home is way too comfortable and doesn't place enough stress on you. Remember, we are attempting to recreate the intensity of your upcoming testing process. You may have access to an office on a weekend when no one is around. Try to use a conference room with a large table. Usually, during an oral board presentation, the room is arranged with three seats for the raters on one side of the table and one seat for the candidate on the other side. Place your video camera behind the raters' chairs so it is facing you. If you don't have a camera, borrow or rent one for a day--it is well worth the rental fee. Have one of the raters turn the camera on prior to you entering the room. This will help evaluate your entrance: Did you demonstrate self-confidence and command presence, or were your shoulders slouched? Do not have anyone "man" the camera, as this will create a distraction for you.
Prior to entering the room
The night before the oral board, I want you to relax as much as possible. If you live by the water or a park, take a walk with your significant other and understand that you have prepared yourself as best as possible and that you are ready for tomorrow's process. Have a light dinner with no alcoholic beverages, and go to bed early.
Set a time for your presentation: arrive early, dressed the way you would during your "real" presentation. In other words, if you are planning to wear a suit and tie or a dress to your "real" oral board, this is what you will wear to your mock oral board.
Remember, this is just like a dress rehearsal for a play, only in this scenario, you are working extremely hard to enhance your future, which is what makes this preparation so exciting. The reason I compare it to a play is because once you enter that room, you will be on stage, and all eyes will be on you while you give an outstanding performance, convincing these raters that you are the best candidate for the position. This preparation also allows you to plan your presentation ahead of time, because during an oral board, there will be a time limit. It usually depends on your city personnel manager and sometimes the chief of police, but normally the oral board will last anywhere from 20, 30, 45, or even 60 minutes. This is the time that you have to sell yourself to the panel of raters, so you must be ready.
Prior to arriving at the location, do some facial exercises. As you know, the mouth is a muscle that must be exercised to work properly. When you wake up in the morning, you just don't jump out of bed, ready for the day. It takes a few minutes for you to stretch and rub you arms and turn your neck a few times, and then you are ready to stand up. Well, your mouth also needs to be stretched and rubbed so it will work properly when you are ready to speak. Professional singers and speakers do exercises prior to a performance, and so should you. While driving in your car, begin to stretch you jaw and lips. Start to say A, E, I, O, U in an exaggerated way so that you stretch the muscles of your mouth. Also, use exercise phrases like, "how now brown cow," which will help to loosen the muscles in your mouth and awaken your vocal cords. People may look at you in a funny way while you're driving, but just smile, keep up your exercises, and let them wonder what it is that you're doing.
Since we are performing this mock oral as if it were the real thing, there are several things to consider prior to entering the room:
You probably have a knot in your stomach. Well, this knot helps to place you in a more competitive environment. What I mean by this is that it makes you ready for the process to begin. It gives you an edge and makes you sharp. The knot I'm discussing is a slight tightness in your stomach, not a pain that has you on the ground moaning or causes dizziness or fainting spells. You don't want to place that much pressure on yourself, because if you were in that much pain you would probably be in the emergency room prior to the beginning of your testing process. I always had a knot in my stomach prior to any testing process, speech, or presentation that I made. I found that the knot in my stomach helped me give the best performance that I had in me. I also realized, as you will, that once the process began, the knot would disappear because I felt prepared and in control of the situation.
Something else to consider is that you are very nervous and your gastric juices are flowing. Your breath may become somewhat harsh, so I would suggest that you carry a breath mint and use it just prior to your interview. Be sure it has completely dissolved before entering the room or remove it from your mouth. It is the same for gum--don't chew it during the interview. I suggest you don't chew it at all on "game day," because you may forget about it and walk into the room chewing without even realizing it. You will look like a cow grazing in a field, and the moment you realize that you forgot to remove it from your mouth, you will lose your concentration and your and your presentation will suffer.