The promotional process is very exciting, because even though you passed your written examination, your placement on the eligibility list will depend on how well you perform during the oral board or assessment center exercise.
A guide entitled How to Prepare for and Pass Promotional Exams, published by the California Peace Officers' Association, stated the following regarding the interview process: "The reasons for the interview should be obvious. The department would like to have as its representatives, men and women, whose leadership, common sense and self assurance will reflect credit upon the department."
On many occasions, I have observed that candidates who passed their written examination with high scores met their "Waterloo" during their oral board presentations. Many candidates have demonstrated poor judgment in tactical situations, unusual mannerisms, immaturity, lack of leadership abilities, or anger and quick tempers. The stress is enormous and oftentimes, the unprepared candidates will fall apart and demonstrate that they are not as good as their written scores depicted.
When preparing for your oral interview or assessment center exercise, you will have to do some research. You must determine what qualities your chief of police is looking for in his supervisors. The best way to determine this is to contact the chief and request a meeting to discuss the upcoming promotional exam. Now, before you say, "I couldn't possibly do that because the chief is too busy," or "I don't think he has an open-door policy," remember that the chief is looking for a supervisor that can be depended upon and one that demonstrates initiative in handling difficult situations. What's the worst thing that can happen? The chief will tell you that he will not discuss the process with you and if this occurs, you are no worse off than before. In fact, you may be in a better position because you have demonstrated to the chief that you are interested in the position and displayed your initiative in this process.
Also speak with the city manager to determine what he is looking for in a supervisor. This will help you to obtain a feel for what the administration of the city and your department head is looking for in their management personnel.
As a police chief, I always felt it was beneficial for the candidates to know exactly what my expectations were, and then they could decide if they wanted to be part of my team. I had an open door policy that allowed the candidates to come and discuss their concerns with me, but it was up to them to take the initiative to speak with me first. Naturally, I could not tell them what questions the oral board would ask, because I didn't know. However, what I could do was to advise them, as I am doing with you now, on how to prepare for the oral examination and give some insights into how they could improve their performance during the testing process.
Some chiefs may not adhere to this type of counseling, but it was my style for 17 years, and it was comfortable for me. My personal feelings are that the best way to get your people to understand the type of supervisor you're looking for is to tell them face-to-face, and if they have any questions, you can clear the air at that time. If you discover that your chief will not discuss the process with you, go to the next highest command level supervisor and request a meeting. Find someone who has been through the process, knows the chief's philosophy, and is willing to talk with you. Once you find them, be a sponge, soak up every bit of information possible, and ask all of the questions you feel are relevant to the testing process. Discuss areas regarding what the chief is looking for as it pertains to leadership traits and management styles.