Preparing for Your Oral Interview

Without proper preparation, don't bother to take the exam!

Another question you may ask is, "How much independence does the chief allow his supervisors out in the field? Does he want his supervisors to micro manage subordinates, or does he give his supervisors free rein?" Ask everything possible, so that you feel comfortable and can be happy working as a supervisor in this environment. You don't want any surprises, because if you are not happy in this position, it will affect everything you do in law enforcement as well as your personal life.

Determine what your leadership style is. There is no leadership style that is best. There are a number of books that discuss the various styles used by today's leaders, including the autocratic, situational, and participatory styles, with the latter being laissez-faire. It may be difficult for you to define exactly which style fits you, so take the time to determine how you would operate out in the field handling various situations as well as your personnel. When you are comfortable with this style, name it, then be ready to explain to the raters how this leadership style fits you.

For example, I always considered myself a "situational leader," which basically meant that I would act according to the situation at hand. There were times that I would ask others to give input or participate prior to making my decision. Other times, I would immediately take control and make the decision without any outside assistance which would be described as autocratic. I don't recall ever utilizing a laissez-faire or laid-back style of leadership.

This is a very short synopsis of leadership styles and how I use them, but make sure you have your own style and don't just copy mine or anyone else's, because it will only get you in trouble when you try to be somebody you're not. You must be comfortable with the style you have chosen; if you're not, the raters will see through your fa├žade. Also, if you use a leadership style that is not "you," your subordinates will question your motives and become confused. This confusion or uncertainty as to what you want and who you are could cause dissention in the ranks, which in turn will demonstrate your poor leadership qualities.

Know the difference between leaders and managers, if there is one. I always liked the statement made by Ross Perot, "People cannot be managed--inventories can be managed, but people must be led." Determine how you feel about this. I personally feel that the terms "leaders" and "managers" are the same because you can't have one without the other. Whatever your feelings are regarding this argument, be prepared to defend it if the board challenges you.

"The elusive half step between middle management and leadership is grace under pressure."
--John F. Kennedy

Remember that defining your leadership style is a necessary part of your research, and it will assist you immensely during your oral board or assessment center exercise presentations. While gaining this information, you will find yourself developing more and more confidence in your ability to compete, which in turn will assist you in gaining an edge on your competition. Remember, gaining an edge on your competition is the purpose of being well prepared.

OK, you have spoken with the chief, his command staff, and anyone else you respect and feel can assist you. But your work is just beginning. It doesn't matter whether you are involved with an oral board or an assessment center exercise; the preparation is always the same.

In your research, you need to become familiar with your department's general orders as well as your administrative rules and regulations. Talk to your department's legal adviser, your city attorney, or your police officers association's legal representative. Try to contact someone who is knowledgeable with current case law, especially in matters of Skelly, the Police Officers' Bill of Rights, discipline, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and Megan's Law, to name but a few. Also, be confident in your knowledge of your department's policy on use of force and vehicle pursuits and any other "hot ticket items" that may be alive in your department or community. Know them forward and backward, inside and out. Read the newspapers to determine what is happening in other communities and around the country regarding law enforcement activities, and determine how these activities may affect you and your department.

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.