Police officers perform a vital public service by helping to protect lives and property. The daily duties of police officers vary with their occupational specialty and whether they are working for a local, state, or federal agency. Many police officers patrol their jurisdictions and investigate any suspicious activity that they notice. They pursue and apprehend people who break the law and then cite them or arrest them. Police officers also respond to calls, issue traffic tickets, and investigate domestic issues.
Police applicants must have at least a high school education or GED, and a significant number are college graduates. Many agencies require some college coursework or a college degree even for entry-level police jobs. Junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice. Police candidates must also graduate from their agency’s training academy and complete a period of on-the-job training.
In addition to the education and training requirements, police candidates must be at least 21 years old. Some police departments have cadet programs for those interested in a career in law enforcement who do not yet meet the age requirements for becoming an officer. These cadets do clerical work and attend classes until they reach the minimum age requirement and can apply for a position with the regular police force.
Police work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Police officers need to have good judgment and strong communication skills. Other important qualities include: perceptiveness, empathetic personality, and leadership skills. Applicants may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility, as well as competitive written exams. Candidates are typically asked to take lie detector and drug tests, and they must also pass a series of interviews. For tips on how to prepare for and pass the police officer interview, read the following article by Richard McMunn.
How to Prepare for and Pass the Police Officer Interview
Police officer interviews are not just given out to anyone, and this means that just being selected for an interview or an oral board is an achievement in itself. In order to get to this stage of interviewing for a police officer position, you first have to pass written tests and physical tests. It can be quite grueling, so if you have passed those stages, well done.
The next stage, the interview stage, is there to assess the character, situational judgement, and motivation of the candidate. It is conducted in front of a panel of experienced police officers, in order to assess how well suited a candidate is to be a police officer. While the written and physical test will get you to this point, it is this interview stage that is often the most crucial in the hiring of a new police officer.
For this reason it can also be the most stressful part of the process, but there are things that you can do to increase your chances and very simply it will take some time and preparation. Here are a few things that you can do to prepare for your interview or oral board.
Do not waste any time. Begin preparing for the interview as soon as you have been booked for one. Begin by researching the website for the police department that you are interviewing for. Get to know the department as well as you can. You can also ask to go for a ride along with a police officer from that department. At the same time, start thinking about the kinds of questions you are going to be asked, and how you are going to answer them. The questions are geared to provide information about your skills, motivation, strengths and weaknesses, and your goals for the short-term and the future. With this in mind think about what your responses will be, and also begin to think about good questions that you can ask your interviewers. Put together all the documentation that you will need well in advance so that you have time to collect any outstanding ones, should the need arise.
It is a professional interview, and as such, you must dress the part. For a man a good outfit is a dark suit and a tie. For women a trouser-suit or skirted-suit will be appropriate. No flashy jewelery or makeup. Shoes should be shined and the candidate should be properly groomed.
Present yourself for the interview with at least 20 minutes to spare. This will give you time to compose yourself, so that when you are called in you can walk in looking composed and walking straight. When you introduce yourself it is important to smile and use eye contact to initially introduce yourself to the members of the panel. Use a firm handshake (how we all hate those limp ones!), and make sure to remember the names of your interviewers. You may sit down when you are directed to do so, but sit up with a straight back, hands in your lap and shoulders pulled back.
Don’t get flustered; answer the questions they ask in a clear and accurate manner, taking time if you should need to. Project your voice and speak with confidence. Let the tone you use express the energy and enthusiasm you feel for becoming a police officer. There will also be a chance for you to ask any questions you might have. Upon leaving the interview, thank each panel member by name, give another firm hand shake and leave as you went in, with confidence. With these small measures and preparations you can give yourself the best possible chance to get through the interview with flying colors.
About Richard McMunn: Richard is the author of this article and founder of How2become.com, the UK’s leading training and recruitment website for public sector careers. The focus is on providing applicants with the knowledge they need to prepare for and pass selection processes for careers in the police, fire service and ambulance service. The website currently offers over 150 different titles. You can also find How2become on Facebook.