Oral Boards: harnessing passion, getting results

You can also view this article on OfficerView.

Have you ever felt like you were being watched? During the oral board, or the interview process required to enter many law enforcement agencies, the sets of eyes across the table will undoubtedly expose you to this feeling. Some people become nervous at the thought of an interview, especially when they’ve a strong desire to earn the position. Your passion for the job may cause nervousness, but it can also be used to your advantage. Harness your passion and eagerness by implementing these tricks:

 Know the Agency. 

 All organizations have a mission statement, slogan or guiding mantra on their website and it’s easy to find for a reason. If you cannot demonstrate how you fit in with these values, they can’t see you as a valuable (or even workable) aspect of their organization. Go online and do your research. What is their mission and what does it mean to them? In what ways do you see this mission being carried out in their current actions?

 Other areas to consider are agency jurisdiction, community involvement campaigns (such as “Shop with a Cop”) and important staff members. Staff member biographies sometimes include photos. Quickly study these photos for reference while in the building and sitting in front of your interview board. This helps you identify the ranks and positions of the faces judging you.

 Ask Meaningful Questions. 

 This is where your research pays off. What questions do you have about the agency? In what areas does the website leave holes in your mind? Write these questions before your oral board appointment and, if you’re uncomfortable in interviews, rehearse them aloud. Example questions include asking for more information about divisions you’re interested in such as the DUI unit or the Aviation Task Force. Questions should also inquire about future actions such as, “do you need more paperwork?” or “what is the next step in the hiring process?” These questions help expand your knowledge about the organization while exemplifying your genuine interest in the agency. If you find that all of your questions were answered during the interview, it’s acceptable to tell them, “Yes I did have questions about this topic but your explanations during the interview answered these.”

 Don’t waste their time. If you have nothing to inquire about, don’t create filler questions. Many of the questions that come to your head might be answered on the website and you’ll appear to have not researched the organization.

 Dress for the Job you Desire. 

 This is true in both in-person and virtual settings. Wear a business suit with ironed clothes, a centered belt and polished boots. Agency uniforms are important to the presentation of their employees and this concept should be apparent in your wardrobe as well. Remember to have a clean haircut and to shave your face, following the same regulations current employees adhere to. The moral is to not make it difficult for the interviewer to imagine you in their uniform.

 Take and Review Notes. 

 It isn’t unusual for on-duty officers to use a small notepad to take notes. You can do the same during your interview. It never hurts to ask if you can take notes during the interview. Many interviewers allow this proactive behavior. The interviewer controls the conversation and it’s rude to interrupt so jot down your questions, comments and important details about the agency and the hiring process that you can reference at home and during your question-asking time. Taking notes shows your attention when done properly (try to maintain eye-contact as a journalist would), and it also keeps your questions and comments in available for when your next turn to talk.

 Also, don’t underestimate what you learned in the academy. Review your notes and textbooks. Sometimes the oral board is accompanied by a small scenario test and sometimes interviewers will ask hypothetical questions. Refresh your memory on report writing guidelines, laws and crime categories. You may be tested on this knowledge sooner than you expect.

 Confidence and Control. 

 Avoid sounding like Robocop. Rehearse your questions, answers and the important things about yourself you want them to know. Practicing these things can help avoid nervous stuttering and allow for flowing conversation. Let your confidence shine through your answers. When you’re covering your agenda (telling them why you are a great fit for their agency) tell them what lessons in the academy you excelled in. Were you a dead-eye during firearms? Were you the master of vehicle operations? Think of these things ahead of time and be ready to tell them confidently why they should want you.

 Also, this isn’t the point in time to test new vocabulary. Say what you mean in the clearest way possible. Your mastery of vocabulary is only impressive if it is indeed mastered. Speak at a comfortable speed that is easy to comprehend while using words you know and if you find yourself speaking too quickly, pause and then continue. Let yourself relax knowing that they are aware of your nervousness. This means that if you do let your nerves show a little bit, it will be just fine. Take a moment to adjust yourself and continue.

 The oral board is an important step in the hiring process. It puts a face to the name and a personality to the paperwork the agency already reviewed. Let your personality come out during the interview while keeping a professional tone. Take this opportunity to say and show what the application couldn’t. Harness your desire to earn the position while controlling your nerves by turning your passion into memorable, effective behaviors.

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