Interviewing Tips - Verifying And Probing Questions

Verifying Questions

After reviewing your paperwork, the interview will usually begin with personal data questions. These are usually verifying questions designed to make sure the information they have before them is accurate. They may ask you about your current address and telephone number. They may inquire about your schooling and your current employment. These are questions you should have no problem answering.

Probing Questions

After completing the initial verifying phase of the interview, the panel will then begin to ask probing questions. These questions are designed to learn more about you. There are several areas the panel will cover. They may question you about these areas in any order they choose. The following are some standard questions that you may be asked:

What do you know about their agency or department?

If you go into the interview not knowing anything about this particular job, it makes you look bad. The interviewers will ask themselves, Why would this person apply with us when he or she does not know anything about us? Lacking this knowledge makes it look like you are applying with any agency just to get your foot in the door. Even if this is true you do not want to give the appearance that you will use this agency as a stepping stone to a career with another agency. You do not have to know everything about this agency. However, take the time to read up on this agency. Prepare yourself for this question.

Why do you want a career in law enforcement?

If you have always wanted to be a police officer since you were a little kid, then tell them that. Of course, what they really want to know is specifically why do you want to go into law enforcement? If you tell them you want to kick butt and arrest people, you will not pass the interview. Tell them what it is about law enforcement you find attractive. Maybe you like investigative work and would enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out what happened or who did it. Emphasize the high moral standards you have. Protecting your community is something you would like to do.

The panel may also ask why you want a job with their specific agency or department. Do not tell them you always wanted a job with them. Do not tell them they are the best agency even if you feel that way. They will not view your answer as sincere. To them, it looks like you are saying whatever you need to say to get the job. In this case, flattery will get you nowhere. You should tell them what you like about their agency. If you have heard good things about their department, then tell them that. If you know someone who works for them, you can probably mention their name. Tell them that this person had good things to say about them. Be honest but do not try to snowball them. After all, these are police officers that are interviewing you.

Have you applied to any other law enforcement agencies?

The reality is you should apply with every agency you are interested in. Putting all of your eggs in one basket greatly limits your chances of getting into law enforcement. Do not be afraid to answer this question. Tell them every agency you have applied with. They may even ask you what your hiring status is with these other agencies. This does not make you look bad. It shows you are determined to get into law enforcement.

What are your goals?

Usually this refers to your goals in law enforcement. However, they may ask you about your goals in life. The key is to give them some specific goals which are obtainable. Saying that your goal is to be the best police officer or agent that you can be is too vague. Is your goal to be the Director or Chief? This may be your goal and one day you may achieve that status. However, at this point in time, you should start with smaller goals. Tell them your first goal is to get into law enforcement. Your second goal may be to join a specialized field within the department. Perhaps you want to be on the SWAT team or serve as a canine officer or become a supervisor. If you are able to articulate your goals, this makes you a more desirable candidate.

What qualities do you possess?

This question may also be asked in other ways such as, What are your strong points? or What assets will you bring to this agency? This is your chance to brag about yourself. Everyone has good qualities. Tell them what characteristics you possess that will help you in your job performance. There is a big difference between articulating your strength and boasting. State things as matter-of-fact and avoid embellishing. If you were in a supervisory position, make clear your ability to manage people. Avoid statements such as: Everyone likes me or Everyone knew how well I did this. State your strengths as measurable or documented things. Such statements would be: There was a low turn over during the time I was a supervisor or My boss gave me additional responsibilities. Being liked is an admirable trait but showing your ability to perform is more important. Take some time before the interview and think about your strong points.

What traits do you need to improve upon?

After asking you about your qualities, expect them to ask you about the areas you feel you need to improve. You are not telling them that you are weak or terrible, but you are admitting there are things you could strengthen. This is not the time to air your personal laundry. Choose one or two items, state them and state how you are working to improve them. If you don't mention anything, then you are portraying yourself as being perfect and the panel will feel that you are not being truthful.

What is your employment history?

The panel will probe into your work history. They will look at the duties you performed in your previous jobs. Share with them any supervisory responsibilities you held. You should mention any accomplishments you had or recognitions you received. Don't fret if your work history consists of minimum wage jobs. You can still show them you are a dependable worker who will get the job done.

If you have worked several jobs, they will ask you why you left one job for another job. Be truthful in your answer. If you left because the new job paid more money or because you did not like what you were doing, then tell them that. If you were fired from a job, they will inquire as to why you were terminated.

If you have just graduated from college and have not yet joined the work force, you probably still have a work history. You should talk about any summer jobs you had, or part-time jobs you had while in school. The panel is looking for reliability. Someone who arrives to work on time and gets the job done. Someone who does not abuse sick leave and has no problems taking orders from a superior.

Tell us about your military service.

If you were in the military, the panel will ask you about your time in the service. They will want to know which branch you served in, what was your highest rank, and what were your duties and responsibilities. If you saw combat, you should mention it to the panel. They will also want to know what type of discharge you received. They may ask you why you left the military.

If you received a medical discharge, the panel will explore this. They will want to know what percentage is your disability. They will also inquire as to the specific nature of your disability. You will need to show that you can perform the full range of duties required of a law enforcement officer.

Are you currently participating in any type of personal fitness program?

Physical fitness is one of the key attributes of a good police officer. The job may require you to chase a suspect, forcefully apprehend a subject or defend yourself from an attacker. These occurrences do not happen every day, but you must be physically prepared for them. The job of a police officer can be very stressful. Stress can lead to several ailments including heart disease. Studies have shown that a body that is in good physical condition is better prepared to handle stress. Therefore, law enforcement agencies are looking for individuals who have developed a healthy and fit lifestyle.

From your general appearance, the panel will be able to assess to a certain degree your physical condition. You will want to provide them with more detailed information on your current level of fitness. You do not have to be a person who works out everyday performing all kinds of cross training exercises. Even if your exercising program has been limited, tell them what you have been doing. It shows them that you care about yourself, and you are doing something to stay in shape. If you have not been exercising, then it would be wise to begin a doctor-approved program. Not only will this help you at the interview, but it will also help you in other stages of the hiring process.

Have you ever been involved in a motor vehicle accident or received a speeding ticket?

You can be sure they will run a computer check to see if you have had any motor vehicle violations. This is one example of where your ability to tell the truth will be verified. Just because you were ticketed for speeding, illegal parking, or for an accident does not mean you are immediately disqualified from obtaining a position with them. Every agency will accept a person who has minor infractions. Nobody is perfect. The agency may have a certain number of violations they will accept. If you exceed the set number, then you are disqualified. For example, four or more speeding tickets in the past two years may be unacceptable. Each agency usually sets the standards they deem appropriate.

What they are looking for is a pattern of deviant behavior. You are applying for a job which enforces the law. If you have demonstrated that you continually break the law, no matter how minor the violation, they are not going to hire you. The other concern is that a police officer spends a great deal of time in a motor vehicle. They want to make sure you can properly handle a vehicle and that you are not going to get into an accident.

Have you ever been arrested?

As with your driving record they will run a criminal history through the National Crime Information Center to see if you have a criminal record. Nearly every police agency will not hire you if you have been convicted of a felony charge. A misdemeanor conviction does not necessarily disqualify you for the job. They will inquire as to what type of sentence you received. They will ask you about the details of the case. If this was something you did as a juvenile, then share that with the panel. Their concerns are whether or not this is the only time you were caught. If you were arrested but the charges were later dropped or you were found not guilty, they will question you concerning the charges. Were you truly innocent or did you get off on a technicality? Be prepared for them to inquire about any contacts you had with the police. Maybe you were not arrested but were you detained for questioning?

Do you drink alcohol?

Moderate drinking is acceptable. What they are looking for are those people who drink excessively. Too much drinking can lead to absence from work, poor work performance, bad health, and financial troubles.

Have you ever used an illegal drug?

If you are currently using any illegal drugs, then you will not pass the interview. You cannot break the law while at the same time seek a position which enforces the law. You should openly admit to any previous drug usage. Each agency has certain parameters as to the type of drug and the amount of usage they will accept. If you fall outside of these parameters, there is nothing you can do but apply with another agency.

If you smoked a joint a few times in high school or college, admit to it. This does not necessarily disqualify you. As long as the panel believes this was an infrequent occurrence in your past, and that you are now a responsible adult, you should pass this portion of the interview.

Have you ever sold illegal drugs?

If you have ever sold drugs, don't count on getting hired.

Are you currently in any financial debt?

Just because you have an outstanding balance on your credit cards, a car loan, a student loan, and/or mortgage payment does not mean you wont be hired. Most people have borrowed money to pay for the more expensive things in life. What they want to know is if you are credit worthy. A person who is not capable of paying his bills may not be a dependable employee. If you have accumulated a large amount of debt on your credit cards, this too may disqualify you. Accumulating large amounts of unsecured debt shows that you have exercised poor judgement and may be a risk.

Do you have any medical restrictions which would prevent you from performing a full range of duties?

The panel will probably question you about your overall health. They will ask if you are currently taking any medications. They may inquire as to what your vision is. They want to make sure you are physically fit for the job.

Are you willing to take a (drug, medical, psychological, fitness) test?

All they are looking for is a yes answer. If you add anything to your yes response or you respond with a no, then you open yourself up for additional questioning.

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