Interview Prep

Mock Interview Sessions - Now Available

PolicePrep offers a mock interview session with a former police recruiter. You will receive a one-hour session conducted over the phone to help you prepare. Our specialist has conducted hundreds of interviews on the job and he will help make sure that your personal answers will satisfy the competency requirements for each question that is asked. This service is contracted out and costs $147. To sign up for a session, simply give us a call.

Phone: 1-888-322-0012

Interview Video & PDF

The Interview

It is important to recognize that police services are looking for the best people for the job and will not try to consciously confuse you.

At this stage it is your interpersonal and communication skills that will help you land a job with the police service. The interviewer is looking for someone who is competent, likeable and who fits in with the organization’s culture, goals, beliefs and values.

What Interviewers Tend to Look For

Friendly Personality

As a police officer, you spend a great deal of time with co-workers. Many days you are sitting beside them in the same car for more than ten hours. Every interviewer will ask themselves whether or not they could spend ten hours in a confined space with you. You must prove that you are likeable enough to do this.

Organizational Fit

Police services have a particular culture and it is important for interviewers to ensure that job applicants will fit into that culture. Suitability for the force includes a willingness to work shift work and overtime if required, give up your days off if you are needed for court, and an ability to function well as a member of a team. There is a list of other competencies outlined in the Resume Section.

It is important not to pretend to be something you’re not. If you feel you wouldn't fit in with a police culture, then it is probably best for both you and the organization that you seek another career. It is important to ask these questions of yourself. Once in the interview stage, you should be confident that you would fit in with the culture.

Capable and Professional

Police services want competent personnel. A great deal of authority and responsibility comes with this job. You must demonstrate that you are capable of handling the responsibility and that you can perform under pressure. Again, it is important to review the core competencies outlined in the Resume Section.

Handling Pre-Interview Stress

Feeling nervous before an interview is perfectly normal. Politicians, entertainers and media personalities feel nervous prior to performances as well. The best way to handle the stress is to be well prepared. Once again, interviewers are not trying to trick you. They want you to succeed; it makes their job easier. Some things you should do before the interview include:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (this goes without saying, but bears repeating).
  • Practice interviewing with friends, using the behavioural questions below.
  • Wear professional clothing (suits or business dress).

You should bring all of the documents that the police service requests of you (transcripts, copy of your resume, portfolio) to the interview along with a pad of paper, a pen, a list of references and a list of questions you may have. Interviewers are often impressed if you have intelligent and researched questions about the job.

How to Influence the Hiring Decision

Understand the Police Service - Local Focus Interviews

It is important to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the police service to which you are applying. This information is available on most websites, or at the stations and employment office of the police service. Some information you should know would include:

  • Rough size of the service (example: Toronto has about 5,000 uniformed officers.)
  • Name of the commanding officer. (example: Raymond W. Kelly - N.Y.P.D. 2002.)
  • Areas of service (example: Peel Region covers Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.)
  • Some major units within the department (mounted unit, traffic unit, ETF, etc.)
  • Community specific issues that affect the police department. For example, New York is a very ethnically diverse community where language barriers may exist. Hamilton is a region, which includes both light and heavy industry. Barrie is a rapidly growing city with a great deal of on-going construction.
  • The challenge that all municipal services are facing (asked to do more with less, biohazard training, threats of terrorism, etc.)

Before any interview, read the local newspaper of the community you are applying to for several weeks so that you are aware of the local issues and concerns.

Understand the Job

You have to understand that the job of a police officer is not just arresting criminals and tending to emergency situations. If asked a question about the daily duties of a police officer, you have to include as many of the roles as possible. Include:

  • Ongoing training
  • Maintaining and cleaning equipment
  • Interacting with the public and developing community relations
  • Filling out paper work and reports
  • Solving community disputes
  • Maintaining public order (which could include enforcing parking laws, illegal demonstrations, etc.)
  • Enforcing the law (both traffic and criminal)
  • Investigating occurences and apprehending criminals
  • Assisting victims
  • Providing medical assistance where required

To prove that you understand the job, make sure that you include these less glamorous duties of a police officer.

Understand Yourself

When you are involved with an interview, it is extremely important to be very familiar with your resume and past situations in your life. You will more than likely encounter questions about your past acts, goals and emotions. The list below includes a number of questions you should be familiar with prior to any interview.

  • How have you prepared for a position as a police officer and what are your qualifications?
  • What are your greatests strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you get along with other co-workers?
  • Why are you pursuing a career as a police officer?
  • What motivates you to perform well?
  • What are your three greatest accomplishments in life?
  • How would you work under pressure?

First Impressions

First impressions are extremely important. Many judgements are made about a person within the first 30 seconds of an encounter (fairly or unfairly). It is your job to impress the interviewer(s). Three basic steps you can take to ensure that you make a great first impression are:

Look Professional Interviewers want to see an applicant who respects them enough to wear the appropriate attire.
Be Confident and Friendly Greet the interviewer(s) with a smile, a firm handshake, a relaxed manner and a friendly "Hello".
Break the Ice Engage in small talk. It can be about anything, (weather, traffic, etc). It doesn't have to be profound. It's meant to put both parties at ease.

Communication and Interpersonal Effectiveness

The interview process is a situation that tests your communication skills. You should be aware of the following:

Eye Contact Maintain eye contact with the person you are addressing. This means looking at the person who is speaking to you. In interviews with more than one interviewer spend an equal amount of time on each person.
Body Language Be aware of your position in your seat and your breathing pattern. Attempt to relax by taking steady breaths. Make sure you sit up straight in an interview. This will exhibit self-confidence and professionalism.
Gestures and Speech Be aware of any gestures you use. Nod and maintain eye contact to indicate that you understand interview questions. Smile when appropriate, and be vocally expressive by alternating your tone where necessary. Be natural and avoid filler words such as “umm” and “like”.

During the Interview

Make an effort to read the interviewers. Ask yourself whether they appear to be straining to follow you, if you are talking too fast (breathe more deeply), or too softly (speak louder). If they are writing frantically, that is usually a good sign, but make occasional pauses so that they can keep up. If you do not understand a question, ask them to repeat or clarify it. If you do not know the answer to one of their questions, admit it. Do not lie during the interview.

Essential Competency Interviews (ECI)

Interviewers may have some questions regarding your resume, or your past experiences. Make sure you are familiar with the content in your resume, and any tasks that you mention in it.

Many police services will use a behavioural-based interview method. This means that they will ask you questions about yourself and will ask you to describe events that have actually occurred in your past (usually in the last two years). You should have stories prepared prior to attending your interview. Some examples of questions you should be prepared to answer include:

Give an example in your life when you:
  • were involved in a stressful situation and how you dealt with it.
  • were extremely angry and how you dealt with it.
  • had to take the role of a leader, and how was the situation resolved.
  • had to work as part of a team and explain what happened.
  • had to resolve a conflict with other parties and explain how you handled it.
  • were up against an important deadline and had to finish the work and explain how you handled it.
  • had a conflict with a supervisor and explain how you handled it.

There are many other behavioural questions, but these are some of the most common examples used by police services.

How to Answer Behavioural Based (ECI) Questions

Each behavioural question is a story about your past. Make sure that the story you tell is relevant, clear, and even interesting (interviewers are only human). Each story should have:

Step One - Understand the Question

This is vital. If you do not understand the question or what the interviewer is asking for, ask them to repeat it or explain it. There is no point giving a very effective answer to the wrong question. For example: one interviewee, asked about Ethnicity, spoke a great deal about Ethics during a police interview. The interviewers probably thought he was an idiot, but he was probably just nervous and didn't hear the question properly.

Step Two - Brief Synopsis

Let the interviewers know what you plan to talk about with a brief outline of the situation, with little detail. This will give you some time to organize your thoughts and the interviewers will understand where you are going. This should take no longer than a couple of sentences.

"I am going to tell you about a conflict I had with my boss while I was working as a personal trainer. It involved a situation where I was told to bill a client at a rate I didn't feel was justified. We dealt with it away from the customer and resolved it in a manner that satisfied myself, the manager, and the client."

Step Three - Full Story

A retelling of the story will demonstrate to the interviewers your competencies in dealing with the situation and your communication capabilities. Interviewers want a clear story, preferably in a chronological sequence. They are most concerned with your feelings during the situation, the actions you took, and the result of your actions. Always finish the story with the results of your actions. Keep these points in mind both while you are preparing for the interview, and when you are participating in it:

  • Answer the question asked.
  • Pause and think - don't rush in with an answer.
  • Pay attention to the pronouns you are using. Interviewers want to know what "YOU" did. Use the pronoun "I" for your actions and "Us" for team actions. DO NOT ALWAYS USE "WE". You will fail the interview.

Bad Example:
"We formed a team to solve the problem. We brainstormed an idea to solve the problem. We then decided on a course of action and began to implement it. We handled task "A" while others handled task "B". We all had individual assignments."
Good Example:
"I formed a team to solve a problem. We brainstormed an idea to solve the problem. I then had to decide the course of action and we began to implement the solution. My friend John and I were responsible for task "A" while another group handled task "B". My particular assignment was to do "X".

  • Ensure you effectively explain the situation, your feelings, your actions and the result.
  • If necessary take pauses to collect your thoughts. There is no need to be constantly talking.
  • Relax and enjoy telling the story. You should know it well, as you actually did it.
  • Give focused and fluid answers.
  • Avoid run-on answers.
  • Give support for claims that are made, if possible.
  • Show evidence of preparation work.

Other Interviewing Methods

While the majority of police services use behavioural interviews, you might also be asked technical or "what if" questions, or questions about your past. Some forces may ask:

  • What would you do if you caught your father drinking and driving?
  • Have you ever smoked marijuana?
  • Could you arrest your brother?
  • Have you ever committed an illegal act?

It is important to give these questions careful consideration and answer honestly. If you tried smoking marijuana when you were in high school, admit it and tell the interviewer why you didn’t continue to use it. For example, you found it hurt the academic performance of your friends, or something along those lines.

"What if" questions are intended to challenge you, to see if you are the type of person who will immediately back down. This is not a trait the police service is looking for. Once you have made up your mind on an issue, stand by it. Interviewers may challenge you but this is part of the process. Just ensure that you give careful thought to the question to avoid defending a weak position. It is acceptable to credit the other opinion, but do not change your decision.

Completing the Interview

Just like the first impression, it is important to give a positive impression during the last few moments of an interview. If you have any questions for the interviewers, the end of the interview is when they should be asked. It is acceptable to have prepared questions written down. As you are leaving the room, smile at the interviewer(s) individually, walk up to each one, look into their eyes, shake their hands and personally thank them for their time.