12 Step Plan to Ace Your Interview for Police Chief, Part 2.
Now that you have done your research, collected the data and organized the information you are ready to move to the next part of the interview preparation process
5. Prepare Potential Questions
Anticipating potential questions, you may be asked, is a critical part of your interview preparation process. How well you anticipate these questions may be the difference maker in the process.
Some questions are common, while other questions are unique for a particular job opportunity.
Here are a few common questions you may be asked regardless of the job you are applying for.
“Why do you want to be the police chief of this department?”
“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What are the three biggest challenges facing the department today?”
“How would you improve the relationship between the department and the community?”
“What is your leadership style?”
This short list of questions is only a small sample of a much longer list of common questions that may be asked.
After you get some of the most common questions out of the way, it is time to get to the specific ones you identified through your research. The quality of your research is extremely important.
It would be impossible for me to provide examples of all of the potential questions for your unique job opportunity. However, I will try to provide some examples to help get your creative juices flowing.
Previous problems or issues with the budget might lead to this question:
“What kind of experience do you have managing a complex budget?”
A recent controversial use of force might spark these questions:
“How can the department be more transparent when there is a use of force?”
“When should a video of a police use of force be released?”
“Should an officer be allowed to review his or her video prior to completing the report?”
Obviously, the response to a use of force question can be quite controversial. It is important for you to be prepared for a question like this and be confident in your response.
A recent arrest of an officer for DUI might generate this question:
“How would you handle an officer getting arrested for DUI?”
No matter how well you prepare, you will likely have some questions you did not anticipate. I had that happen to me on several occasions.
A City Manager asked me this question during one interview process I was involved in:
“What is your view about officers working part-time jobs?”
I had not anticipated this question! I didn’t realize that the City Manager had had an issue with officers working part-time jobs in a previous city where he had worked.
When faced with a question you didn’t anticipate, take a deep breath and respond with a confident answer. If the question is about a subject you are well versed in this should be easy. However, if you are not as well versed in the topic, keep your response simple and to the point.
In response to my surprising question, I first acknowledged the unfortunate reality that officers have to work part-time jobs. I then stressed the importance of having a strong policy that establishes good quality controls on the part-time job process. The policy should address the number of hours’ officers can work in a week or pay period, limit the locations that can be worked and address how many hours an officer can work in a 24-hour period counting on-duty hours.
My response to this question seemed to be adequate at the time.
One of the most surprising unexpected questions came when I was being interviewed for a Captain position at the Marietta Police Department rather than a police chief job opportunity.
Chief Moody asked, “What is one thing about me you don’t like or that annoys you?”
That question stopped me in my tracks. I really did not know what to say. How honest should I be?
I tried to provide an honest answer but an answer that wouldn’t hurt my chances for promotion.
I told the chief I thought him being consistently late to meetings and making those who have a meeting with him wait sent a message that others were not important. Surprisingly enough, he agreed with me.
Once you have prepared a list of questions, it is time to develop your responses.
6. Write Out Your Best Responses to Potential Questions
How you actually do this is not as important as making sure you do it. So, I prefer to write a complete narrative to capture my response to each question. An equally effective model is to make a bulleted list of points to cover during your response.
If you are writing out a comprehensive narrative, let me provide a word of caution.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to memorize your written narrative unless you can do so flawlessly. When you are being interviewed, your response should be natural and certainly shouldn’t appear to be memorized.
Speaking naturally can be difficult. Execution is key.
The process I have used in the past and recommend is fairly simple and straightforward. Create a numbered list of 15-20 potential questions.
Let me stop here for a second. There will only be 10-12 questions for most police chief job interviews. This seems pretty consistent and true in most situations. This limitation is mainly due to time constraints. Now you may have to go through multiple interview panels with 10-12 questions each time, but you will not likely have to answer more than 10-12 questions in one sitting.
Let’s get back to the list. Once you have your numbered list, spend time coming up with either the bulleted points you want to cover in your answer or your narrative answer for each question.
Developing your answers to potential questions can be a difficult process, which can’t be done in minutes. Instead, it will take hours to do correctly.
Let me provide a word of caution here.
The answers you provide to the questions you prepare must be true and accurate and align with your core beliefs. Responding in a way that will help get you the job but doesn’t reflect who you are is a recipe for disaster.
It would be like committing a bait and switch.If you get the job under false pretenses, sooner or later there is going to be a problem. It is unfair to the city, the police department and for you and your family. Click To Tweet
A couple of quick examples might be helpful.
Questions about immigration or the 2nd amendment can have extreme answers and evoke strong feelings. The city will likely expect their police chief to share similar opinions on these important issues as they do. The worst thing you could do is respond how you know they want you to respond rather than respond true to yourself.
Once your list is complete, the real work begins.
If you like using your smartphone or tablet, save your document as a PDF and carry it with you and when you have time, it is simple to pull it out for a review.
Some people like to organize everything in a notebook. You can carry all of your research, information and of course the potential questions and response with you at all times.
Still, other people like to use a tool like Evernote, which I previously mentioned, to keep everything you need electronically accessible. The great benefit of this method is you can keep a lot of information in one place and access it with a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Regardless of your method, spend hours reviewing and fine-tuning your responses. You are now ready for the next step.
7. Practice Interviewing and Responding to Questions
Now it is time to get real.
If you really apply this step, you will likely prepare more than most of the other candidates you will be competing against for the position.
Practicing your responses to the questions you have prepared is important. Once you are confident in your responses, it is time to enlist an audience to help you.
Start out with a family member first. Family members tend to be less critical and offer lots of encouragement.
As much as possible, simulate the process you expect to go through as a candidate for the position. Walk into the room, introduce yourself and begin answering questions from your spouse, brother or another family member.
Repeat this process until you feel comfortable.
Now for the hard part. Gather a mentor or other colleague you respect and ask them to put you through another round of interview simulations. Whoever you choose, ask them to provide honest feedback and offer suggestions to improve your responses.
After receiving feedback and fine-tuning your responses, you are ready for your interview.
While preparing this blog post, I ran across a great quote that is applicable to this whole process.Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Click To Tweet
This quote is all about preparation.
Once you apply for a job, you could hold your breath and hope for the best. If you are lucky enough to get called in for an interview, it is easy to go through the process flying by the seat of your pants without a plan. However, if you want to give yourself the best chance of success, you must prepare.
If you truly spend the majority of your time preparing for the interview, you would have done everything possible to do well. The results are out of your hands.
In this blog post, we have covered the importance of preparing questions you believe you will be asked, how critical it is to develop your responses to the questions and how practicing your responses in front of an audience will set you up for success.
In next week’s final blog post in this series, I will provide the remaining steps to success on the day of the interview.
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