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12 Step Plan To Ace Your Interview For Police Chief

12 Step Plan to Ace Your Interview for Police Chief

If a resume is designed to get you to the next part in the hiring process, a well prepared for interview can get you the job.

Your interview is that important.

There is little difference between preparing for a police chief interview and preparing for any other job interview.  The basic principles are the same.  Promotional opportunities within the department where the candidate is currently employed works the same.

This blog post is the first in a three-part series covering this topic.  I will cover 12 critical tasks to master to have a killer interview.  I will provide an “Interview Preparation Checklist” which you can download for free at the end of this series.

Imagine you open up your email one day and find an advertisement for your dream job.  The police chief position you have always wanted.  You spend a considerable amount of time preparing your resume and submit it and wait in anticipation.

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Now, what do you do?

Start preparing for your interview.  I know.  You don’t have one scheduled yet.  However, it is best to start your preparation early.  You never know how much advance notice you will receive for the interview.

It would be a shame if you had six weeks to prepare before you received the good news you were selected for an interview with only three days’ notice.

The best time to start preparing for your job interview is the moment you decide to apply for the job. Click To Tweet

There are two ways you can collate the data and information you collect as you prepare for your upcoming interview.

One is old school and the other is new school.  I have done both.

As you conduct research, you need a place to store all of the information you collect.  The easiest and simplest way is to purchase a notebook, create dividers and group the information you gather together.  Pull the notebook out whenever you have a moment to review the information.

Of course, a notebook is kind of bulky and it is old school.  A great tool I love to use for this purpose, and for all of my daily work, is Evernote.  Evernote is a website, app and google plugin that allows you to capture the information you find on websites and sort it into electronic notebooks and even subdivide the notebooks into notes.

I highly recommend Evernote!

Visit Evernote and sign up for the free, premium, or business version.

Ok.  Enough of that.  Let’s get to the meat and potatoes.


We live in a world today, you can find almost any information you need online.   where almost any information you need can be found online.  For those seeking new job opportunities, this fact is pretty awesome.

Information is king when it comes to interviewing preparation. Click To Tweet

One of the first things to do once you decide to apply for a position is to set up a Google Alert for the department, which will help you keep informed about current events.

A good search for current information coupled with some recent history is very helpful.

What kind of information should you look for?  What questions should you ask?  Let’s take a look at a few typical examples.  This list is not an exhaustive one.

  • Why did the former police chief leave? A retiring police chief after a long and successful career is much different proposition than an indicted police chief.
  • What kind of a relationship does the department have with the community?
  • Have there been any questionable uses of force in recent history?
  • What kind of reputation does the department have?
  • Have there been any recent controversies in the news?
  • What is the department turnover rate?
  • What is the pay range for the position?
  • Who does the police chief report to?
  • What size is the department?

I think you get the idea.  I’m sure you can add many more questions to this list.

Visiting the department website can help you identify important initiatives they are involved in, research the structure of the organization and become familiar with the department in general.

I also believe it is helpful to complete some research about the city you will potentially be employed by.  A search to find out how well the city leaders get along, what big projects they are working on and how well they support the police department are all important facts to know.

Gathering this important information is good, but knowing how to use it is even better.

Gathering information will help inform you about potential questions, allow you to provide facts and observations during your interview that demonstrates the extent of your knowledge about the organization and provide a level of assurance that you are prepared.

If you are an external candidate, this type of research is priceless.  Even if you are an internal candidate, the information you gather might surprise you so don’t discount the value of additional research.

This type of research can be of value also when seeking internal promotions in the organization.


This phrase is often associated with intelligence gathering in the military.  However, it can also be helpful when preparing for a job interview.

Let me provide a word of caution before I go any further.  Gathering human intelligence can be extremely tricky.  If not done properly, it can sabotage your efforts and more importantly, can potentially cost you the job interview or even the job.

Discretion is the key when gathering human intelligence.

Before you ask approach anyone, carefully consider these questions first:

  • If someone involved in the hiring process finds out about my inquiry will it hurt my opportunity?
  • Is the information I am seeking available online?
  • Is the person I want to speak with involved in the hiring process?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then don’t ask your question.  It is not worth the risk.

I am familiar with a police chief candidate who was gathering human intelligence but was overly aggressive.  The candidate asked the wrong person questions seeking privileged information.  Consequently, he did not get the job.

So where is the best place to start?

Start with people you know within the organization with the job opening.  Your goal is to find answers to questions that are not readily available online.  Here are a few examples to stimulate your thought process.

  • What kind of police chief is the department looking for?
  • Are there any big issues facing the department?
  • What kind of relationship does the department have with the political leaders?

Again, I provided this short list to stimulate your thought process.

Once you have exhausted your contacts within the organization, or if you don’t have any, it is time to reach out to others in the area who can offer some insight into the department, the opportunity or any challenges.

Ultimately, your quest is to find information that will help you thoroughly prepare for your interview.


In most cases, the first part of the interview process involves an interview panel.  In a perfect world, it is helpful to know the make-up of the panel ahead of time.  However, it is not the end of the world if you don’t have it.

In my experience, the point of contact setting up your interview will share the names of the members of the interview panel.  In many cases, the members of the interview panel are identified publicly.

Every hiring process is different and the makeup of particular interview panels vary from city to city.

When I interviewed for the police chief job in Marietta the interview panel consisted of the City Manager, a couple of local police chiefs and other department heads.  The make-up of the panel was provided ahead of time.

In another process, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police conducted an Assessment Center, which screened the candidates.  The City Manager led an interview panel made up of several internal department heads.  The names of the members of the interview panel were not provided.

In still another process, there were three separate interview panels.  The first panel consisted of several local police chiefs, other department heads and was led by the HR Director.  The second interview panel was much smaller but carried more weight since the two members of the panel were the police chief’s bosses.  Elected officials made up the third interview panel. The membership of each interview panel was known ahead of time.

If you are from the area, you will likely know some members of the interview panel.  Avoid the burning desire to contact them at all.  This is not a good idea.  Do not do anything that might taint your selection for the position should you get the nod or that might disqualify you.

It is always helpful to know if the person with the hiring authority will be on the interview panel.  In almost every case, you can expect this person to be part of the interview panel at some point.  Sometimes though, this person will not be on the first interview panel.

The point of knowing who will be on the interview panel is not so you can try to influence them.  Instead, it is to help you anticipate questions and prepare appropriate responses.

If a number of police chiefs are on the panel, you can google them and their departments which might provide insight into their hot-button issues or areas of interest.  Other police chiefs speak our language, which can also be helpful.

Finance directors may have budget questions while the HR Manager may be concerned about labor issues or other personnel matters.

From a practical point of view, knowing the names of each member of the interview panel gave me some small level of comfort and reduced the anxiety I was feeling tremendously.

You may or may gain helpful insight by identifying the interview panelists but it certainly won’t hurt you.


Start the assessment of your strengths and weaknesses the moment you read the advertisement for the job.  Continue that assessment until you are either hired or eliminated from the process.

In the early stages of the process, an evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses should be based on the job advertisement.  The greater your strengths align with the advertisement, the better your chances are of success.  The opposite is also true.  The less your strengths align with the advertisement, the more you have to overcome your weaknesses to achieve success.

As you conduct your research digitally and through human intelligence, you will inevitably identify helpful information that you can use to supplement the information you already have from the job advertisement.

You can gain significant insight into the knowledge, skills, and abilities sought for the position by collecting this information.  Then, you can compare the information you gathered against your strengths and weaknesses.

A classic example is many advertisements for police chiefs want a candidate that has experience managing a budget.  If you have experience managing a budget and this is one of your strengths that is great.  When you have no experience managing a budget, then that would be a weakness.

If managing a budget is a strength, talk about it if a question about the budget is asked or respond to a different question since that knowledge could be helpful.

If managing a budget is a weakness, spend time researching the ins and outs of budgeting, review the department’s budget and be prepared to speak knowledgeably about the subject.

A lack of experience can be overcome with knowledge and confidence. Click To Tweet

Managing a budget is just one example.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of conducting extensive research into the department and the position you are applying for.  I also examined the importance of gathering human intelligence in the process.  I stressed the need to identify the members of the interview panel to help you better prepare for the interview.  And lastly, I reminded you that identifying your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the job opportunity and your research will help you prepare responses to questions that will highlight your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

Next week, I will bring you Part 2 of this series.  I will discuss how to prepare potential questions, discuss the advantages of writing out your responses and finish with highlighting the importance of practicing for your interview.

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