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Police Promotion: Responding Beyond the Theoretical by Steve Cooper



We have teamed up with Steve Cooper Police Promotion coach to bring you free tools and resources to help with your Police Promotion prep, Steve Cooper is one of the leading police promotion coaches in the United Kingdom.

Thanks to Steve and his company Rank Success is able to offer Police Hour readers free promotion tools that other coaches would charge you for, thanks to our great relation with Steve we are able to offer you this advice, information and valuable police promotion information and advice absolutely free of charge for the Police Hour readers looking for Police Promotion.

The focus of this exclusive editorial feature written by Steve Cooper is the ‘7 Things interview boards also look for in promotion candidates’ is knowledge of the policing environment you aspire to lead in. As a reminder, here are the 7 key traits which police promotion boards inherently value.

  1. Good awareness and understanding of vision or mission
  2. Self-aware, understanding personal values and development areas
  3. Demonstrates awareness of the current policing context
  4. A response that goes beyond the theoretical
  5. Able to evidence leadership impact in & beyond your team
  6. Well-structured and considered responses
  7. Demonstrate strong leadership skills grounded in service delivery

Thing 4: A Response That Goes Beyond the Theoretical

“It’s hard to prove yourself when the substance isn’t there.” – Travis Fimmel

Asking six questions in approximately 45 minutes provides a promotion panel with a snapshot of you. That’s not a lot of time. A promotion panel can only scratch the surface of your potential as a future leader. They do this by asking questions and writing down what you say, whilst listening to how you say it.

Successful promotion candidates have better interview skills, generally resulting from dedicating more time and effort to their interview preparation than others. You need not spend too long to appreciate that promotion panels recognise well-prepared candidates, by the content and delivery of responses to the interview questions posed.

“People rarely travel far enough along the path of self development to realise their potential.” – Sir John Whitmore

I referred in ‘Thing 2’ to the potential board question:

“What have you done to develop yourself or anyone else in the last 12 months?”

Less prepared candidates may provide a superficial response, sometimes even be struggling to grasp the relevance of the question. For example, they might say, “Oh yes, I value my CPD and others around me. I often look for opportunities to learn.”

But to borrow a football analogy, this question is an open goal, a fantastic opportunity to score. Well-prepared candidates who have committed to a depth and breadth of preparation will recognise the opportunity presented and are equipped to respond more comprehensively to it.

Open goal question

So lets look below the surface at how you might prepare and equip yourself…

“If you’re wasting your time by not investing in yourself, that is the greatest waste of all.” – Richie Norton

Sharing the Same Lay-by

Qualifying for promotion often requires months, sometimes even years, of disciplined study. You might then think it unbelievable that vast cohorts of successful individuals make a conscious decision to ‘ease off’ the accelerator afterwards. They graduallygrind to a halt in the months that follow, sharing the same lay-by and similar complacent thoughts:

  • “That’s the exam under my belt”.
  • “I’ve worked hard; I need and deserve a break now”.
  • “There are no promotion boards on the horizon, so I’ll give it a rest and just see what happens”.

Promotion to Sergeant and Inspector can be thought of as a ‘game of two halves’. The ‘half time’ gap between passing the exam and a promotion process arising is where traction towards achieving promotion often dissipates.

“The first step binds one to the second.” – French Proverb

Maintaining momentum via a development plan is important. Yet typically, I speak with lots officers who have done little since passing their exam. This ‘space between’ is significant, a valuable opportunity to work on becoming ‘match fit’ and once there, remain conditioned.

A Double Whammy

“While we are making up our minds as to when we shall begin, the opportunity is lost.” – Quintillian

Qualified officers are frequently under the mistaken impression that you have to have had acting or temporary supervisor experience to progress towards promotion. That is not the case. Many officers pass their promotion interviews without acting or temporary rank experience; you can see plenty of examples here.

In fact, acting or temporary experience is of limited value if you are not exploiting the learning opportunity. For example, your daily activities of attending incidents, managing resources and making decisions can be aligned to the personal qualities, competencies or behaviours you will be assessed against for the next rank.

It’s a double whammy if you are not doing this, because not only are you passing up the daily opportunity to develop a broader understanding of the role, the impact only hits when you are sat in front of the panel and realise you are out of your depth.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops… until your promotion interview.”

OK, so I adapted the above quote a little, but you get the point.

If you are reading this now, with OSPRE in the bag and you still aspire to promotion, one action you can take right now is to ensure that you have a personal development plan; even if it’s only some purposeful reading for now.

Whether you perform acting/temporary duties or otherwise, make notes as part of your development plan. You could use the following questions to help you prepare valuable evidence, providing content for both your application and interview responses:

  • What did you deal with? – (Be specific)  – The Position or situation?
  • What was your responsibility? – (Be specific) – Your task or objective?
  • How did you do it? – (Be specific) – Your actions?
  • Why are you doing it? – (Be specific) – What’s the point?
  • What was the outcome? (Be specific) – What was better? Improved? Avoided? Learned? Changed?

This is a great way to be proactive and build momentum ahead of both a promotion selection process. When it comes to the application or board, you can then align it into a memorable and clear structure, for example Problem, Action, Result (PAR). So let’s look at a detailed example from my “25+ Examples of What Works” guide for PC to Sergeant candidates…

Structuring your evidence: An example

This evidence by a neighbourhood Constable was used successfully towards achieving promotion to Sergeant. Notice how it aligns closely with the Policing Professional Framework (PPF) for the role of Sergeant and the competency descriptor for Public Service.

Here’s the framework guidance:

[Demonstrates a real belief in public service, focusing on what matters to the public and will best serve their interests. Understands the expectations, changing needs and concerns of different communities, and strives to address them. Builds public confidence by talking with people in local communities to explore their viewpoints and break down barriers between them and the police. Understands the impact and benefits of policing for different communities, and identifies the best way to deliver services to them. Develops partnerships with other agencies to deliver the best possible overall service to the public].

And here’s the officer’s evidence:

“As ‘Anytown’ Neighbourhood Team Leader (NTL), I dip sampled crimes and incident logs identifying an increase in crime and Anti Social Behaviour (ASB). My objectives were to investigate crimes and alleviate ASB to raise resident’s confidence.

To gain better understanding of underlying issues, I requested analytical work from police/council. I arranged meetings with partner/voluntary agencies to develop/implement a clear plan to improve areas, setting out responsibilities under Crime and Disorder Act. I represented the organisation at multi agency, residents and Council meetings. I ensured SMT understood the actions being taken and resources required. Community intelligence identified offenders. I directed resources to key areas to engage directly with the community, conducting surveys to identify specific issues of concern, signposting agencies where suitable. As areas were socially deprived I prioritised tasking of resources to target key locations and instigated preventative educational inputs on impact of ASB and crime to schools. I secured funding from partner agencies to install security fencing, CCTV and improved lighting/highway furniture. Due to my positive influence the local community organised a clean up operation, taking pride in improving their neighbourhoods. I respectfully challenged Housing Association Senior Managers, successfully instigating a change in policy across the region, which reduced community tension and increased public confidence. I arranged a community meeting with key representatives from Council, Housing Association and Fire Service to address specific community issues being raised, in a transparent and publicly accountable way. I arranged for media to be present to highlight positive news stories and encouraged community engagement for long-term positive outcomes.

Over a six-month period, analysis shows an overall reduction (40%) in ASB and criminal damage across Any-town. The ASB reduction is sustained. Community feedback reflected that police/council were now coordinating locally. Surveys confirm a significant increase in public confidence”.

Insight: This is an officer who clearly understands the relevant drivers of public confidence, including the effective investigation of crime, alleviating anti-social behaviour in communities and telling the public what police and partners are doing. There is a clear focus on delivering the best service possible to the community with available resources.

Partnership working

A gift to yourself

Now imagine the same officer is asked in a subsequent promotion interview:

 “Please provide an example of when you have worked in partnership to solve a community problem?” (or a variant of this question).

You can see that preparing specific evidence serves as very helpful content to practice interview responses. Even if you are not required to submit an application in your force selection process, preparing your evidence in this way is a gift to yourself.

It’s a great use of your time, allowing you to pick up insights into yourself and the process, to align your evidence to your promotion framework and importantly it’s an investment that will pay dividends because you will be more equipped to deliver informed and considered responses in the interview.

Take Action; it’s always an option.

If you found the above example helpful, why not download a digital guide NOW, for example…

  • 25+ detailed, structured examples of good evidence and what works in promotion applications
  • Bespoke ‘Guide to Passing Your Police Promotion Interview.’

Good candidates may answer the question. Better candidates are able to add context and/or make wider links. The BEST candidates as alluded to earlier, prepare gifts for themselves beforehand.

Do the work and as with James’ feedback below, you could even feel comfortable in showing the board your personality and passion, whilst delivering meaningful responses, not just theoretical! 

“Gave me a different way of thinking. I realised that I couldn’t rely on delivering evidence in a robotic and systematic way. This was fortunate as the board was not like that at all and turned into more of a conversation for which I had answers prepared…. I also felt comfortable showing my personality and passion, which I might otherwise have kept back.” – James, A/Sgt, passed Sergeants Promotion board

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Promotion: Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It



Promotion Interviews: Mission Impossible?

 “Mr Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible” – Commander Swanbeck

You are to appear before a panel. Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to identify, secure and assimilate critically important information to respond effectively to their questions. Your actions from today are vital to equipping yourself with the knowledge, skills and attributes you will require. That is all. Good luck.

 Ok, as you’ve probably guessed, I recently went to see Mission Impossible – Fallout, at the cinema.

 It’s as good as all the hype too. Here’s a taster:

Identify and Secure Intelligence

“Intelligence or the lack of it determines the probability of success” – Sun Tsu

 Gathering, verifying and assessing facts and information is the first step in the decision-making process and identifying operational threats and risks. Asking questions to do that are key. Good leaders don’t have all the answers but do ask great questions.

 What do you know? What do you need to know? Where and how will you get the information required?

 Here’s another: “What kind of promotion interview will you face?”

 As a coach/mentor, I’ll often ask candidates this question because responses can be revealing. A tremendous amount of uncertainty around this topic is not uncommon. Many candidates unwittingly ignore or overlook existing open source intelligence.

“You don’t understand what you are involved in” – Ilsa Faust (MI6)

“I don’t know” is a common reply. And that’s ok because it’s a great place to start.

 As a leader, manager and supervisor you won’t always have all the facts and it’s a helpful question to identify knowledge gaps, raise awareness and to build confidence. Being comfortable with uncertainty is also an expectation for leadership development given today’s vortex of change.

 When asked in the film how he was going to solve the problem at hand, agent Hunt replies:

 “I’ll figure it out.”

 Adopting an intelligence-based approach is a tried and tested method to help you figure out how to perform well in your force selection process – and accomplish your mission of securing promotion.

There are a variety of knowns and unknowns involved and many individuals are simply unaware that a great deal of useful information is freely available, hidden in plain sight! I encourage officers to build and develop an intelligence picture of what is known.

“Maybe it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you while you’re frantically searching for it” – Susane Colisanti

 Actionable Information 

“Information about the package is as important as the package itself” – Frederick W. Smith

* * * Impossible Missions Force (IMF): 13 Point Intelligence Report  * * *

  • You will face a competency interview. This is also known as a structured or behavioural interview.

  • You need to understand this because it means you will be asked questions in a certain way.

  • In means also that any answers you provide should be structured. This will help you to score. Different structures exist. You need to choose one you feel comfortable with.

  • Any selection test for promotion including this interview will be assessed against a competency framework.

  • Different competencies may be tested more than once during a selection process, so develop your understanding of the assessment framework. You’ll be operating blind if you don’t.

  • You will be asked six to eight questions. Some will be forward facing questions. Others will be rear facing.

  • You’ll have between 45 minutes and 60 minutes to persuade and influence the panel that you can do the job.
  • Make it easy for them to choose you. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

  • All agents should know. Those days of ‘winging it’ or flying by the seat of your pants – are long gone.

  • Prevailing in this situation is likely to be underpinned by your ability to talk comfortably about the role; the challenges you’ll face and how you believe you can meet them.

  • A demonstrable understanding of vision, mission and shared values are important.

  • The depth and breadth of your preparation will be apparent to those charged with making the decision to promote you.

  • The panel’s role is to promote the best available people. Start now.

***This report will self-destruct in five seconds ***

 Once you’ve acquired timely, accurate and actionable information as outlined above you’ll need to increase your focus, up your energy and activity levels to make full use of it.

Making the jump from where you are to where you want to be, requires an effective plan and action! A digital Toolkit could help you leap to another level. Heightening awareness as you get nearer to the prize can be a nail-biting experience. You may need to fight harder, change gear or increase your speed.  

“Phoenix, I have eye on the prize. Do you copy?” – Ethan Hunt

 Achieving promotion can sometimes seem like Mission Impossible. However, hundreds of officers are taking covert action using open source information, which enables them to report back successfully:  “Mission accomplished”.

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Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You



A determined Sergeant inspired me to write this blog. He first made contact with me because he had been unsuccessful in previous attempts at promotion to Inspector in his own force. I’ll come back to this later…

There’s no easy route to acquiring or developing good interview skills. It takes time, perseverance and commitment. The good news is that you can massively enhance your chances of success with some smart working. Because of the promotion processes are a competition, it means you must become the best version of you.

A strong performance in your promotion interview is likely to be underpinned by your ability to talk comfortably: Talking about the role you aspire to, your workforce mission, vision and shared values; together with enthusiasm and a clear idea of what you will do with your new stripes or pips going forward.

 Begin With the End in Mind

 “Visualise this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

To make it easy for the panel to pick you from others, aim to be so good that they can’t ignore you. This is in your power. Take a few moments to visualise your promotion interview. Ask yourself these questions and write down your responses.

  1. What impression do I want to leave the panel with when I leave the room?
  2. What do I want them to think?
  3. What needs to happen for that to be the case?

Visualising success ahead of your promotion opportunity helps lay a mental foundation for managing your interview responses. Thinking through potential questions and responses develops self-awareness and incrementally builds your personal confidence. However, it’s not a one-off. You need to work at this over time.

 Your Attitude

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each day and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better” – John Wooden

Your attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents your degree of like or dislike for something. It is your ‘state of readiness’ to respond in a characteristic way to a concept or situation. It is the dynamic element in your behaviour, the motive (reason) for activity e.g. Why are you doing this?

The good news is that your attitude is a choice. It can be changed through persuasion. It is generally a positive or negative view of a thing or event. Always remember that you are free to choose your attitude.

“The last of human freedoms is the power to choose one’s attitude to a given set of circumstances” – Victor Frankl

What attitude have you chosen?

 Growth Mindset

 “When the world says give up,hope whispers, tryone more time.” – Unknown

Have a look at the differences between fixed and growth mindsets, as described by the psychologist Carol Dweck.

The following also lays the concept out nicely in a graphic designed by the theorist Nigel Holmes.

Dweck states that a passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it is not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. Individuals with the growth mindset find success in doing their best, in learning and improving.

What do you recognise in your own mindset?

A Triple Whammy…

“Some people don’t like competition because it makes them work harder, better” – Drew Carey

Aspiring officers who have previously experienced failure often contact me. As a coach/mentor, I believe in the potential of every individual.

I mentioned earlier that I had been inspired to write this blog by a Sergeant, who had been unsuccessful in promotion selection processes in his force. We spoke on the phone and it was clear that he still possessed a positive attitude.

Although he was disappointed by previous setbacks, his growth mindset, self-belief and reserves of resilience were all factors that made him want to try again. But this time he decided to approach things slightly differently. I’ll let him tell the story:

“I applied for promotion three times with my force and was unsuccessful each time. From wanting to give up and thinking it may not be for me, I attended the Rank Success promotion Masterclass, where I got to grip with how and what I needed to do. I tried one final time applying for mutiple advertised Inspector vacancies in three different forces. Every force had different application processes (A “Why Me & Why Now” Letter, an online application and a standard application).

“I was successful in all three paper sifts that followed and was invited to interviews/assessment centres. Rank Success eBooks helped me prepare for my presentations, briefings and formal interviews.”

I went from 3 Failures to 3 Passes!

“I passed all three-promotion boards with flying colours coming top in two processes. A choice of three forces! I wish I could take all the positions offered but have to decide where is my career best suited!”  –

Deepak recently (Passed THREE Inspectors processes at once!)

What happened for this to be the outcome?

When you begin with the end in mind,‘ Be so good they can’t ignore you, becomes a mindset. It raises the bar from day one. I encourage all my clients to aim that high.

Successful candidates often tell me that they put more effort, time and commitment into preparing for their interview than anything they have ever prepared for before. As a result, they feel more aware and confident. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard!

Ask yourself  How much do I want to succeed?

Am I prepared to do the necessary work to perform to the best of my ability when it matters?

Life is a series of choices. You can choose your mindset. You can choose to start now.

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, Rank Success can help you prepare effectively. Why not download a FREE guide & start today?

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If You Don’t Believe in Yourself, Why Should Anyone Else?



 “Your success depends mainly on what you think of yourself and whether you believe in yourself  William J. H. Boetcker 

 Our relationships, abilities and possibilities are influenced by our beliefs about them. These beliefs can be empowering but amongst them we all have some limiting beliefs and thoughts. 

 These are the powerful thoughts that limit action, that stop you moving forward. Some are as a result of social conditioning, often from childhood and act as your very own filter of reality, affecting how you see and experience the world. These limiting or negative beliefs are also invisible. They hold you back from achieving your true potential. 

 As the owner of these thoughts and beliefs you can choose to get rid of them. You can do this through raising your awareness and prove them false. Sometimes described as stinking thinking, here are some examples. 

  • All the wrong people get promoted

  • It’s a waste of time

  • I don’t have enough experience

  • It’s not a fair process

  • There’s no point in me applying

  • I’m too old

  • Others have a better chance than me

  • I’m not good enough

  • I’m too young

  • I don’t have the time

  • There are no opportunities

 You can identify and acknowledge your self-limiting or negative beliefsBeing completely honest with yourself is a starting point. Everyone has them. At least one! 

 Write them down. Make them visible.

Out In The Open

“Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will” Zig Ziglar

Once they are out in the open, one way of dealing with these thoughts is to reframe them. Reframing is a technique for altering negative or self-defeating thought patterns by deliberately replacing them with positive conscious self-talk. It’s about changing your perception and generating new options.  

For example: “I don’t have enough time” when reframed becomes “I prioritise things that are important to me”.

Here are some more:

A Thinking Partner

“Our thoughts are shaped by our assumptions and sometimes those assumptions are just plain wrong” Cara Stein

Coaches are sometimes described as a thinking partner. Supporting and respectfully challenging the thinking of individuals who aspire to promotion is something that I love doing.

Identifying stinking thinking and then reframing it helps with getting the approach right going forward. It’s a valuable tactic and one that can help build confidence.

I hear lots of aspiring promotion candidates using the term ‘if I’m successful” when talking about opportunities ahead. That’s some stinking thinking right there!  It’s a subconscious barrier. It reflects inner doubt, lack of self-belief and can prevent you from presenting the best version of yourself during a promotion selection process.

Reframing can be a powerful enabler.  Here’s a brief insight from Steve, a Detective Sergeant, prior to successfully achieving his goal of promotion to Inspector:

“The positive mind set you kept me in was very good for me…You often corrected me from saying ‘if’ I pass to ‘when’ I pass, which had an impact psychologically on my preparation and actually made me feel you were keeping me on track. Compared to a previous unsuccessful interview, I felt completely different and more relaxed. Where I was unsure… a quick chat put me back in the positive thinking area again. There were a few times you did that”

Reframing “if” (stinking thinking) to “when” (positive thinking) helps tremendously in visualising a successful outcome. As Henry Ford puts it: 

“If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right”

Finally, if you are preparing ahead and would like something to trigger and support your thinking, here’s a FREE 50 page downloadable guide: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’

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