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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:
- Good awareness and understanding of vision or mission
- Self-aware, understanding personal values and development areas
- Demonstrates awareness of the current policing context
- A response that goes beyond the theoretical
- Able to evidence leadership impact in & beyond your team
- Well-structured and considered responses
- Demonstrate strong leadership skills grounded in service delivery
Thing 6: Promotion Interview Ahead? Don’t Let Al Capone Get You
“Be precise. A lack of precision is dangerous when the margin for error is small.” – Donald Rumsfeld
A police promotion interview is arguably the most important element of a promotion selection process. This post is about getting the structure right. Good structure allows the panel to witness your communication skills and abilities first hand.
The focus of this 6th blog in this series of ‘7 Things Interview Boards Also Look for in Promotion Candidates’ is well-structured and considered interview responses.
The good news is that the necessary skills and abilities can be learned and developed. Unsurprisingly, those who pay attention to this are candidates who tend to stand out. Indirectly, the board members are also likely get an appreciation and impression of your attitude and prior commitment to preparation. They may even ask, “What have you done to prepare?”
The board want to know:
- Are you a good risk?
- Do you have the right skills to take the substantive position?
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Do you act and speak as a leader, supervisor and manager?
‘Well structured and considered’ hints at a level of preparation that goes beyond simply turning up on the day, hoping all goes well and ‘winging it’.
Avoid Al Capone
Typically you will be asked around half a dozen questions in a promotion interview.
If you prepare sufficiently, you’ll be better equipped to respond effectively. If you don’t prepare, you run the risk of defaulting to the ‘Al Capone’ approach.
This is where you find yourself ‘machine gunning’ your words in a scattergun, indiscriminate or haphazard way, hoping you are saying the right things. But inside you may secretly be wishing you had made more of an effort to prepare yourself.
The opposite approach is silence. Having lots to say, but nothing will come out because you are stuck: ‘Speaker’s block’ if you like. Nerves get in the way and the words just don’t seem to flow. Incidentally, this is one of the biggest fears expressed when it comes to interviews. A commitment to some smart preparation can avoid these shortcomings and support you in developing a more confident approach.
The board members will be writing down a summary of what you say. Time spent considering how you might respond is often the difference between success and failure. It also boosts your confidence, because you become more familiar with what is expected.
Sshhhh: Take a moment…
“Speak in haste, repent at leisure”
Just because you have been asked a question by the board, that doesn’t mean you have to respond in a nanosecond. It’s important to listen first.Take a moment to register the question. Listening is a leadership and communication skill and it’s something that can be developed as part of your preparation. Good candidates are tuned into that.
Once you are clear about what it is that you have been asked, you may want to consider a short ‘opening statement’. This is a precursor to your main answer. It’s one way to buy yourself a little bit of extra thinking time, whilst still considering your main response. An opening statement is something I encourage all candidates to consider and it’s an approach that seems to work quite well.
You can see how an opening statement might be used in the example response featured below.
Structure, Structure, STRUCTURE!
“I thrive in structure. I drown in chaos.” Anna Kendrick
Structuring your response supports a professional delivery by keeping you focused on what you are saying and the order to how you are saying it. There are various structures you can choose so the important thing is to find one that works for you. Using structure supports your confidence, which in turn helps you relax and more easily convey your appealing credentials.
The following feedback from one of my clients, David, helps demonstrate the value of using structure…
“In my board I used STRUCTURE STRUCTURE STRUCTURE. The biggest boost I felt as I walked through the door was confidence in my preparation. This allowed me to relax relatively given the situation. As I relaxed, I felt my answers flowed and I was able to display passion and commitment. I am overjoyed at having attained the rank of Inspector”
One structure you might use is ‘STAR’. It is well known and used widely. It stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It’s a commonly used aid to help ensure that your verbal responses include the necessary information the board need for scoring. STAR can be adapted, but note it doesn’t ‘fit’ all questions or scenarios, such as those which do not require an example.
“By stretching yourself beyond your perceived level of confidence you accelerate your development of competence” – Michael Gelb
What you say is important. The dictionary tells us that ‘competence’ means the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. That’s what the board are looking to find out about you. Competencies communicate HOW the organisation wants people to behave in certain roles. Therefore the main ‘content’ of your responses will need to reflect the relevant competency or personal quality that each question alludes to.
This is where it pays dividends to do some homework on the frameworkyour force uses for promotion, e.g. the Policing Professional Framework (PPF), Metropolitan Leadership Framework (MLF) or the Competency and Values Framework (CVF).
I encourage my clients to not just know the framework, but also to understand it. A cursory read through is not enough. Becoming familiar with the competencies being assessed and being able to explain them, at least in summary, is a professional approach. Better performing candidates make that commitment to themselves. Once you have an understanding of the competencies, you’ll be able to verbalise and ‘make links’ to important issues including the role, mission, vision, values, adding value to your response.
Note: Some forces may provide the candidate with a hard copy of the questions at the start of the interview. Whilst that may make things easier in some respects, only well prepared candidates are likely to be able to exploit any potential this may offer.
Delivery – So what DOES an effective response look like?
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shaw
Using STAR as the structure, you can see what an effective response might look like in the following example. This example was used successfully as part of achieving promotion to Sergeant. It’s a Constable to Sergeant level question, where the competency being assessed is Public Service from the Policing Professional Framework (PPF).
Here’s the PPF 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].
Here’s the question:
“Please give an example of how you have built public confidence within the communities you serve”.
Pause: Let the panel members see you are thinking about & considering the question! And deliver…
Opening statement: “As Temporary Sergeant I am currently responsible for chairing meetings with partners, including council officials, housing providers and youth services. I know that alleviating antisocial behaviour in communities is a key driver of public confidence”.
Situation: “An increase in complaints arose recently because youths were engaging in ASB near homes occupied by vulnerable residents requiring repeated calls for service”.
Task: “My aims were to reduce demand and restore resident’s confidence”.
Actions: “Taking into consideration available resources, I implemented a proactive operation to tackle the problem. I utilised Police Community Support Officers supported by Special Constables. I considered a local dispersal order obtained via my Inspector, allowing officers to legally remove youths from areas. I personally briefed officers, focusing upon key offenders. I instructed that reports concerning enforcement action were to be submitted so I could follow up appropriate referrals. I spoke with partners arranging for warning letters to be issued. Throughout the operation I considered victims, partners and local residents by updating them to build trust/confidence in my commitment to resolve long term problems”.
Result: “Analysis of this operation over a two month period showed a 50% reduction in calls for service. Residents acknowledged improvements individually and collectively at community meetings and further updates were published using social media for wider community impact. Utilising Special Constables for proactive policing in this way contributed to their collective duty hours being the highest across the area. My debriefing identified learning around future working practices for sharing joint agency resources more effectively, which I am currently developing”.
- The board may ask ‘supplementary questions’ to any main question. This is a means to ‘probe’ and get all the information required for scoring e.g. they may ask additionally, “What did you consider?” “What was the outcome?”. This can also be a way to encourage or support a nervous candidate who may have missed out some detail and who just needs a ‘nudge’ to connect with the rest of the information. The board want you to do well and this is a legitimate way help you get into your ‘flow.
- The above is one example of what a well structured and considered response looks like. If you want to know what one sounds like and feels like, you’ll need to work through your own evidence and examples. Try it! If you don’t have any examples of your own to hand read this one out loud. Hear how you sound. Speaking normally it takes about two minutes. That’s a great start, but practising will fine tune your confidence and delivery. So don’t let Al Capone get you!
All successful candidates have one thing in common: They took action.
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