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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Help, I’ve Got A Promotion Interview!

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You are through to a promotion board. First things first, congratulations and well done! You’ll have already worked hard to pass your promotion exam plus some form of assessment or application to get to this stage. Now you have a hard-won opportunity to progress your career and to convert your leadership aspirations into promotion success.

A promotion board can be a daunting prospect, especially if it’s your first time, but there are lots of things you can do beforehand to ensure that you are match fit on the day. At the very least, spending a bit of time to research the process can be the difference between feeling confident or otherwise on the day.

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” – Richard Branson

“What would you like to cover today?” is a question I might ask at the start of a coaching session. A recurring theme is uncertainty around the interview including questions like these…

What type of interview will I face?

It’s known as a competency, behavioural or structured interview.

How many questions will I be asked?

In a 45-minute interview, you will normally be asked 6 questions.

What kind of questions will they ask me?

You will be asked rear facing questions e.g. “Please give an example of when you made a difficult decision”. Other questions may be forward facing questions e.g. “How will you lead your teams as a newly promoted Sergeant/Inspector?” A good candidate is prepared for and will anticipate both.

 How long do I get to answer?

Once you have been asked a question you have between five and seven minutes to provide a response. If you have prepared effectively you should be able to provide a rounded answer.

What happens if I dry up?

The biggest fear people have is ‘going blank’, or suddenly finding yourself with nothing to say in response to an interview question.

An opportunity to discuss and explore such questions is a valued opportunity to “demystify” the process. With that in mind, the aim of this blog is simply to share a few insights and tips around the interview board process, to inform and encourage you ahead of your opportunity.

 Remember The Board Want You To Do Well!

 “Be inspired, not intimidated.” – Sara Francis

It’s easy to forget that the panel members genuinely want you to do well. They will try to facilitate your best performance, but they will also expect you to have come prepared.

The formality of the interview can sometimes be unsettling. Seeing a “load of scrambled egg” on senior officers shoulders or a straight-faced trio of strangers anticipating your entrance to the interview room can be intimidating.

Alternatively, you may be collected from the waiting area by one of the panel with a warm smile, a handshake and escorted to the interview room for introductions. It’s the luck of the draw.

 Best strategy? Plan for the worst and hope for the best! 

When you walk through the door, it’s the chair’s role to put you at ease. Some are better than others at this. They should introduce the other panel members and explain the process of what will happen. The chair normally starts and the other board members will take it in turns to each ask a couple of questions.

Some people refer to the process as like ‘being on stage’, about to perform to a captive audience. Others liken the experience to ‘being on trial’ for your life!

The one thing not to lose sight of is that your interviewers want you to do well. But let’s also get something clear, it’s your responsibility to anticipate, plan and prepare for this career progression opportunity and to arrive ‘match fit’ on the day, the best version of yourself even if you are met by a dour, stern faced panel.


 “Action expresses priorities” – Gandhi

A successful performance in your promotion interview is likely to be underpinned by the depth and breadth of your preparation. This includes your general ability to talk comfortably and confidently about the role you are applying for e.g. Sergeant or Inspector. Reaching that stage can take time and practice.

There are two very important words that lots of qualified promotion candidates overlook. These are words that no officer wants to hear, especially having just spent time studying successfully for the exam; surely that’s the time to take your foot off the accelerator and to take a nice long break?! After all, the boards will come around next year! Won’t they?

 Those two words by the way are: Start now! 

I’m often contacted for the first time when officers fail a promotion board. Some of the honest responses to the question “What do you believe happened?” include:

“I left it too late”

“I had too much going on”

“I ran out of time”

“Life got in the way”

The bus often arrives then departs, before officers have even thought about buying their ticket. If you don’t prioritise, this fantastic opportunity will simply pass you by.

“It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Paul Bryant

 What’s The Best Way to Prepare?  

 “It’s one thing to prepare, but it’s self-sabotage to delay” – Dan Rockwell

There is no one best way to prepare for a board but understanding the competency framework your force uses for selection processes will certainly be time well spent. Also important is a good awareness of the force mission, vision and values, together with how your personal values ‘fit’. A clear idea of the challenges facing your force, facing policing generally and how your leadership contributions will help tackle these will also be helpful.

It is a real pleasure for the panel when they interview a candidate who is clearly well prepared. A commitment to some meaningful research and homework before your big day will help your confidence and performance massively. There are no guarantees, so simply ask yourself how badly you want this opportunity, then prepare accordingly.

 “It is the possibility that keeps me going, not the guarantee”. -Nicholas Sparks

If you found this blog helpful and you’d like more guidance on promotion, why not download some FREE GUIDES to help you on your way?

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Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper writes expert promotion content to support the development of UK police officers.

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