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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Personal Statements for Promotion Part 1: Written Application

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Many police forces ask promotion candidates to submit a personal statement as part of their promotion process. Vast cohorts of candidates fail the initial stages of a selection process. It happens every year! Aspiring to Sergeant or Inspector rank? If so, you should start on your own personal statement now.

Your force may not ask you directly for a personal statement. It’s more likely to be phrased as follows:

  • Tell us why you are right for the role of Sergeant/Inspector? Why now?
  • What relevant attributes do you possess for promotion to Sergeant/Inspector rank?
  • Tell us about your experience and qualifications that support your immediate promotion to Sergeant/Inspector?

Why You?

“When aspirations are perceived to be achievable, ambition and drive can erase excuses.” – Lori Myers

All the bullet points above are essentially the same. Simply, they are prompts seeking answers to the question: Why You?

Your personal statement helps you ‘sell’ your skills, knowledge and achievements to those considering you for promotion. It’s an extremely valuable opportunity for you, to persuade assessors of your suitability for advancement: in writing.

For many officers, it’s a wasted opportunity. Some are unaware of the importance of personal statements. Others start too late. Another issue is writer’s block. This is because personal statements can be difficult to compile, especially under self-inflicted time pressure of short submission deadlines. Consequently officers produce a simple career summary, instead of doing the following:

  1. Specifically answering the question/s.
  2. Ensuring evidence relates to role functions and behaviours.
  3. Aligning content to the competency framework and shared values.


“In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction. Your life is a product of choices.” – Dr Kathleen Hall

A personal statement is something I encourage every aspiring promotion candidate to commence ASAP. Most importantly, if you are reading this you can get to work on yours now. Besides, it’s in your power and an important choice.

Capturing the essence of who you are, with supporting evidence aligned to specific competencies, can be a difficult task. Doing so in just a couple of hundred words needs dedicated time. If you aspire to promotion now or in the near future, give yourself time. Here’s a two-word plan: START TODAY! It’s probably one of the most significant choices you will ever make on your promotion journey.

Even if your own force doesn’t require applications as part of a promotion selection process:

  • It is still a valuable development exercise.
  • You can also compile a personal statement to support your promotion interview preparation (I’ll cover more on that in Part 2).
  • Done well, your personal statement is a gift to yourself that keeps giving.

Use the three points at the beginning of this blog as a prompt to get started. Because even if it’s just writing down your first draft, you’ll be thinking on the right tracks and it will serve you well.

“General Information”

“The Devil Is In The Detail” – Aby Warburg

At the beginning of your application form, there is usually a “general information” section. You will be asked to answer questions requiring  supporting information about your skills, qualifications or specialist knowledge.

This “general information” section may or may not form part of the application scoring. In any case, it is important to read through and carefully check the detailed guidance provided. Pay just as much attention to these parts! Use the opportunity, conveying what you can within the permitted word limit.

What you write in this section may ultimately influence which role/post you are promoted into. This is because officers are needed where they will be most effective to the force.

Don’t let your focus or standards drop on this section, even if you are informed it will not form part of the scoring. Always take such advice with a pinch of salt, because it still requires professionalism!

By the way, I purposefully put “general information” in inverted commas: Don’t be fooled! They are not looking for general information. They are really looking for specific information, matching you to the role functions and behaviours.

So what does a personal statement look like?

“Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will” – Malcom. S. Forbes

Here’s a typical first section on a promotion application form. This seeks general information on personal motivation and development for promotion to Inspector rank:

How do you meet the requirements for the rank of Inspector? Tell us why you believe you are right for the role now. Your evidence should cover your personal motivation and your development to get to this point. (450 words)

You may notice that these instructions contain four separate points. Breaking them first down into sub headers will help ensure you cover each required element of the question. Here’s the example response:

I believe I am right for the role of Inspector because I possess a proven track record of leadership ability. I am aware of current/future challenges facing policing including greater public scrutiny/expectations, complexity of demand and changes in technology/crime types.

As Temporary Inspector, I have acquired a breadth of operational and leadership experience over two years. Together with strong commitment to shared values, this equips me to lead and support colleagues/partners through changes and delivery of future policing services.

I meet requirements for the role, having supervised constables, sergeants and police staff effectively, whilst performing at middle manager level. I also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for leadership following a stabbing of a male on a bus. My attributes include the required drive, energy and resilience necessary to ensure Anyforce remains a place where people feel safe to live, work and visit.

My personal leadership style is essentially transformational, favouring a supportive/empowering approach to colleagues. I am personable and treat individuals according to their needs. This people focus allows me to establish and maintain professional working relationships and to overcome barriers. For example, recent praise from community leaders for my influence in improving relations with key partners and stakeholders.

I concentrate on setting, maintaining and improving standards around what my teams ‘can’ do. I focus on drivers of public confidence, including the effective investigation of crime (ensuring Sergeants are managing investigations/reviewing workloads and updating victims), alleviating anti social behaviour in communities (allocating resources efficiently/reviewing what works) and delivering the best service possible with the resources we have.

Policing is a vocation for me. It inspires and motivates me towards career progression. I am ready for substantive promotion, but realise my capacity to grow as a leader is linked to my personal development and enabling development opportunities for others. My Continuous Professional Development (CPD) plan includes leadership modules (Managing teams through change/Leading critical Incidents), temporary Inspector duties, coaching/mentoring activity and utilising 360 degree feedback.

I communicate effectively and can work at all levels. I understand the role is about driving performance, through developing people and improving processes. I serve my wider community as a local School Governor, leading the school’s safeguarding committee. I am level-headed in challenging environments, accountable for my decision-making, most importantly supported by clear rationale. I maximise opportunities to identify the most vulnerable, by instigating sound risk assessments to ensure appropriate safeguarding is implemented. I am able to recognise and learn from mistakes, looking to identify lessons/good practice through debriefs.

As an Inspector, I believe that connecting my teams with our force mission, vision and values through my personal leadership will maintain a consistent focus upon building trust and confidence with our communities.

It is possible to convey a tremendous amount about yourself and your skills within 450 words. Imagine if you only had 250! Always use your full word allowance to compile the very best ‘pen picture’ of you and your potential for assessors to consider. You’ll normally have up to six additional questions or examples to deal with as part of your promotion application. These are more focused on specific competencies and/or shared values.

Therefore, it is very important to maximise the opportunity a personal statement offers, because you can communicate additional information about yourself.

If you are serious about achieving a promotion, it’s time to act.

“Being ready isn’t enough, you have to be prepared for promotion” – Pat Riley


If you found this blog helpful and you’d like more guidance on promotion, why not download a FREE GUIDE: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’ to help you on your way?

You can also use the code POLICEHOUR20 at checkout, to save 20% on any Rank Success digital promotion guides or bundles.

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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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