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How to ace your oral board interviews

Follow these key tips to maximize your oral board performance

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Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for the interview so you can go over any notes you have prepared.


By Police1 Staff

Anyone who stays in policing long enough will have to get used to the idea of speaking in front of an oral board.

Fortunately, like anything else, performing well in front of a panel of interviewers is a skill that can be developed with practice and repetition. Though oral boards can be stressful, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of becoming a successful and memorable candidate.

1. Do your homework

You need to learn as much as you can about the position you are applying for and its place within the department. Read all you can about the department’s history, policies and procedures, and have a good understanding about the problems they face today.

If possible, speak with members of the agency about their experiences within the organization. Find out what superior officers expect from their members, and do ride-alongs well in advance of the interview.

You may be asked what you have done to prepare for the job. Formal education is best, but any additional books you’ve read, exercise programs you’ve started, or job shadowing you’ve done can all be turned into solid talking points.

2. Prepare for the day of the interview

What should you bring to the oral board?

  • A three-ring binder with a brief “highlight reel” of your career and accomplishments.
  • Copies of your resume that you can pass around to panel members.
  • Notepad and pen to write names down if multiple people are interviewing you.

Plan your day in a way that allows you to show up 10 to 15 minutes early to the interview. You should be focused and ready when the interview takes place. Ease your nerves by washing your hands, making small talk with the people in the waiting area, and going over any notes you have prepared for your interview.

3. Respecting the panel of interviewers

It’s normal to be a little nervous when you arrive in front of the oral board. In a way, you should be – these senior officers carved out a time in their schedule to see you. Don’t make them feel like they’re wasting their time.

All you have to remember in order to act right, is that the relationships between you and the panel boils down to an issue of respect. Look your interviewers in the eye when you speak. Be confident in your answers, and don’t trail off at the end of sentences. Don’t make jokes to make light of an uncomfortable situation.

Come to the oral board being prepared. Have multiple copies of your resume to hand out, a pen to take notes with, and copies of any other documents you expect to come up during your oral board.

Come to the interview looking like you care. You don’t need to buy an expensive suit, but it needs to be clean.

Top resources for promotion interview and testing success
Watch these on-demand webinars and check out these books to level up your interview skills and review board preparation

4. Answer the questions

Think of it this way: when a senior officer asks a question, they’re assigning you with the task of bringing them the answer. If you circle around unnecessary details and deliver ineffective information, what do you think that says about your ability to be an effective employee?

Lots of people will start answering questions, and then begin rambling about something unrelated as their confidence wavers. In some cases this can be frustrating for the interviewer, who may find it offputting to tell candidates to get back on track.

Senior officers read people for a living and know when you’re putting on a front. Don’t do that. Answer the question, and if you have to add something, make it directly relevant to the concerns of the agency.

5. Avoid being overly negative

During the interview, you will probably be asked a question that gives you the opportunity to say something negative about a former employer, a former co-worker, or a certain kind of person. As tempting as it might be: don’t take it. Badmouthing previous employers or anyone else can come off as immature and negative.

It’s easy for anyone to criticize and find something wrong with the world. What’s harder is finding the positive: how you grew, what you learned, and what lessons you’ll bring from a bad experience into the future.

If you absolutely MUST say something negative or critical, do it as mildly as you can. Something like, “I respect what they’re doing, but it’s not really my thing.”

6. Avoid giving them reasons to pass on you

Anyone who makes it to the interview stage is being seriously considered for the position because of their similar qualifications and experience. Often, what eliminates a candidate from contention is just a really minor detail that they could have avoided with just a little conscientiousness.

Like many aspects of law enforcement, performing well in front of an oral board is a result of careful preparation and practice. Successful candidates will demonstrate examples of good decision-making, qualify their professional experience, and are able to present the best possible version of themselves in front of a panel.

In an interview setting, some answers are better than others

This article, originally published on November 10, 2016, has been updated.