Any time you are making a career decision, it can be a very stressful and overwhelming time.
What should you do?
Should you go to university/college?
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
This is especially true if you want to pursue a career in Law Enforcement. It’s not only a job, it’s a lifestyle. Whether you are considering a municipal police force, or another law enforcement agency like the Canada Border Services Agency, you have to consider all of the reasons why you want to explore this avenue. Do you know someone who is in law enforcement? Will you have what it takes? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to handle a difficult situation?
Once you do decide that this is the right career choice for you, then there is the question of whether or not you will get in. There are a number of factors that are considered by most police agencies when you are going through the Law Enforcement Application Process.
If you are considering law enforcement as a career, you should do your research first. Ensure that the policing culture and lifestyle is a good fit for both you and your family. Talk to other police officers and get the real picture. Find out what a day in the life of a cop really looks like. Remember, depending on where you choose to work, you could become a police officer in your home community, having to respond to calls that involve your friends. Or if you choose a larger police force, like Ontario Provincial Police, you could be looking at transfers to remote locations, which may take you outside of your home province. Will that be good for you and your family? If, after careful consideration, you do decide that this is the right career path for you, you will need to work hard to prepare for what can be a very lengthy Police Application process.
Depending on the direction you choose, whether it be a smaller municipal police force like Kentville Police Services, or a large urban police force like Halifax Regional Police or Toronto City Police, or if you choose a law enforcement agency like Canada Border Services or Correctional Services, there are a number of steps that you must go through before you will be accepted.
There will be different essential requirements for different organizations, so you have to research the agency you are pursuing to ensure you meet all of the essential qualifications specific to that agency. However, typically, you will be required to be a Canadian citizen, have a minimum of a Grade 12 Diploma or equivalent education, be at least 19 years of age, and hold a valid driver’s license. If the police organization does not have their own in house training centre, they may require you to be a graduate of a recognized accredited police academy. There will probably be a series of medical and physical requirements that must be met, and security screening to pass. All of these steps will require a certain amount of preparation to ensure that you are successful.
Personal Suitability Interview
There may also be a Behavioural Competency Based Interview, which is designed to assess if the applicant possesses the qualities, or competencies, required to be a member of a particular Police Department or law enforcement agency. The interview will consist of scenario based questions, which will ask you to provide specific examples from your life experience that demonstrate that you meet those qualities.
The required qualities, or competencies, will vary from organization to organization, and can include such things as:
- Personal Effectiveness
- Interpersonal Skills
- Communication Skills
This stage of the process requires a great deal of preparation. The Behavioral Based Applicant Interview can be quite involved and indepth.
The interview may be conducted using two formats. One format will ask you behavioural type questions and one will ask situational type questions. The behavioural questions will ask you to relate relevant experience which speaks to each of the competencies that they are assessing. The situational questions will give you an opportunity to relate how you would respond to a hypothetical situation should you find yourself in that position.
There are specific ways to approach each of these formats. When you are asked a behavioural type question, i.e. “tell me a time when …” your answer should be delivered like you are telling a story. Use the S-T-A-R principle. What is the situation, what is your task, what action did you take and what was the result. Ensure your story is complete from beginning to end.
With the situational questions, which give hypothetical scenarios to establish what you would do, you can use the A-R-C principle. What action would you take, what were your reasons for this action, and what factors did you take into consideration. Again, tell the whole story.
This is where the challenge comes in for most people. You may think it’s easy to come up with some experiences that will meet these competencies, but when it comes down to being asked the questions, more times than not the candidate just doesn’t have a good example ready. And it’s not just having an example that meets the competency, but it also has to answer the specific question that is being asked. You won’t simply be asked to tell of a time that you demonstrated good teamwork. There will be a specific question that is asked, which may not allow you to use the example that you have prepared. And there is no way for you to know exactly what questions will be asked.
But there are ways to get ready for the interview.
- Research the organization for which you are applying
- Identify what core compentencies they are evaluating
- Make sure you understand what each competency means
- See if there are definitions available
- Choose appropriate examples of your past experience to demonstrate that you meet each of the competencies.
When you are considering what experience you have that will speak to each of the required competencies, remember that it doesn’t just have to be work related. It can be volunteer experience, school, sports, etc. It can be any experience that demonstrates that you meet the criteria. This can be particularly difficult for younger people trying to get into policing, simply because they often don’t have the depth of experience that is required.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that it’s not just the content of your answer that you provide that is being assessed. Your interpersonal and communication skills are also being evaluated, so you must ensure that you remain professional, confident and enthusiastic, without being overbearing and arrogant.
At the end of the day, you need to identify the best examples that will demonstrate you meet the criteria, and be able to deliver this information in a clear and concise manner. Again, this takes preparation and practice. This practice should be with someone who can provide meaningful feedback, and who has experience in conducting competency based interviews.
The Road to a Policing Career
There are really two parts to this journey. First, you must decide if this is the right career path for you. And second, if this is the right choice, you must be prepared to take the long journey required to become a police officer.
That’s where I come in. With almost 20 years experience working in a police environment, both in the RCMP and municipal policing, I am very familiar with the police culture. As a Certified Career Coach, I can work with you to help you determine if this is in fact a good career path for you.
If it is, we can continue to work together to perfect your interviewing skills, and to identify the experience that you have that will meet the required competencies. If relevant experience is a concern, we can discuss ways that you can enhance this aspect. Together, we’ll examine those qualities that you do have, and identify the gaps that will keep you from getting through the interview. We’ll talk about the steps you can take to gain this much needed experience, i.e. volunteer work, job placements, etc.
To help hone your interviewing skills, we will practice with sample questions to ensure that you are delivering a good answer and arrive at the interview fully prepared.
For your convenience, we can work together in person if you are in the Halifax area, or via Skype for any other Canadian location.
This investment will go a long way to ensure that you are fully prepared and to maximize this opportunity.