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The Applicant’s Guide to Getting Hired


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  • The Applicant’s Guide to Getting Hired

    Let me start off by introducing myself. I've been a member of since October of 2005. Throughout my time here, I've gained valuable advice and friendships that I never thought possible. The reason I decided to compile this guide is this: I went through numerous hiring and selection processes. While seeking employment, I mailed out more than 30 applications and resumes. I had more than 20 interviews, physical agility tests, and written tests. I'm providing this guide for the applicants that make their way to this forum looking to improve themselves in each step. So here's to your future career, officer!

    One other note: If anyone has any tips, suggestions, or finds any grammatical errors, please let me know so that I can make the necessary additions/corrections. Proper credit will be given.

    • The Application
    • The Written Test
    • The Physical Agility Test (PAT)
    • Assessment Centers
    • The Interviews
      • Proper Interview Behavior and Attire
      • The Oral Board
      • The Police and Fire Commission
      • The Chief’s Interview
    • The Personal History Statement/Questionnaire (PHS/PHQ)
    • The Background Investigation
    • The Medical Exam
    • The Psychological Exam
    • Other Things to Consider
      • Drug Usage
      • Facebook/MySpace/Social Networking
      • Elimination+Selection+Hire=Cop (Courtesy of M-11)
      • Managing Your Personal Records (Courtesy of Kieth M.)

    First off: Are you a convicted felon? Under federal law and most state laws, convicted felons cannot possess a firearm. Additionally, under federal law, any person convicted of domestic violence (ex: spousal abuse) is ineligible to possess a firearm. Should you find yourself falling into one or both of these categories you will not be eligible to be a police officer.

    The initial application is your first step, and your entrance into the hiring process. Once you’ve obtained the application packet, look it over. Before you write anything down, make photocopies! If you screw up, you’ll want to start fresh. It makes it cleaner, more professional looking, and shows the department that you’ve put a great deal of consideration into filling it out neatly. If it’s sloppy or illegible it will get set aside. You don’t want that.

    Applications cover a very wide range of topics. You can expect to fill out general information about yourself (name, date of birth, current residence, etc.), residency history, employment history, education, military background and discharges, and any past contact you have had with law enforcement. When filling out your application you will want to be AS THOROUGH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN! Take your time in filling the application out, spend a couple days gathering the required information and make sure you have everything you need. Two of the main areas of concern are your employment history and your history with law enforcement. A quick check with the social security offices can reveal any past employment you’ve had, however; I’ve been told you only get the place of the employment and what years you were employed there. Even if you can’t remember when you were employed at a certain location, LIST IT!

    When it comes to asking about any past citations or arrests you’ve had, IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU LIST EVERY DETAIL! During the background investigation they’ll dig up all the juicy information on you. If they’ve found you have omitted a speeding citation you received when you were 16, it will be considered seriously. They won’t know if you’ve genuinely forgot about it or if you’re trying to hide it from them. Chances are, they’ll go with the latter. LIST EVERYTHING! Go to your local DMV and request a copy of your driving record. Check with your local law enforcement agencies (city, county, and state) and request copies of anything with your name in it.

    Again, be ACCURATE and be TRUTHFUL. Honesty is the best policy. Once you’ve completed the application, make a photocopy to keep for yourself. I’ll get to why later.

    After the application you’ll encounter the written test. The written test is generally a measure of basic capabilities, such as math, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. You won’t have to worry about geometry or *gasp* calculus or the other “high end” type mathematics. You’ll get into that if you ever want to go into accident investigation. But, the keyword is “basic.” You may also be required to write a mock report. Just remember to include the “who, what, when, where, and why.” You don’t need to worry though; the written test isn’t very difficult.

    I will provide some words of advice. If you’re scratchy on long division (yeah, those calculators are a godsend, aren’t they?) you may want to review it. Calculators generally aren’t allowed during the written test, as they test you on material that shouldn’t require one. I went in to my first test and completely forgot how to divide on paper. Needless to say, I went over long-division and did well on that section for the subsequent testing I went through.

    Also, remember that there are 52 weeks in a year. I forgot that once, too. I should have been able to easily figure it out by division, but coincidentally, it was on the the same test that I forgot how to divide! That brings me to another useful piece of advice: after the test, write down whatever you can remember for future reference.

    LEARN from any tests you take. Most of them are incredibly similar. Remember what material was on them. If there’s something you can’t remember how to do, look it up for next time. It pays off, and gets you one step closer to your final offer of employment.

    These vary GREATLY. They vary so much, that in all the PAT’s I’ve done, I’ve never done the same one twice. I did 20+ PAT’s. Each department can have their own standards or, on the off chance, every department in your state may run the same tests.

    Here are some of the items I’ve been tested on:
    • 1.5 mile run
    • 400 meter run
    • Push-ups
    • Sit-ups
    • Dummy drag/rescue simulation
    • Arrest resistor
    • Obstacle course (I’ll go into further detail on this later.)
    • Weapon manipulation (both weak hand and strong hand)

    As for the obstacle course, here’s how the courses I’ve done went:
    Applicant starts seated in a patrol car with the door shut and the seatbelt fastened. Both hands will be on the steering wheel. The applicant will be given a description of a suspect. On the word “GO!” the applicant will exit the vehicle and run through a 4.5-foot culvert, then jump through a 5-foot high simulated window. The applicant will then traverse a full flight of stairs. The applicant MUST touch each stair (though I’ve seen tests that allow any method to get to the top). The applicant will then descend the stairs and navigate a serpentine course. At the end of the serpentine course, the applicant will yell out which suspect displayed matches the description they were given. The applicant will run 30 feet, change direction, and jump over a 6-foot wall. They will reverse and jump over a 3-foot barrier. The applicant will then drag a 150-220 pound dummy for a length of 30 feet. Time will stop when both of the dummy’s feet cross the finish line.
    Now, I recalled this from memory, but it’s pretty darn close to the instructions I received prior to the testing.

    The 6-foot barrier is definitely the toughest of the obstacles to clear. I’ve seen both fit and unfit people clear it, and I’ve seen fit and unfit people NOT clear it. If you’re unsure, I recommend finding something that matches the description of what’s in the test and test yourself. If you can’t do it, work on it until you’re successful. Then, do it again, and again, and again. Do it as many times as you need until you’re confident enough to do it successfully when it counts.

    The other tests will have minimums that you’re required to meet. Some may have time limits along with them (i.e. 30 pushups in 60 seconds). Some might just be “how many can you do?” type tests where you go until you can’t go anymore. The 1.5 mile run generally has a time limit somewhere in the ball park of 12.5 minutes.

    Assessment centers are becoming more prevalent in the law enforcement hiring process. What are they? Well, that depends on the agency. They can range from a single scenario, where you might take a theft report or a reckless driving complaint. They could be mini-interviews with several people. They could even be group exercises to bring out your teamwork or leadership abilities. You might even have to give a 3-5 minute impromptu speech in front of a group of other candidates. I've had to do all of them.

    The key to success in assessment centers is to take charge. If it's a group exercise, take the role of the "leader." If it's mini-interviews, do as you would in other interviews. If it's scenarios, revert back to your training (if you've had any). If you don't have any prior training in LE, think about what information you will NEED to complete the scenario. For example: if you're taking the reckless driving complaint, you'll want to obtain the color/make/model of the vehicle, last known direction of travel, license plate information, and the complainants name/address/phone number/date of birth. You'll also want the time it occurred, the location, and any damage to the complainants vehicle noted as well.

    Assessment centers show the department which applicants are NOT SCARED to be in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. Show them that the AC is just another thing you can do.

    Oh my gosh! The sweaty palms, sweaty pits! What do I wear?! How do I sit?! Etc. etc. I’ll try to answer this for you, after all, that’s what a guide is for, is it not? This will by far be the longest portion of this guide, so bear with me.

    I’ll get right to the nitty gritty of the interview topic: the questions. The questions vary greatly, so I won’t be giving examples of any questions simply because it’s a royal pain in the butt (but if you read the guide there may, or may not, be a nice and tasty treat for you). It would make it unnecessarily long and take forever. Along the same lines, I won’t be providing you with answers to questions. The answers should be thought out by YOU and YOU alone. Interviewers know a textbook answer when they hear one, even the “rookie interviewers.” If you search the forums, you’ll find a variety of example questions and answers, but I will stress that you should come up with your own answers to the questions in the forums. Besides, there’s nothing like a good confidence boost when you see the look on the interviewer’s face when you give the best answer they’ve heard all day! If you think out your own answers, it’ll happen.

    What to wear:
    Men: Wear a suit! I reiterate, WEAR A SUIT! If you don’t have one, buy one. Trust me; a suit isn’t a one-time investment. There are numerous occasions in which they’ll come in handy. You won’t want a crazy Zoot suit, just a simple plain or thinly striped jacket and pants. Try to stick with conservative colors and don’t be “flashy.” Most folks you’ll see will have a black/blue suit with a white shirt and matching tie. I say it’s boring… but you’re mileage may vary. What did I wear? I had a black, thinly striped jacket and pants. I had a blue shirt and a pink, striped tie. PINK?! UGH! Guy’s shouldn’t wear pink. I say “phooey!” It wasn’t “flashy” but it definitely wasn’t “conformist.” One interviewer asked me why I wore a pink tie. I told him that I felt it was a good looking tie AND that its underlying meaning was to support breast cancer research… something affecting several people I know. For me, and possibly for the interview board, it was a different color. It might have helped them remember me more, standing out just a little bit from the other applicants. The “underlying reason” was true, but who knows if it scored me a couple extra points.

    Now, I’m not saying go out and get a pink tie. The message I’m trying to convey is to wear something that depicts YOU as a person. Conservative dress is good, but I recommend against the “normal” and “standard” color schemes. But please, PLEASE, don’t wear “crazy” ties. Keep them plain. Stripes are good, but nothing with cartoon characters or the 3 Stooges. If it has more than a color and/or pattern, you’ve gone too far. Find another tie.

    Women: This is tough for a guy to answer, especially one that’s not involved in hiring new officers. So here’s what I’ll say. Wear business attire. If you wear a skirt, make sure it’s at, or greater than, knee length. The same rules apply to women as they do men. Sorry ladies, but you’ll have to read the “men” section too. Don’t wear anything that will show off your chest. That’s not how you want them to view you, is it? Keep jewelry to a minimum. One pair of small earrings, a small necklace, and maybe a small bracelet is fine. If you’re married or engaged, feel free to wear your ring, otherwise one ring maximum. Don’t wear 6-inch heels, either. Actually, I’d stay away from heels altogether (but I’m also a guy, that’s to be expected… ), people do funny things when they’re nervous (read: trip). Flat-bottom dress shoes are what I’ll recommend.

    Men: keep your hair neat. Don’t walk in with “bed-head.” Comb it, brush it, gel it… whatever it is that you do to keep your hair under control and decent. If you don’t have hair… lucky you! That’s one less thing you have to deal with. If you’ve got any type of piercings, I recommend taking them out. Clip your fingernails and don’t have dirt underneath them. Yeah, they look at this stuff. Be clean, smell good. Don’t overdo it on the cologne though, and don’t use something that will fill the room the instant you walk in.

    Women: Wear your hair above your collar. That’s my best recommendation. Use a conservative amount of perfume, if any, as well. Perfume can stink up a room just as badly as cologne. If you wish to paint your nails, use a neutral color. Jewelry was touched on in the previous section, so I won’t bore you again.

    Walking In:
    When you enter the room, be expected to be greeted by several officers and/or administrative staff. Introduce yourself to each one. If they’re sitting down at a table, and there’s a table 10 feet away for you to sit at, your first instinct is to wait by the table until they invite you to sit down. Right? Well, it shouldn’t be. Walk up to their table, introduce yourself and shake each person’s hand. Look them in the eye when shaking their hand, and shake their hand firmly, but not too hard. This same thing applies to women. A firm handshake is good, not that wussy handshake a lot of women have. Personally, I’m impressed by a woman with a firm handshake. I’m actually quite uncomfortable shaking hands with a woman who just holds their hand out and doesn’t return the shake. Walking in and introducing yourself is your first “I’m comfortable and confident” signal. DO NOT let it escape you. I guarantee you that you’ll be one of few people who don’t “just sit down and say ‘hi’.”

    When you’re done introducing yourself and meeting the panel members you’ll be sitting in a chair in no time. Sometimes you’re at the same table as the panel members, sometimes you’re at a smaller table several feet away from their table, and sometimes you’re sitting in a chair… in the middle of the room… with no table. Sit straight, but don’t be “rigid.” Keep your hands above the table… you convey more messages through non-verbal communication that you do through verbal communication. That said, don’t be afraid to use your hands when answering questions, but don’t overdo it. When you’re not using your hands, keep them on the table. I’ve always had my fingers interlocked, but use whatever is comfortable with you as long as they remain on/above the table.

    Don’t shake your foot or your leg, either. This conveys nervousness, and even if you’re at a table they’ll be able to notice. If it’s something you do, focus on NOT doing it, but don’t let that focus detract from your answers. This is ESPECIALLY important if you’re in a chair and don’t have a table. They can plainly see you shaking. Dealing with your hands is a tougher trick in this situation, as you don’t have a table to place them on. What I did was keep them in my lap when I wasn’t using them. Don’t sit there with your hands on the armrest, if one is present. You’ll look rigid and uncomfortable with the interview.

    Slow and steady wins the race. But don’t speak slooooowly. Think for a moment about your answer then begin giving it. Talk with confidence. Talk with clarity. One of the minimum requirements listed in Wisconsin is “clear and concise speech.” If you can’t do this in an interview, how will you do on the field?
    If there’s one mistake everyone makes, it’s sounding like your questioning your own answer. TELL them your answer. Avoid phrases like:
    • ”I believe…”
    • ”I think…”
    • ”I guess…”
    • Etc.

    These phrases reflect a lack of confidence. Remember, TELL them your answer. For example, a lot of people say “I guess I would do…” WRONG! Tell them! “I would…” sounds more confident than “I guess…” Right?

    Pay attention to the questions you’re asked. One of the gems of law enforcement is that you remember “little” things, such as details in an arrest or things that you saw. However; if it’s a lengthy two or three part question and you forgot the last part, don’t be afraid to ask to have it repeated. It’s better to ask and give a thought out answer rather than to guess and give a dumb answer. They’ll understand that it’s an interview and will most likely repeat the part of the question IF YOU ASK. Just don’t, for the love of all things, ignore part of a question. They have the questions on paper and can simply write “did not answer.”

    That brings me to my next point. The interviewers will be taking notes while you speak. More than likely, they’ll inform you of this prior to beginning the interview. Don’t sit there and wonder about what they’re writing and don’t focus on their writing. Though, I will mention that I was able to get a glimpse of some of my scores because the interviewer didn’t do a very good job of hiding their paper. More often than not, you’re interviewers will be out of range to see what they’re writing, but if they’re within range don’t distract yourself. Not to mention, you could be caught by the other interviewers. I don’t know what that will do to your score, if anything, but don’t take the chance. You don’t want something so minuscule to put you behind another applicant.

    I’ve been in interview boards that had objects placed on the table next to where the applicant sits; things such as pens or a pitcher of water and a glass. The interviewers are looking to see if you “play” with these items during the interview. Simply put, ignore the items. That pitcher of water is put there in case you need a drink to clear your throat, but you know what? You should have already done that before entering the room. If there’s a water fountain near-by, hydrate yourself before walking in. Don’t touch that pen and don’t take a drink of that water!

    Last edited by Guams; 08-05-2008, 11:25 PM.

  • #2
    The Applicant's Guide to Getting Hired - Part 2

    This is the first of several interviews you will have within the hiring process. Most oral boards consist of several officers and possibly some administrative/human resources personnel. I’ve had, in my experience, as few as two people, and up to ten. The average seems to be 4-5 department personnel. You should have already read over what to wear, how to act, etc. Don’t be intimidated, though it’s highly likely you’ll feel that way walking into a room full of uniforms. Just because they have a uniform doesn’t mean they’re not human.

    The job of this interview is to narrow down the candidates they’ve selected thus far. After all, that’s what every step in the hiring process is designed to do. Like I mentioned earlier, the questions in this interview will vary greatly. In my experience I’ve noticed that the oral board is designed to show the panel what kind of person you are. Do you hold yourself to a certain standard? Do you follow your morals and make ethical life decisions? What kind of “life experience” do you have?

    It’s also a test to determine what you know about the department and how well you’ll fit in with the department. The following information is courtesy of Garbage Man, a member of Officer.Com since February of 2004:
    I haven't done orals for years, but every time I do I am amazed at what people say in them. Just a few days ago I decided to do a last minute favor to PSD. After interviewing 13 applicants and only passing two, I felt compelled to give those of you who have Orals in your future some basic advice.

    Do some basic research. I don’t mean memorize the population demographics like one clown did thinking we would be impressed, then go on to say he wants to work here because we are such a safe, low crime city. I then ask, "Hey did you know we have lost more officers in the line of duty than any other agency in the county? Including those who are twice our size and have been around twice as long?" he says "Uhh no."

    By the way never say you want to work for safe city, makes you look like a coward.

    I mean do real research into the things that matter to police agencies. Of the 13 only one had any idea what community policing was. How can you not know that? Every agency in the country says theirs is an agency dedicated to community policing, for God’s sake learn what the heck it is.

    NEVER do an oral without first going on a ride along. Don’t ask the cops dumb questions like "is that gun real? Or have you ever shot anybody?" Ask adult questions like "What do you enjoy about working here?" "Do you have good equipment?" "Do you feel management supports you?" And ask "what do you do in support of community policing?" "Do you have any specialized units that are unique to your department?" "What's different about this agency?"

    In the oral they will always ask "Why do you want to be a cop here?" You answer choices are to find out something unique about them that they are proud of and tell them you want that too (the A+ answer) or go for the B and say "You know I really want to be a cop, I know you are doing the job here just as much as any place else and that’s what I want. This is as good a place to serve as any." After 10 hours of people lying to us about how they wanted to work for us but clearly didn’t know a thing about us, we would have welcomed that.

    Never talk about watching cop shows...I mean NEVER.

    Don’t use "cool cop talk." Be real and give real world answers. Say what it is you would really do. Would you really arrest your girlfriend for smoking pot?

    In scenario questions remember you are answering as if you are an on duty cop. Most people give answers that are basically "I handle this by calling the cops."

    Think about your experience and come up with a way it relates to cop work and have that ready to give either as a "How have you prepared yourself" question or as a summation at the end. Always give a little speech about yourself in the end. Just about a paragraph will do.

    Decide now why you want to be a cop so you are not working it out in the interview.

    Don’t ever say you have no faults.

    Almost every other aspect of police testing is pass/fail. The Oral is where you get ranked. It’s a slaughterhouse for police applicants, many prospective cops work their tails off preparing for everything else then get chopped to pieces in the Oral because they didn’t give it a second thought.
    This is great advice, and coming from a person who has interviewed applicants himself it speaks for itself.

    I’m not sure how many agencies in the country run an interview with a Police and Fire Commission, but here in Wisconsin they’re quite common. In fact, if I made it past the oral board, I went to an interview with the PFC next. What is the Police and Fire Commission? My understanding is that it’s a group of people that the police and fire departments “listen” to. It governs who is hired, who is fired, who is promoted, what the budget is used for, and other things that an administrative staff or human resources department might do. Then again, that’s just a guess on my part. I’m not too positive on what it is they do exactly. Anyway, that’s not what this guide is about. Let’s move on.

    My experience with the PFC is that it’s a panel of 3-5 members. The Chief, Sheriff, or other supervisory staff may sit in during the interview to observe, but you might not hear them speak during the actual interview. The PFC interview is geared at illustrating the way your mind works in different scenarios. They’ll also seek out any past experiences you’ve had that show how you apply your leadership, ethics, and integrity. This is called “behavioral based interviewing,” and I’ll admit that I do the worst in these types of interviews. “Describe a time when you performed something not listed in your job description.” “Tell us about a time when you took the lead in a situation.” All of the behavioral based interviews I went through had similar questions, and I couldn’t find a way to remember the questions to prepare for them the next time. I stressed myself out so much when I found out it was behavioral based that my mind went into “panic mode” and all I did was think about the questions. I can bet you that my thinking was so linear that I forgot the first part of my answer before I was finished answering the question. This meant I also forgot the question. DO NOT DO THAT! If there’s one thing I can tell you about behavioral based interviews, let it be this: They’re stressful, they’re tough, and they’re intimidating. Don’t let that get to you as much as it did to me. Take some deep breaths, focus on the question, and prepare your answer before giving it. If you don’t, you’ll walk out of the room feeling like you’re a quarter of an inch tall and sweating like crazy.

    On the other hand, not all PFC interviews are behavioral based. Some could be more “informal” and resemble the oral board, but with a different panel. You might hear some of the same questions again and feel like a broken record, but remember that you’re talking to a different group of people. Don’t feel that you need to come up with a different answer for a question you’ve had in the past. Also remember that these panel members are the ones who can make or break your law enforcement career. A lot of times, the Chief/Sheriff will send applicant information off to the PFC for approval. Again, this is how I’ve noticed it works in some Wisconsin agencies. Your mileage may vary.

    This is often the last of your series of interviews, and it’s just that: an interview with the Chief or Sheriff of the department. My experience has shown that this is more of a “get to know you” type of interview. Two of the most common questions during this interview seem to be “Who is the best boss you’ve ever had?” and “Who is the worst boss you’ve ever had?” These are fairly simple for you to answer. If you feel you’ve never been employed by a bad boss, say so, but be sure to give some examples of what you would NOT want in a supervisor. Maybe you don’t like a supervisor who is overly dramatic and spreads rumors. Maybe you don’t like supervisors who fail to praise you for a job well done. Figure out what is you don’t like in supervisors and express those, but don’t overdo it. Moderation is key here, and you don’t want to inadvertently mention any characteristics this particular Chief/Sheriff has.

    You can also expect questions about why you’d like to work for their particular department. Is it the geographic location, the size of the department, the type of department, the department’s philosophy on policing? You can also expect the ever popular “Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?” Answer it honestly. Where do you WANT to be in that given time-frame? Would you like a supervisor’s position, a position on a specialized unit, and/or any type of additional responsibility? These are suggestions that you can think about, but figure out what road you want your career to take and let him/her know. One example I’ll give you from my experience is this: I sat down for a Chief’s interview and noticed he had a deer hanging on the wall, pictures of wildlife, and blaze orange hats. On his desk were several Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource Hunters Safety Instructor patches. I took note of these things because they interest me. I love hunting, fishing, and the outdoors in general. I also love getting kids involved in the outdoors. When he asked me where I saw myself in five years I took those things and spun them in my favor. I told him I was interested in outdoor sports and could see that he was too and said that I’d love to teach hunter’s safety some day. He said I was the only person who expressed their observations so well. I told him it was truly something I loved to do, yet didn’t know the department taught hunter’s safety until I saw all the patches on his desk. I wasn’t selected for the position with that department, but I can tell you that it wasn’t because of that reason.

    Speaking of observations, did you know that you can learn A LOT about a department by looking at plaques and pictures on the wall while you’re waiting for an interview to begin? It tells you what kind of community involvement they do and what programs the department runs. Try to factor these into your interviews and I guarantee you’ll be one of few who do, if not the only one.

    I received another valuable tid-bit of information from Kieth M., a member of since October of 2005. Credit goes to him for this:
    After taking an oral, to the best of your ability, immediately write down the questions, and the answers you gave. Many agencies use the same questions, and with the ability to anticipate and create better answers, you'll do better in the next oral you take.
    After all the interviews are done, and assuming you passed them all, you’ll receive what many departments call a “conditional offer of employment.” Never heard of it? It’s an offer that is given to you saying that you have the job, assuming you can pass the rest of the steps in the process. This includes the background investigation, the pre-employment physical, the pre-employment drug screen, and the psychological exam. Additionally, some departments employ the polygraph as an additional step.

    The Personal History Statement/Questionnaire is the first thing you’ll be given when you’re told the department will be conducting a background investigation. Much like the initial application you will want to make photocopies of the PHS/PHQ prior to writing anything down. If they can’t read what you’ve wrote, it’ll lengthen the process and you’ll be on edge until you hear from them.

    When you receive your PHS/PHQ you’ll think to yourself “this is a mirror image of the initial application, why am I filling it out again?” You’re sort of right. All of the information in your initial application will be requested, again, on the PHS/PHQ. This is where that photocopy of your initial application comes in handy. You’ve got your prior arrests, citations, law enforcement contact, employment history, and education history lying out in front of you.

    Here’s an example of what you can encounter when you read the instructions given to you:
    It is to your advantage to respond openly. Any negative factor in your background will be evaluated in terms of the circumstances surrounding its occurrence, and consideration will be given to the degree of relevance it has to employment with a law enforcement agency. For example, having been fired from a job or having an arrest record may not, in and of itself, disqualify you from consideration for employment. During the investigation, the investigator will inquire into the facts surrounding each occurrence and an evaluation will then be made about the relevance of these facts to the requirements of the position for which you have applied.
    This was taken directly from a PHS/PHQ... the department shall remain confidential.

    This is why honesty is the best policy, period. By the end of the investigation they’ll probably know things about you that even YOU didn’t know. Be open and be honest. Lying on the PHS/PHQ can guaranty you get disqualified.

    So… you’re wondering what’s IN the PHS/PHQ, aren’t you? Here’s a little taste:
    • Relatives, references, and acquaintances
    • Residence history (sometimes lifelong residence history, sometimes for the past 10 years)
    • Educational background (including what schools you attended)
    • Employment history
    • Application history (have you applied to any other departments)
    • Military service
    • Law enforcement contact (arrests, citations, etc)
    • Motor vehicle operation (suspensions, revocations, etc)
    • Accident history
    • Drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Personal integrity
    • Criminal activity (both documented and undocumented)
    • Reliability
    • Service Attitude
    • And some other miscellaneous questions (one note: these are some very interesting questions and I don’t want to spoil the surprises or laughs you’ll get out of reading/answering these)

    As you can see, having your initial application will help you to accurately document everything you listed because they WILL go back and compare the PHS/PHQ to your initial application. As I stressed before, you’ll want to be completely accurate and honest in answering this questionnaire. Failure to do so will result in the department looking deeply into your level of integrity. Lying on something like this tells the department you’ll lie on the street and that reflects negatively on the department. That being said, they won’t hire you. Just like with the initial application, make a photocopy of this when you’ve completed it. Should you fail any portion from here on out, it’ll be easier to recall items when filling out your next PHS/PHQ.

    Once you’ve turned in your PHS/PHQ, the background investigation will commence. The investigator will often notify you when he/she has begun working on it and will often instruct you to “not conduct a parallel investigation of your own.” Simply put, this means they don’t want you calling your references and past employers. It interferes with the investigation and often times will result in lengthening the time it takes to complete.

    The background investigation can range from anywhere between two weeks and several months to complete. Some departments, namely the larger ones, have personnel whose sole job is to do background investigations. Other departments will pass the information along to a detective who does your background investigation as a “secondary duty.” What this means is that he/she will work on your case if they are not working on a case that’s directly related to his/her jurisdiction.

    This stage of the hiring process can also be the most daunting. Will I make it? Are the problems I’ve had in the past enough to disqualify me? Did I remember everything? How long will it take? The background investigation is very thorough, so expect them to talk to your references, past employers, friends, and possibly your neighbors. There ARE departments that will drive to your location and speak with neighbors. The investigator, through his questioning of your references, might even get names of additional people. Expect people you didn’t list to be interviewed. More than likely the department already has openings to fill so they will try to get your background investigation done in a timely manner. Along those same lines, they’ve been in your shoes too, and know that it’s stressful on the applicant. Refrain from calling the investigator to get updates on how it’s coming along. However; if you have something you didn’t put in your PHS/PHQ, NOTIFY YOUR INVESTIGATOR IMMEDIATELY! It’s better to bring it to their attention before they find out. It shows your level of integrity and that you’re not willing to let anything, even trivial things, get in the way of your dream job.

    The background investigation is designed not to find out what “good” traits you have, per se, but rather what “bad” traits you have. As stated in the instructions for the PHS/PHQ, they’ll compare the circumstances of anything they find against the requirements for the job. You’re not an angel, nobody is. If they dig up something you think is “bad,” I guarantee you they’ve seen much, much worse in applicants.

    There isn’t much advice to give for this stage of the process, other than to let you know not to bug, pester, or otherwise annoy your investigator but do notify them of anything that you may have forgot to include in your PHS/PHQ. If something does come up, they’ll get in touch with you for clarification. If the investigator’s primary duties permit, he/she will try to get it done as soon as possible.

    I’m sure most of you know what a “physical” is. If you ever participated in any sports in high school, the school probably required you to have a physical every year. It’s the standard “turn your head and cough” (yeah, I know, ladies it’ll be a bit different for you) type of check-up, though some may include a few more items. The following is a list of areas the physical might cover:
    • Blood draw
    • Urine sample
    • Flexibility test
    • General state of health
    • Eye examination
    • Hearing examination

    Again, there isn’t much information or advice to provide with this section. Well, except for one key aspect: DON’T BE GETTING DOPED UP!

    Now, a little word on that: prescription medication is fine; just make sure you bring that prescription with you for your physical so that the examining doctor can place it in the report that will be forwarded to the department.

    Last edited by Guams; 07-23-2008, 02:43 PM.


    • #3
      The Applicant's Guide to Getting Hired - Part 3

      The psych… yay! In this stage of the process you’ll likely be administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - 2 (MMPI-II). This particular test is one of the most widely used inventories in the mental health field and is designed to identify your personality structure. The test is 567 true/false questions, answered by either filling in the appropriate bubble on the Scantron sheet or by selecting the appropriate answer in the computer administered version. The latter, in my opinion, is the less stressful of the two types, even though they include the exact same questions. The MMPI-II should take you one to two hours to complete.

      When the proctor reads you the directions, you’ll be informed to answer the questions with the first thing that comes to mind. They’ll also tell you not to look too deep into the questions. I advise you to heed this advice. The folks that developed this test were smart enough to design it so that they can tell if you’re being deceptive, or trying to portray yourself as more proper than you might really be.

      Here’s a sample of what you can expect during the MMPI-II:
      • If I were an artist, I would like to draw flowers.
      • I would like to be a race car driver.
      • My father is/was a good man.
      • At times I feel like swearing.
      • I sometimes think of things too horrible to speak of.

      Now, imagine that going on for five hundred… sixty-seven… questions… *sigh* Yeah, it gets annoying, but remember, it’s your career. 567 questions really aren’t THAT many when you weigh it against the outcome. Not to mention you’ll probably find out if you’re crazy or not.

      I can’t tell you how the test is scored because I’m not a psychologist or doctor and, quite frankly, I have no idea how it’s scored. If you’re really interested in learning more about this test, I’m sure there’s some valuable information for you somewhere on the internet.

      In addition to the MMPI-II you might be subjected to other true/false type tests. One psych exam I took administered 5 different paper tests. Granted, none of the other ones are nearly as long as the MMPI-II.

      After the written portion of the psychological exam, you’ll meet with the psychologist. They’ll pick out some of the questions from the MMPI-II and ask you to clarify your answer and go over items such as family life, mental illness (if any), drug use, alcohol use, etc. Their job is to provide the department with a “profile” of who you are and how you think. Some departments even ask the psychologists for a recommendation to hire or to not hire.

      Once the psychological examination is done and forwarded to the department, it shouldn’t take long before you hear from them. If all goes as planned you’ll be setting up a start date and uniform fitting. This, if you can’t tell, is what is called the “final offer of employment.” It’s the words that every candidate hopes to hear.


      DRUG USE
      There have been lengthy discussions on what is acceptable. For the most part, any type of “hard drug” like cocaine, heroin, LSD, PCP, and amphetamines will permanently disqualify you. Additionally, extensive use of prescription medication that is NOT prescribed or other “softer” drugs, such as marijuana, can permanently disqualify you.

      The general consensus to acceptable drug use is “experimentation.” If you’ve smoked marijuana on one occasion, six years ago, the chance of that being a disqualifier is reduced. On that same note, some departments in the country require a minimum of either three or five years between the time application and the time of last use.

      The sale or cultivation of any type of narcotic will also be very, and I mean VERY, closely looked at. It’s seen as a “supplemental form of income” and can portray a negative reaction to monetary opportunities.

      In today’s computer oriented living, social networking has become a very popular means of expressing the personality of a person, along with allowing you to keep in touch with long-time friends and relatives. On the other hand, social networking sites can provide an inside look at an applicant’s life outside of what the department personnel see in person. It’s becoming a very useful tool for hiring, or not hiring, applicants along with other law enforcement related activities.

      Not surprisingly, the use of these sites is another very common question asked on When the sites were first developed, they were geared toward the college-aged people and, coincidentally, that’s when most people begin their career search.

      From information on the forum, it appears that MySpace is very LE cooperative, and because you signed all those “release of information” forms throughout the process, the department can get an inside look at your profile, even if you have it set up privately. More and more, departments are asking their candidates if they have a social networking profile. If you answer in the positive I can guarantee you they’ll want to see it. Guess when they’ll want to see it? The moment you tell them you have one.

      Here are some words of advice. If there are any pictures that you don’t want your mother to see, get rid of them. Ask your friends to delete them, “un-tag” (Facebook) yourself, etc. If your profile depicts any type of violence, excessive firearm paraphernalia, drug paraphernalia, sexually explicit content, and/or vulgar language, music or videos… get rid of that crap! Garbage Man seems to be an endless pit of useful of information and here’s his take on social networking sites:
      Yes they will check your accounts and yes it might come up. But here’s the thing: if they are smart enough to ask you about your pages they will be smart enough to ask if you deleted anything because you didn’t want them to see it.

      In the end I say let it all hang out...don’t try to look like Mr. Rogers because he would have made a useless cop.
      On the plus side, social networking is a very valuable tool in keeping up with relatives and friends. Don’t let this section of the guide scare you away. Many, many law enforcement personnel have accounts, including myself. There are countless incidents where people didn’t get hired, or they got fired, because of material found on their Facebook or MySpace accounts. Don’t let that be you. Remember, law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard than the average citizen and any step you can take to maintain that professional image will only benefit you and your career.

      M-11, a military investigator and member of since May of 2006, has provided some more incredibly useful information. I'd like to direct you here to read the full text.
      There is both an Elimination and Selection component to hiring cops. It is rare that a LE Agency gets fewer applicants that they have positions for. Therefore they will first have a process of elimination. Meaning they will cut numbers arbitrarily without personal consideration or contact with the applicants.
      This is why many Agencies spell out what kinds of crimes you can have committed in the past and still be considered for hire. And the truth is, even if you have committed crimes that are allowable in the hiring criteria, there are going to be applicants who have a perfectly clean record. 9 times out of 10 they will outnumber the few with criminal records, and the process of elimination will tell the Agency to invest their time and resources in selecting their candidates from the pool without criminal records.

      This all boils down to: If you have a criminal record, your chances are not very good. As you will face elimination before you will compete in selection.
      Credit goes to Kieth M. for this information.
      Create a master file, with copies of your DD-214's, high school & college transcripts, and the info on how to get sealed, fresh copies fast. Many agencies won't accept copies from you, they want them sealed and sent from the schools.

      In that master file, collect the names, addresses, and all contact phone numbers for the people you're going to list. Have every address you've ever lived at and the names/contacts of landlords if you rented. Every place of for and collect that info. You'll need it when you apply.

      Any time you complete initial applications and/or BI packages, make copies of everything you'll submit and create a file folder to hold it all, marked with that agency's name. Everything related to that department should be housed in cards of background investigators, H/R people, cops who gave you ride-alongs. Keep a sheet in there with notes on contacts, questions, dates of tests, etc.

      One reason for keeping copies is that if, for any reason, you have to apply to another agency you'll have many of the answers to the new application already answered and you won't have to search for the info. That new agency will also want to know when you applied to the previous agency, when you took their poly and who the provider was.

      Good luck and God bless.
      Last edited by Guams; 07-23-2008, 02:49 PM.


      • #4
        Wow, thanks for taking the time to write that Guams. Hopefully we can get all the newcomers to read this before posting basic questions.


        • #5
          That was one of the ideas behind it, considering we get a lot of the same questions. Hopefully this will help.


          • #6
            Thanks Guams, your the best


            • #7
              Thanks Guams, that is very well written.
              For every one hundred men you send us,
              Ten should not even be here.
              Eighty are nothing but targets.
              Nine of them are real fighters;
              We are lucky to have them, they the battle make.
              Ah, but the one. One of them is a warrior.
              And he will bring the others back.


              • #8
                Great job,Guams, and a "must read" for all applicants.


                • #9
                  I threw this up a couple months ago after a particularly annoying run of applicants. If you think it fits in your guide somewhere, go for it.

                  “All men dream...... But not equally..
                  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
                  but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
                  for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

                  TE Lawrence


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by M-11 View Post
                    I threw this up a couple months ago after a particularly annoying run of applicants. If you think it fits in your guide somewhere, go for it.

                    I remember reading that, and can't believe I forgot about it. Let's see if I can find a place to stick it.

                    Edit: Got what I figured to be the two most important parts of your post in, I've also provided a link for the thread in the guide.
                    Last edited by Guams; 06-25-2008, 04:07 PM.


                    • #11
                      Having been through the selection process with many agencies myself, I agree with everything you have stated. The only thing you left out was the polygraph.
                      What is Perseverance?
                      -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
                      -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.

                      BOP - BPA - ICE


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TheKansan View Post
                        Having been through the selection process with many agencies myself, I agree with everything you have stated. The only thing you left out was the polygraph.
                        I intentionally left out the polygraph. Even though it's used in other parts of the country, Wisconsin has a select few agencies that actually employ it. I never went through a polygraph so I can't provide any information on it as a tool in the hiring process.


                        • #13

                          WOW-That was Great, Thank you for taking the time to do that.

                          There are no stupid questions, but there sure are a lot of inquisitive idiots.


                          • #14
                            Out ... stinkin' ... standing.

                            Thanks, Guams. I'd like to see this become a living document. I would also like to nominate you as the holder/moderator of the document. May be too big of a job, but it would still be pretty sweet.

                            Thanks again.


                            • #15
                              Excellent advice, and well written.

                              Good Luck and Test Well!
                              Author of: How to become a peace officer by Wayne LeQuang (google it)

                              L.B.P.D. Academy #75
                              6 month of pain, for a 30 year career.

                              visit: "Black Monday" Great Video from LASD.


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