How to ace your oral board interview

Be careful not to interview for the job you currently have


To be a considered an “ace,” World War II pilots had to shoot down at least five enemy airplanes. In effect, they had to train, practice, and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to master their equipment, perform under pressure, supervise others, and mitigate any potential damage to life, property, or reputation. 

Similarly, as you prepare for promotion, there are a number of things you can do to prepare to ace the oral interview process.

One of the most common prompts in an oral board is, “Tell us about your education and experience that you believe qualifies you for this position.” They really want to know about your readiness level to perform the essential functions necessary to be successful on day one. 

The skills they’re looking for relate more to the administrative, tactical, operational, personnel, and supervisory functions, rather than street tactics. How can you speak to those skills in an interview setting if you haven’t had the chance to develop or practice them? 

LODESTAR and POSDCORB
The raters are looking for you to connect the dots — for them — between your current and past assignments to the next promotional role. You can provide them with reassuring examples (success stories) that “demonstrate” your knowledge, skills, and abilities and readiness as a supervisor to add value in achieving their goals and objectives. 

Remember, it’s not about your goals — it’s about theirs. 

Many candidates simply give a chronology of their prior assignments and unfortunately, bury the lead (at the end of that chronology, where the most relevant experience lies). They essentially interview for the wrong job — the one they’re currently in — and neglect to speak to the real supervision and management KSAs which include using a contemporary mnemonic, such as LODESTAR — Leading, Organizing, Deciding, Evaluating, Staffing, Training, Allocating, Reporting (Kania & Davis, 2010)  or POSDCORB: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting (Luther Gulick, 1937). Note that LODESTAR is a more contemporary update from POSDCORB.

You have more control over your interview than you realize — it’s all in the preparation and practice in focusing on transferable skills related to the KSA’s. During the oral interview, it’s up to you to highlight and prioritize the points that demonstrate your “proven” ability to step into the role. Oral interviews are generally considered rather subjective and there is actually a rather low validity to a candidate’s ability to perform the job duties. 

Compare the candidate who merely talks about what they “would do” on the job, and those who actually demonstrate what they “have already done” that meets similar criteria for the job. If you can weave “success stories” into your response, you will be a stronger candidate. Success stories are 90-second snapshots featuring key skills that were demonstrated. 

Consider using the blueprint acronym CARS. What was the Challenge you faced? What was the Action you took? What was the Result of your action? And how was that a Success? 

Describing your skills to an oral board can be intimidating. In fact, public speaking is the number one fear many people have. Look for opportunities to practice your public speaking skills doing presentations (such as Toastmasters or community groups) where you provide an introduction of your background and experience. Just remember the keys to prepare and deliver effective speeches require you to ask yourself: 

1. Who is your audience?
2. What’s in it for them (their motivation for listening)?

Your Opening Statement
Start with the number of years on the department and briefly list the types of assignments you’ve worked — patrol, traffic, investigation, SWAT, K-9, detectives. If you’ve been in a specialized assignment for an extended period of time that hasn’t allowed you to demonstrate supervisory skills, you may have to rely on other transferable skills from prior military, private sector jobs, community/volunteer assignments or parenting to reassure the panel you can hit the ground running. 

Example: “While I’ve been on X years, and had a variety of experiences, I’ve been able to utilize many of the same skills of a (Rank) such as being a SWAT team leader, FTO (FTO or FTO Supervisor demonstrate similar skills), Incident Commander, managed investigative case loads, coordinated with multiple agencies on tactical operations.”

Remember that every day is free practice to create your own CARS stories and improve others’ perception of your supervisory and management skills. 

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  2. Promotion

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