What agencies look for in law enforcement recruits
The hiring process is really opposite sides of the same coin. Law enforcement recruiters are looking for a few good people. And only a few qualified candidates are able to obtain jobs.
The problem of finding the right fit exists nationwide: How do law enforcement agencies go about finding enough candidates?
Only about 3 percent of all law enforcement candidates make it to become officers. There are many reasons for this. Throughout each step of the application process, potential candidates are washed out because of weak skills, bad backgrounds or poor physical conditioning. Some are simply unprepared for the grueling process, while others should never have applied to begin with.
To be successful, a candidate should prepare, dedicate him or herself, test effectively, prioritize, make informed decisions, perform well under pressure, be in excellent physical condition, communicate effectively and fully understand the selection process. Only one out of every 75 candidates ever gets beyond the competitive seven-step process. Let's look at what you can do to improve your chances.
In any competitive situation, you must always perform to the best of your ability. This cannot happen overnight or even on the first try, unless you have an above-average set of skills and have been doing parallel activities for some time. Therefore, you should consider preparing and begin doing it as early as possible. Start with the written portion of the exam. Purchase one or more study books from your local bookstore or borrow them from the public library.
Any sustained effort will take dedication. You may fail one or more tests and have to wait six months until you qualify to take them again. As Confucius said, "It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop."
Many people do not do well in testing situations. But the reality is, law enforcement is a high-pressure occupation. Hiring boards do everything in their power to screen out weak and indecisive candidates. Put yourself to the test constantly. Remember, "A diamond is a piece of coal that did well under pressure!"
It also goes without saying that law enforcement is a physically demanding job. Between working long hours and wrestling with suspects, it pays to be in shape, and not just for survival but for your long term health as well. If you are not physically active now, begin an exercise program right away. Don't wait until you collapse from your mile and a half run to realize you need to be in shape for this profession.
Eighty-five percent of normal communication is nonverbal. You will learn as a law enforcement officer how to read body language and danger cues. You will also find yourself in situations where interpersonal skills and conflict-management skills will take you farther than an aggressive stance. Communicating in writing, in the form of a narrative report, constitutes 55 percent of your time as a patrol officer. In short, communication skills are essential. If yours are not strong, take classes and get help.
Finally, you must understand the selection process if you are to succeed in this competitive environment. It is not what you know, but what you don't know, that will eliminate you from the running. Talk to officers, go on ride-alongs, read law enforcement publications and take criminal justice courses. The more you know what is expected of you, the better you will perform. And performance is what the hiring process is all about.