While sitting on oral board panels, I have often heard statements like, “I am a good communicator” or other similar statements. Such statements are often in response to, “Why are you the best candidate for the position?” or “What are your strengths?” or similar type question. I like to ask a follow-up question, such as, “Yes, communication skills are critical, can you explain to the panel WHY you are a good communicator?” Unfortunately, I often get a look of panic or confused disbelief that the promotional candidate actually has to back up a claim.
So, if you say you’re good at something as important as communication skills, leadership, ethics, or other critical component of supervision and management, don’t just give us a few words; explain it to us. Talk to us like we are three. Provide your panel members with a detailed explanation that proves your talent in a particular area. If you provide a single sentence with no explanation, you are selling yourself short and such limited statements may likely leave the panel unimpressed and wanting more.
“I am a good communicator”
“One of my strongest skills is my ability to communicate. I take the necessary time and have the patience to explain both the details and concepts when I provide directions, expectations, or when I train others. I also understand the importance of active listening. When speaking, I insure that my ideas and words are clear and fully understood by providing examples, verbal illustrations, and by asking for feedback. I also pay close attention when I communicate through my written work, such as completed staff work, business letters, memos, and email.”
Between the single sentence above and the paragraph that follows it, which one would offer the panel a more illustrative picture of your communication skills? Whenever possible and appropriate, make your answers explanatory. Self-serving statements with no explanation are like McDonald’s French Fries without salt…think about it.
Now here’s the good part. When you accomplish illustrative speaking and you present it with good solid content-rich answers, it makes it very easy for the panel members to feel a strong sense of commonality and mutuality with you. This connection is called rapport.
Establishing rapport with the panel or with anyone for that matter is a very good thing. You are saying what they want to hear. They are agreeing with you and being influenced by you. They are feeling that you are like them based on your answers and how your answers are associated to them. This is the commonality and mutuality. People like those who are like them. There is a formula to this and this formula is why this lesson is so beneficial in a promotional oral interview…
Rapport = Likability & Likeability = Points
If I like you, I will score you higher; can’t help it, its human nature.
When a panel member is asking a question, at the exact moment promotional candidates determine what the question is about (community policing, a critical incident, or discipline), nearly everyone begins to develop the answer in their head while the question is still being asked. They think this offers some small advantage or head start on the development of their answer. Don’t do this, as it actually divides their attention and makes it very easy to misinterpret or miss a portion of the question. Not listening to the entire question could result in putting information in that does not belong or omitting information that should be included. The solution to this listening problem is simply recognizing the problem in the first place. Listen intently from beginning to end so your answer will perfectly match the question.
When we participate in a promotional oral interview, it’s perfectly natural to be nervous. One of the byproducts of nervousness is we develop a stiff and somewhat lifeless monotone voice that will drive panel members into a mental vacation. Consider that about 38 percent of your communication effectiveness is based on the tone or tonality of your voice. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Your tone is the base, treble, and equalizer of the human voice and should vary in volume, pace, pitch, inflection, and resonance. Make your voice project energy, conviction, confidence, and an articulate conversational style.
A great quality for promotional candidates to possess is verbal dexterity; being able to answer diverse questions in a variety of situations. To achieve this flexibility, promotional candidates can simply practice in diverse ways. The best method of practice is a mock oral interview. Also consider using your smart phone to record your answers and then critique the responses and improve them. Speak in front of a mirror, video record yourself, speak out loud answering questions during your commute to and from work. Put your kid’s stuffed animals across the table and deliver answers to their little button eyes. The point is you are presenting answers out loud just as you must do in the actual interview. Sit down and explain to your significant other about leadership, ethics, risk management, supervision, discipline, or community policing/procedural justice. With such broad and varied practice and gained flexibility, sitting in a comfortable chair before an interview panel for thirty minutes will seem much easier.
About the Author Andy Borrello is a retired police captain and 27-year veteran of the San Gabriel (CA) Police Department. He is the author of “Police Promotion Super Course” and has served as a career development consultant, promotional coach and seminar presenter for the past 17 years. He is a California POST Master Instructor and a graduate of POST Command College. Andy welcomes comments and networking at www.policepromote.com.