Police Promote
Oral Interview Dynamics

There is a nasty habit that many of us do verbally that really works against our communication effectiveness. We make statements that are excuse-based rationalizations for answers that we think might not be as effective as we’d like them to be. It’s as if we are giving the panel a pre-answer warning that the answer might have problems. This type of speaking is weak and namby-pamby and has no place in a promotional oral interview.

Pretext Justification is…

  • Verbal excuses for what is about to be said
  • Preparing the panel for a potential bad answer
  • A verbal safety net allowing for a pre-answer comfort zone
  • A way to diminish desired projected qualities
  • Unnecessary qualifying and rationalizing

“Unlike most children under the age of 12 or so, we adults offer qualifiers and chronology before we finally get to the delicious details that are most involving, credible, and evocative. By then, even well-intentioned listeners have taken several mental vacations.” 

—Kare Anderson

The following are common statements we often say or hear others make as part of our regular conversations.

Examples of Pretext Justification:

“You probably won’t believe this but…”
We have all heard this. The listener might think that the speaker is lying or is about to say something so fantastic that it defies belief.

“The way we usually do that is…”
I have heard this one in a number of oral interviews. There are two problems with this statement. First, the panel is not interested in how the group (“we”) did it; they are interested in the way YOU do it. Spreading the answer out to the group takes any potential blame away from you. It serves as a filter or buffer between you and a potentially poor answer. This represents a candidate who won’t take accountability or responsibility for his own answer…It’s not MY fault, it’s OURS.

The second issue with this statement you are telling the oral interview panel how you “usually” did it. Well, if you are testing for sergeant, you probably were not a sergeant in the past. The panel does not want to know how you would do something in the past as a line-level officer, an FTO, or detective; rather they want to know how you would handle the situation in the future as a sergeant. DON’T GO BACKWARDS!

“Well, I’m not sure this is correct, but…”
In the oral, you will only have one answer to the question. Whether it is correct or not is up to the panel, but chances are it is correct so why give the panel a heads up? Your answer may be great and perfectly accurate, but you warned them that you are not sure if it is correct and thus planted in their mind that you might be taking a big fat guess.

“Keeping in mind, I haven’t had any training in this area, I would…”
Again, your answer is what it is. If the panel likes it or thinks it’s a very good answer, they may think that you are highly trained in the subject matter you are talking about…oh wait a minute, no they won’t because you told them you have not had any training in this area. They don’t know your level of training in every area you speak of so just answer the question and keep the negatives out of your answer.

“The last time I was in that situation, I…”
The problem here is that you are going back in time again when you did not have rank. Remember, go forward and answer the question as if you were in the position you are testing for.

Come back and see us for Part Two!!