There’s a tactic used by some oral board interview panels, and that approach is to provide a high stress question or series of questions designed with one purpose, to stress you out as much as possible.
This type of question almost always involved several interruptions and challenges. You’ll find, in the answer to a question of this nature, that your focus is provide a reasonable answer, and to just roll with the challenges as smoothly and articulately as you can.
Panel: Mr. Ehlers, you’re on patrol in your police car and the dispatcher notifies you of this. “We have an officer down with shots fired. They give you the address as well. What would you do?
Candidate: I would of course drop whatever I was doing and respond immediately red light and siren to the location given. I would continue to collect information from the dispatcher as I was in route and of course I would start planning my approach or how I was going to handle that call on the way there.
Panel: Okay. You just got a flat tire, now what?
Candidate: I would immediately radio to dispatch, let them know of my predicament.
Panel: You’re on a bridge and all form of communications are down, your radio isn’t working.
Candidate: I would get out immediately and change the tire as fast as I possibly could in order to get to the call.
Panel: The bridge is a steel grate bridge and you have the wheel off, all log nuts fell through the bridge. Now what?
Candidate: I would go to another tire and take lug nuts off of that tire and use those lug nuts to finish the tire. I know it’s not the most optimal situation but you can operate a vehicle with three lug nuts and that’s how I would tackle that issue.
Panel: The lug wrench that comes with the tool kit of the squad is of poor quality and all the other bolted on so tight you’re unable to get them off.
Candidate: I’m going to recap, I can’t call dispatch because my radio isn’t working, the lug nuts have fallen through the bridge and I can’t get the other lug nuts off. I would try my cell phone to call the dispatcher to let them know …
Panel: As I said you’re on a bridge in an area with no communications are working kind of a black zone, maybe there’s too much metal on the bridge, uncommunicatable.
Candidate: Okay. I’ve got a life and death situation with an officer down, shots fired, an officer needs assistance call. I don’t see that I have any other option. I would just simply have to drive on three tires and try to get to the call that way. I think that’s the best answer I can give you. I’ve done my best to get to that call and again if I had to drive with a flat tire, I would do it.
Panel: Okay. Thank you.
Candidate: You’re welcome.
Chief Russ: Now the one thing you didn’t say and you might be thinking this, I commandeer a vehicle. I’d stop a passer-by and take their car. I’d be very, very careful with ever, ever getting in a situation were you’re commandeering someone’s vehicle. It happens in the movies but I don’t know of any departments off the top off my head that have a vehicle commandeering policy.
You didn’t give that answer, and that’s a good thing. My guess is, you can see what was happening. The oral board panel member was giving you the scenario and was interrupting you. In this type of hyper stress questioning, they’re not necessarily looking for absolutely perfect answer, but rather, what they’re looking for is, can this candidate think quickly on their feet or, are they going to go into melt down.
Those are the two key factors in this type of questioning tactic. Personally I don’t use this type of tactic on an oral board, but many agencies do, and I know of one instance where a young man was getting fired at like this with these kind of super-fire questions. Again the oral board panel simply wants to see if you can think quickly, make reasonable decisions under high stress and that you don’t melt down.
Now, this candidate that I spoke of literally got up from his seat and told the panel, “I don’t want to work for a department like yours”, and he walked out. Now, you’re not going to do that, but you need to be prepared for the firing line and the manner in which you answered this question was perfect. Again, just remember to recap, be reasonable, try to answer quickly, don’t meltdown, give them good answers, and eventually they will move on, once they’re satisfied that you’re a good problem solver under what was meant to be, a very stressful situation.