“A good forecaster is not smarter than everyone else. He merely has his ignorance better organised.” 
- Anon 


As part of your police promotion preparation and structured competency-based interview, it’s definitely wise to become familiar with the type of questions you may be asked. This will ensure that you are not wrong-footed on the day, by questions that you hadn’t expected and were not aware of. In this context, it helps if you are two faced!

This blog summarises the difference between rear-facing and forward-facing questions with some tips along the way as to how you can deliver a strong response to either. For detailed insights on interview questioning and sample UK police promotion interview questions, please take a look at my downloadable Interview Success guide. For now, here’s my two-faced advice…

Rear-Facing Questions

“Competence goes beyond words. It’s a leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how”. – John C. Maxwell

In an interview assessing your police leadership behaviours against your local promotion competency framework, you may find yourself being asked rear-facing questions. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well, they say that behavioural/competency interviewing helps your interviewers assess whether you are capable of doing the job based upon your past performance. Here’s an explanation from The Keil Centre:

“The single best predictor of whether a person will demonstrate competency in a job in the future is whether that person has demonstrated it in the past. The structured or focused interview is designed to gather evidence about past performance, which provides a predictor of future on-the-job performance.”

These rear-facing questions are the traditional kind that you might recognise and that most well prepared candidates will be expecting. These are questions asking for examples of something you have done previously, for example:

  • When have you considered information from various sources to make a decision?
  • How have you developed yourself for the role? 

  • Can you please give an example of when you have worked in partnership to improve service delivery? 


As with your police promotion application evidence, you can structure your response using a simple ‘PAR’ approach. Briefly this means that you outline the PROBLEM you faced, detail the ACTIONS you took and state the RESULT achieved.

For Metropolitan officers, an alternative structure of ‘SOAR’ (Situation, Objective, Actions, Result) is normally used. I would also encourage you to include what you learned and how you might apply it going forward as a Sergeant or Inspector, thereby demonstrating a growth mindset and commitment to CPD.

Forward-Facing Questions

“Trust has two dimensions: competence and integrity. We will forgive mistakes of competence. Mistakes of integrity are harder to overcome.” – Simon Sinek

UK promotion interview question

Forward-facing questions are slightly different. They also help interviewers assess whether you are capable of doing the job in future. But this time the emphasis is on your future intentions, ensuring these are grounded in current values and standards. They can provide a promotion panel with insight into how you think, so the board may enquire about what you will do or how you would do something

These future-orientated questions are often ‘values-based’. The College of Policing’s (CVF) framework is both competence- and values-based.

These questions can be unsettling if you have not anticipated them. Whilst they are still competence-based, you may discover in interview that you are ill-equipped if you are only prepared to talk about what you have done. The day of your board is not the best time to recognise this! Some do learn the hard way, which can be a bruising and unwelcome experience.

With that in mind, ‘shoehorning’ into the interview an example when you haven’t been directly asked for one is likely to frustrate or annoy the panel members. You don’t want to do that if you can help it! More importantly, if you are not answering the question, you are not scoring against relevant competencies. The panel may collectively pick up on this when making their notes e.g. ‘Candidate didn’t listen or answer the question’.

Fighting Your Corner…

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” – Anton Chekhov

Fight your corner

Boxers prepare for months before competitive opportunities, honing their skills and abilities to avoid a knockout blow.

Well-considered interview responses also reflect the depth and breadth of your promotion preparation. They may take time to hone too. So thinking about and practicing potential responses to some forward facing questions can be time very well spent!

Board members want you to do well. They will do what they can to facilitate your best performance by asking supplementary or probing questions to provide you with an opportunity to respond as comprehensively as you can.

A promotion board provides interviewers with insights into your preparation and commitment to the promotion selection process. It supports them to make an informed ‘risk’ decision on behalf of the organisation, promoting you in a competitive process instead of other equally qualified candidates. Your responses to forward facing questions may just make the difference between holding your own and being knocked out. Well-prepared candidates do stand out. From round one they are head on points. Here are some examples to work with before you even climb through the ropes.

  • How will you ensure we are can build trust and offer service to our communities? 

  • How will you lead your teams? 

  • How would you make effective decisions as Inspector? 

  • What does success look like to you?

What others can you think of? 

Who why what

Practice makes perfect so the saying goes. You’ll see questions that come from both directions and there are some real benefits in being two faced. Raising your awareness of behaviours being assessed, fine tuning your understanding of the process and underpinning considered interview responses are a few.

This leads me nicely onto a method which might enable you to draw together all of the above…

Strengthen Your ENAMEL!

“Have faith in your preparation. Be strong. Bring your best smile!” – Steve Cooper

ENAMEL your interview response

One structure, which can be used to support your thinking and preparation for both types of questions and respond in a conversational style, is ENAMEL. Here is a quick summary:

  • E – Easy Tiger! No need to answer immediately. Take a moment to think about the question and consider it.
  • N – National, Regional, Force, BCU: What’s the context?
  • A – “As a Sergeant/Inspector…”: Link to the role
  • M – “My thoughts are…”: Have a view on the subject, what do you think/believe?
  • E – Evidence: This is the main part. What evidence do you have for that behaviour? Provide example(s), using PAR structure.
  • L – Learning / Future: What did you learn? How can/will you apply that in the role in future?

I’ll give more detail in a future dedicated blog, but this ENAMEL mnemonic is already in my downloadable digital toolkit if you want to get ahead of the curve.

So until next time, remember there’s nothing wrong with being two faced!  🙂  🙂

Kind Regards, Steve

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, www.ranksuccess.co.uk can help with guidance and support.

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