“Hard work, intentional practice and time are the only things that develop competency. Passion is fuel in the tank, nothing more.” – Dan Rockwell
A ‘mock’ promotion board can be a welcome form of support ahead of your police promotion opportunity. If you are lucky enough to be offered one, make the most of it. A mock interview can provide reassurance that your prep is heading in the right direction and meaningful feedback can boost your personal confidence. It also facilitates an experience to reflect upon feedback and serves as an indication of your ‘state of readiness’ for the real thing.
Aspiring officers contact me seeking tips to make the most of an approaching promotion opportunity or enquire about what to expect on their board. This includes individuals who have been offered a mock board by a supportive line manager, local SMT, or at force level. Whilst this particular kind of support is well-intended, it can also be quite daunting because a mock interview should ideally reflect similar conditions to a real board. Hence they can be quite formal.
Either way, if you turn up for a mock board having done nothing in readiness (as many do) you’ll receive feedback that reflects this. At worst that can kill your hopes of success or at least knock your confidence. This is avoidable if you start applying yourself now.
The good news is that with a little thought, application and commitment beforehand, any candidate can benefit from the experience of a mock board. More on that later!
A Wooden Start
“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By becoming a little better each and every day, over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” – John Wooden
My response if asked about the best way to prepare follows John Wooden’s guidance. Operational policing, shiftwork and impending mock promotion board opportunities rarely mesh well together. Time becomes your enemy. Smart rather than hard work is called for. So how can you start today?
Let’s hit the ground running: There are six competencies in the College of Policing’s (COP) Competency and Values Framework (CVF). What is your evidence for each competency? As things stand today, you either have evidence aligned to level two of the CVF for each competency… or you don’t.
If you do have evidence, where is it? Your first step is to make it tangible so that you can see it. When you can see it, things start to make sense and a whole load of benefits come in to play. Let’s take a look at what I mean.
What you’ll see below is a potential promotion board question. I’ve kept it straightforward. It’s directly focused on one CVF competency: ‘we deliver, support and inspire’. You’ll see a clear response to follow with good promotion evidence that answers the question. It’s tangible; you can see it because it’s in writing. The bold text above each section indicates that a structure has been used. In this example, PAR aids succinct story telling and flow.
Drafting your promotion evidence now, similar to the below example for each CVF competency, is a choice. It will put you ahead of the curve when a process is announced. If your force’s promotion process has a booklet application or paper-sift, it will serve you well for that too.
Once drafted and aligned to the relevant CVF guidance points, you can add to or amend your evidence as you wish. You will then have a meaningful aide to develop, practice and fine-tune your verbal interview responses while building your confidence. Not such a wooden start after all!
Mock Board Example Question
“One of the competencies for this selection process is ‘We Deliver, Support and Inspire’. Can you please provide your best example or evidence for this competency?”
P – Problem or situation you were facing? Introduce the context.
“As A/Sgt in Public Protection Unit, I was responsible for performance of the domestic abuse team. I recognised through reviewing incidents, that a significant lack of knowledge existed around the importance of first officer attendance with victims, completion of risk assessments and understanding of legislation. This was frustrating investigations; providing inadequate responses to vulnerable domestic abuse victims and I was concerned it was a barrier to delivering on our force mission of protection and reassurance.”
A – Action: How did you tackle the situation? Leadership actions!
“I identified opportunities to provide bespoke training packages for new cohorts of student officers and front line staff. In consultation with our Learning and Development department I designed, developed and implemented domestic abuse training, personally delivering the sessions to raise awareness and drive up investigation standards. I tailored packages to guide teams in focusing upon initial contact. I emphasised golden hour opportunities around completion of risk assessment forms. I used case studies and examples to enhance team learning in context through varied perspectives. I encouraged student officers to contact me directly with operational feedback or issues with the form so that I could use their responses to improve it. This process identified and highlighted how officers were inaccurately risk-assessing victims. I could see the detail around responses provided was not being fully captured, leading to incorrect assessments, poor investigation standards and inherent risks to force reputation. Consequently, I worked with the IT team making critical adjustments to the form to enable meaningful context to be included.
This momentum and my own passion for protecting the vulnerable was also evident when I took responsibility to up skill all front line officers around their understanding of stalking and harassment legislation. To achieve this I took advantage of force training days. I developed material using POLKA, NCALT and Authorised Professional Practice. This ensured that our front line staff received meaningful information and effective guidance to support them operationally. Partner relationships I have developed enabled me to be creative concerning force domestic abuse response. Having identified increased reports of domestic abuse coinciding with sporting events, I utilised partner agencies in providing a joint response to victims.”
R – Results or outcomes achieved? What’s better, changed or improved?
“Women’s Aid representatives now attend reported incidents together with officers. Service has improved by using inclusive, planned and organised approaches to deliver the best possible service, whilst also reducing demand for police involvement. Through genuinely caring for domestic abuse victims, I have positively contributed to our wider policing response. I have equipped staff to risk assess effectively, in turn providing improved and more efficient service delivery, protecting and reassuring victims of domestic abuse.”
What Works – Before and After
“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.” – John Marsden
Progressing your career incorporates learning, setbacks and obstacles; the ‘essence’ of this is often captured in individual journeys. I’m always inspired by the resilience, attitude and growth mindset demonstrated by individuals who aim to achieve promotion.
Here are three snapshots offering insights into the value of a mock board, but more importantly in understanding the biggest challenge first, you!
‘My Nemesis’ – Dan’s story
Before: “For a long time I had struggled with interviews; I didn’t know how to get the right amount of detail in my answers whilst managing my time. Interviews had turned into my nemesis; the more I worried the worse I performed. As a result I failed my Sergeant promotion board. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it happen again. I contacted Steve for some help. We went through some Sergeant and Inspector level questions. He provided detailed feedback for each response I gave, reassuring me that I was better than I thought. It really helped doing a ‘dry run’.
After: Major difference this time! I felt comfortable and confident going into my interview. I was reassured I had done the right preparation and targeted the right areas. My responses were detailed, to the point and within time limits.”
‘Totally Mystified’ – Ceri’s story
Before: “I started out totally mystified and unsure of what lay ahead.
I booked a one to one before my board.
After: This took away some of the mystery for me and gave me confidence in my approach. It’s a very hard process, but so worth it if you are willing and able to put the time and work in. I passed my sergeants board first time and can safely say I wouldn’t have had the confidence and drive to get through without this. I get posted to my new team soon and I still can’t quite believe it!”
‘Chaos and Confusion’ – Mike’s story
Before: “Cracking that promotion interview was just something I couldn’t seem to do. I decided to try a different approach. Steve’s enthusiasm was clear; he quickly managed to unjumble the chaos and confusion in my head to a calm thought process.
After: Over 120 people applied for 12 Inspector jobs. I passed with flying colours!
Pulling It All Together
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
When it comes to promotion, no options can offer you a guarantee of success. You could pay hundreds of £££s to service providers just to run a mock board for you. Alternatively, you can get started with Van Gogh’s approach and bring a series of small things together.
When you have your evidence drafts ready and aligned to each CVF competency, ask a close friend or loved one who cares about your success to act as your interviewer. Give them some example questions on postcards, e.g.
- What is your evidence of the CVF competency: We are emotionally aware?
- What is your evidence of the CVF competency: We are innovative and open-minded?
Shuffle these cards so you won’t know the order in which the questions will come. Time the session for 45 minutes, take it seriously and stay in role. Focus on your responses. Concentrate on what goes well. Press record on your phone. Play it back as part of reflecting afterwards. Write down your thoughts. How did you feel? What went well? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being high) where is your confidence? This is something that is tried and tested, saves you considerable expense and provides a focus for positive progress.
Get feedback from your interviewer not necessarily about the content, but more about how you come across, how confident you sound, your non-verbal communications (NVCs), signs of nerves etc. Repeat this mock board process. Compare and contrast them. How are you improving? Remember you don’t have to get any of it right, you don’t want to peak until the day of your real board.
It’s all about practice, learning and improving up to then.
I’ll leave the last word to Frank Sonnenberg:
“Consider the advice of others, but trust yourself in the end.”
If you found this blog helpful, why not take action today? You can download a digital toolkit (most are FREE!) and hit the ground running right away, or book yourself onto my upcoming Promotion Masterclasses, leading the way on what really works.
Kind Regards, Steve
Wherever you are on your promotion journey, Rank Success can help you with comprehensive guidance and support.