Police Promotion: Hitting the Bullseye
If you are a UK police officer aiming for promotion, you might not be aware that competition heated up in 2020. In England & Wales alone, the College of Policing released results of the NPPF Step 2 legal exam showing that 4,225 police constables passed their Sergeant’s exam. That’s more than double those passing the exam five years ago! Also, 2,809 Sergeants passed the Inspector’s exam, to qualify and apply for promotion to Inspector, three times the usual number each year.
Taking Aim: The Promotion Competition
“Above average never hits the bull’s eye, they just miss to kiss it.” – Sarala S
All in, that’s over 7,000 extra candidates, added to the thousands already in the promotion pool across England & Wales alone, who are qualified and competing for promotions in 2021. That’s the highest number of additional candidates in one year, owing to increased interest in promotion and the highest number of passes in a decade. This coincides with the new online examination methods which the College of Policing (CoP) used in 2020. Thousands more officers are also qualified in Police Scotland and PSNI. UK police forces will likely promote around 3,500 candidates this year at the federated ranks, more than usual in recent history (partly arising from ‘uplift’) and in turn, a lot of career progression opportunities. It also means a great deal of competition for those currently qualified and eligible.
If you are seriously aiming to hit the bullseye, that’s some contest right there. So, having some meaningful insights on how to get through your force promotion process, to get ahead of the curve via an edge over your competition, may just secure you that formal leadership position on promotion. More on that to follow…
A Moving Target…
“Keep your eye on the goal, keep moving toward your target.” – T. Harv Eker
There is a tremendous amount of work that aspiring police officers have already put in just to reach the starting line for the ‘next stages’ of a promotion selection process. Having qualified by passing the exam or other criteria (e.g. the leadership diploma in Police Scotland), most officers are unaware that different police forces have different promotion selection processes in place at different times for different ranks; that’s quite a changeable postcode lottery of police promotion. It can also test the mental toughness and personal resilience of aspiring promotion candidates. Add to this, that promotion goal posts move every year, with elements of the process often changed to include a mix and match of the following:
- A competency-based application or variant – and they do vary!
- A personal statement, potentially on your values
- Psychometric tests e.g., Situational Judgement Test (SJT), Written assessment, in-tray exercises.
- Presentations or Briefing (followed by Q & A session)
- Interview – Competency or Strengths-based
Linked above are some further reading materials to help you get ahead. I do also cover many aspects of promotion selection processes for free on my Rank Success YouTube channel.
“Momentum demands that we do what must be done within the time allocated for it.” – Innocent Mwangi
Studying for months through the early part of the year to pass the NPPF Step 2 Sergeant exam (next opportunity is 9-11 March 2021), or throughout the Summer to nail the Inspector exam (next opportunity scheduled 12 October 2021), is hard work. It’s likely that the last thing on your mind after qualifying is to start on the next, often more challenging steps to promotion. The intent to do so may be there, but not just yet.
After all, it’s time to catch your breath, take a well-earned breather. Many will then kick into gear to start raising awareness and honing their skills to convert their aspirations into promotion success. Others will procrastinate, lose momentum and before they realise it, all that hard work is suddenly at risk of expiring due to legal exam qualification time limits. There’s still time for some stragglers to put in a call from the last chance saloon to get some last-minute support.
“What we often lack is not the resources to learn, but an intent to learn.” – Tanmay Vora
For newly qualified officers, it’s important to keep some meaningful momentum going to ensure you can maximise your potential to hit that promotion bullseye when it matters. Resources to help with that are hidden in plain sight and are frequently cited by newly promoted Sergeants and Inspectors as ‘the edge’, that made the difference for them between success and failure. Here are some insights:
Mike: “I passed my promotion board first time, really gave me the edge over other candidates in a very competitive assessment.”
Becky: “I’ve had my Inspector board results today and passed, undoubtedly sent me massive steps in the right direction.”
Rob: “I have been successful through the Sergeant process (An application, Strengths Based Interview and micro exercises). Your guides were very helpful. Thanks again.”
I have the tremendous privilege of helping aspirational officers serving in forces around the UK, by providing confidential support around ‘What Works’ to achieve promotion success. This support includes some resources alluded to such as downloadable digital guides, blogs, promotion masterclasses, and bespoke 1-1 coach/mentor sessions.
I also share free food for thought on the Rank Success YouTube channel. Feedback from officers who hit the bullseye confirm that these free guidance videos can quickly help get you into the necessary mindset and state of preparation to achieve your goal. Subscribers are first to view new free content. They also include CPD insights for aspiring promotion candidates via an ‘All Leaders Read’ series, in which I signpost aspiring officers to police leadership and other CPD book recommendations.
Evidently, these resources can provoke and support thinking, keeping that initial momentum going. When combined with personal drive, enthusiasm and intent to learn, that bulls eye comes clearly into focus, offering promotion candidates a much clearer target. In the words of another newly promoted Inspector:
“There is so much mystery surrounding promotion and your guides made it clear and easy to understandwhat was expected of me”.
A recently – promoted Sergeant commented:
“I hadn’t realised someone had actually written down what you need to do to succeed in promotion. Having key information in one place saved me so much time, allowing me to use the time I had free, to focus on preparing.”
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” – Ferdinand Foch
As a qualified coach/mentor, I respect confidentiality and always clarify this from the outset. It’s an important point because whilst many successful candidates are happy to let me know of their promotion success privately, they don’t particularly want colleagues to discover that they had gained ‘an edge’ either through tailored personal support or availing themselves of bespoke digital promotion guides. Some describe the value of this support as the ‘secret’ part of their success. In my experience officers also tend to want to keep this information under their hats while preparing for promotion, for fear of their competition also discovering this fountain of targeted information that forces often don’t provide (e.g. see example video below).
An alternate interpretation might be that more proactive individuals simply acquired and then ‘weaponised’ content and information in their own interests, to maximise personal potential to hit the bullseye. Others who achieve success are less guarded and I’m delighted when individuals choose to share their approach abouthitting the bullseye, especially when they have previously been unsuccessful before seeking support. I have supported officers who had attempted promotion many times before finally seeking some targeted advice on what works. The elation and relief of the achievement is that much sweeter after what is sometimes years of exasperation/disappointment beforehand.
Hitting the mark only confirms that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” (Seneca). Discovering how successful colleagues have prepared can inspire and motivate others. I have started sharing videos about such experiences, see example below:
Here are some more examples of individual approaches:
Jonathan: I’ve been doing the Inspector boards every year since 2009. I downloaded your Inspector toolkit and after years trying, I just passed! Something worked, thank you.”
Julie: “I passed my Sergeant interview and came 2nd! I found the interview guide really helped me to focus and structure my prep and feel more confident about what I needed to do. Many thanks.”
Meds: “I came to you as an acting Sgt, who’d had a previous catastrophic board. I was certainly very confused about the CVF, you discuss this in your YouTube videos (a brilliant resource) around how evidence would fit in. I re-read your digital promotion toolkit and it dawned on me, I wasn’t thinking ‘in CVF mode” prior to completing my first drafts. It turned out mine was the highest scoring application. I received feedback I lost just one mark in the whole of the interview process! I was promoted as Sergeant, managing a team. Your YouTube sessions are fantastic, not just for recap, but to review and to understand. I think this year I will concentrate on completing my NPPF4. Then focus on my next exam.”
Steve: “I just passed my Sgt promotion board first time, I had no previous knowledge of the promotion process but purchased your promotion application & interview guides, which gave me a huge insight & the edge, thank you!”
Phil: “I used your promotion guides after two previously failed attempts and smashed the Inspector interview. Got the call yesterday.”
Shane: “With your product and a lot of hard work I have been promoted to Sergeant. I used your guides to change my mindset, which assisted greatly. Thanks very much“
Look to Your Front
“The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” – Mal Pancoast
Working long hours, commuting, family life and other priorities whilst also aspiring to promotion…I’ve been in that same position, which many newly qualified officers find themselves in. I wondered how I would ever find time to prepare for a promotion selection process. I had questions similar questions to those below and to which I’ve included an insight…with the benefit of hindsight….
- When will an opportunity arise? (Not knowing shouldn’t stop you preparing)
- Will I be supported? (Are you demonstrating behaviours/values assessed?)
- What will the process look like? (We are analytical! Gather info/intel to verify.)
- When should I start preparing? (Today!)
- It’s all a mystery to me, where can I find support? (Here, whatever your budget.)
- How can I help myself? (Start with the end in mind. Zero in. Take action.)
Taken together, such questions can make ‘going for promotion’ seem daunting or a little overwhelming. Time is a such a valuable resource, so I always encourage candidates to work smart, not just hard. It’s important because no one wants to enter a promotion selection process and waste such a hard-earned opportunity through being ill prepared. It can be quite an unpleasant and bruising experience for some candidates who ‘choose’ that approach and who have shared their experiences such as: “I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me”, “catastrophic” and “I took a big hit to my confidence”.
Effective preparation on the other hand increases the likelihood of a more desirable experience, as this newly promoted officer describes:
“Had my Inspector interview, hard work and understanding the process, contributed to the most comfortable smooth interview I have ever had.” – Ewan
As a Detective Inspector serving in Devon & Cornwall police, I supported wider teams of officers with their career aspirations, witnessing this kind of annual promotion board Groundhog Day occurring. I believed there had to be a way to avoid the common errors that vast cohorts of aspiring promotion candidates were repeating every year. With this in mind, I ran some evening support sessions for promotion candidates. When officers were successful, word got round. Subsequent sessions grew. (These were an early version of what became the Rank Success promotion masterclass).
Upon leaving the police service, I condensed this guidance into digital police promotion guides and toolkits, which have since helped thousands of cops to achieve success through meaningful and effective preparation in their attempts to hit that promotion bullseye. The digital Inspector toolkit for example, has tips and guidance to support your thinking in preparing for both Inspector and Chief Inspector opportunities. Many officers have used them to achieve multiple promotions.
“I have now been promoted twice and take up my new post next month. Your guides and course definitely helped in achieving this.”
Several officers in senior roles also keep in touch with me from time to time, as they progress their careers beyond the federated ranks.
When you make a commitment to yourself, to do some smart, hard work ahead of a promotion opportunity, it helps bring that bullseye into focus. Closing your knowledge gaps and aligning your experiences will boost your confidence for the challenge ahead. When that happens, you are more likely to be at ease, focused and able to take your shot. So why not start now?
“Cracking that promotion interview was just something I couldn’t seem to do. This approach was just what I needed. Over 120 people applied for 12 Inspector jobs. I passed with flying colours!” – Mike
Kind Regards, Steve
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend my Police Promotion Masterclass or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a bunch of free videos, guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.