Police Interview Newsletter
Behavioral Descriptive Interviewing (BDI) - Can You Make the Cut?

Behavioral Descriptive Interviewing (BDI) - Can You Make the Cut?
Volume 5, Issue 5
November-December, 2006

     What have you heard about "Behavioral Descriptive Interviewing"? It's being used more and more on police oral board interviews. So, listen up!

     In many areas of life, an individual's past performance or behavior is the best predictor of future performance. This is true academically. If a student was a high performer in high school, chances are the she will also perform well in college. Higher institutions are aware of this and have been de-emphasizing college SAT Scores in favor of simply studying high school transcripts and reviewing teacher reference letters.

     This is also true in predicting criminal behavior. If a person has a history of repeated illegal acts, there is a much higher probability that he will be a lawbreaker in the future. This is one reason that police investigators place so much importance on checking criminal databases when generating lists of suspects for unsolved crimes.

     And not surprisingly, past job performance is an excellent best predictor of one's future effectiveness in the employment world. How former employers rate a person's job skills, level of commitment, attitude, and personal integrity hold great weight with any organization looking to hire new people. This, of course, is why job applicants are generally asked to provide the hiring company or agency with the names of previous supervisors who can serve as "references" - people who are willing to share their observations and assessments of the employee's competence and character.

     Recognizing the presence of this very significant positive correlation between demonstrated competence on past jobs and future employment success, some law enforcement agencies have begun to use Behavioral Descriptive Interviewing as part of their oral board process in the selection of new police officers.

     The Calgary Police Service, in Vancouver Canada, is helping to lead the way with this specialized kind of law enforcement oral board interview. They describe the Behavioral Descriptive Interview in the following way:

     "This style of interview assesses real actions from your past in an effort to predict future behaviors. You need to remember specific incidents in your life when you demonstrated the required competency. This may be an incident from work, education, volunteering or your personal life. Your examples should be as recent as possible but also your best examples. A stellar example from five years ago is better than a weak example fro six months ago." (see "Preparing for your Interview" at www.calgarypolice.ca).

     So, for example, instead of being asked the hypothetical question "What would you do if faced with an angry citizen while you were on patrol?" to evaluate your job-related interpersonal skills, the police applicant might be asked, "Think back to a recent time when you had to deal with an angry citizen. Describe the situation and tell us how you handled it." So, in effect, applicants are being asked to draw directly from their actual experiences and offer examples of their relevant skills and competencies for a law enforcement work.

Required Competencies For Law Enforcement Officers

     Law enforcement interviewers on the Oral Board are interested in evaluating a wide range of applicant competencies - skills and aptitudes they believe will needed later by every successful police officer.

     These competency areas might include:

  1. Managing strong emotions
  2. Taking initiative
  3. Making good decisions quickly
  4. Cooperation and teamwork
  5. Verbal Communication
  6. Good judgment and problem solving
  7. Restraint in difficult situations
  8. Self-control in personal affairs
  9. Accepting authority without undue friction
  10. Working independently
  11. Taking charge, being assertive
  12. Recognizing and managing stress
  13. Multi-tasking
  14. Persistence
  15. Managing frustration and failure
  16. Flexibility to handle change
  17. Time management
  18. Taking responsibility for mistakes

How to be a "Star" when answering Behavioral Descriptive Interview Questions
On your oral interview

     When an oral board interviewer asks a question, based on one of the desired competency area, the police applicant will be expected to respond in the S.T.A.R. format. STAR is an acronym for "Situation", "Task", "Action", and "Result".

     So, when offering your real-life examples in response to behavioral descriptive interview questions, keep the following format in mind:

Situation - What happened? When did it happen? Who were you with?

Task - What was the task, problem, or opportunity that you were presented with?

Action - What did you do?

Result - What was the outcome of your actions? What did you learn from the situation?

     To view an excellent live example of behavioral descriptive interviewing (3-minute videotape) by the Calgary Police Department, please go to http://www.calgarypolice.ca.

Prepare for These Kinds of Behavioral Descriptive Interview Questions
At the Police Oral Boards

  1. Tell us about a recent situation where you had to take charge of a situation, showing assertiveness and leadership, in an effort to make the right kinds of things happen.

  2. Tell us about a recent time on your job when you had to work very independently, without close supervision, to accomplish an important task.

  3. Please give us an example of a work situation where you had to consider multiple possibilities and show flexibility in solving a problem.

  4. Give us from examples from your personal life where you have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse, yet been able to control your anger and respond appropriately. When in recent times, have you responded to someone's verbal abuse in a less-than-effective way?

  5. Give us an on-the-job example when you were able to accept constructive criticism and take responsibility for your mistake or shortcomings.

  6. In your work life, when have you had to perform routine or boring tasks? At such times, how have you been able to maintain high level of attention and concentration to insure your successful job performance?

  7. In your past jobs, when have you had to make good decisions quickly under stressful circumstances?

  8. On the job, when have you had to work closely with other members of a team? What does good team functioning require?

  9. Give us an example of a recent work situation where you showed a willingness to take initiative without being told what to do.

  10. Tell us about a recent time when you felt annoyed or irritated with a co-worker or supervisor, and found a way to deal with your feelings appropriately.

  11. What kinds of recent work situations have you found to be frustrating? How did you handle those frustrations?

  12. Tell us about a recent time when you made an excellent decision at work, even though the situation was difficult to read or somewhat complicated.

  13. What's the last thing on which you and your boss disagreed? How did you settle it? (quoted from www.inc.com)

  14. When have you had to complete several projects with the same deadline? How did you tackle that? (quoted from www.inc.com)

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