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Interview Tips for Police Officers Transitioning to the Private Sector

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Tim Hardiman retired as an Inspector with the NYPD after 23 years of service and is a graduate of the 194th Session of the FBI National Academy. He is currently the Director of Business Development, Law Enforcement for AMU.

Many police officers are able to retire from their police careers long before they are ready to never work again. They are interested in the financial benefits of collecting a pension along with a regular paycheck to truly experience financial independence. Many retiring officers choose to transition into the private sector, but making this transition can be challenging. While officers have, through education, training, and experience, developed skills that many employers find valuable, it’s imperative for officers to clearly understand their skillset and, most importantly, be able to communicate those skills to potential employers.

In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, George Brandt postulated that all job interviews boil down to three questions:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

The first question, “Can you do the job?” is easier to answer for some positions than others. Many officers gravitate to the private security field where their policing skills translate easily. But, police officers can excel at positions other than security. Police officers are used to operating independently, dealing with stressful situations, making decisions and communicating with different categories of people. A police officer can add to these attributes through specialized training, experience and education. But it is up to the officer to show the employer that he or she can indeed “do the job”. The officer needs to translate police experience and skills into terms the potential employer can understand – it is not the employer’s duty to make this connection. A police officer who wants to seek a position not traditionally held by retired officers can do things to make himself or herself more attractive as a candidate. Officers should learn about current trends in the field they are trying to enter. Find and follow leaders in the field on Twitter, join industry related groups on Linkedin.com, read online copies of trade journals for the career you are interested in. When you go in for the interview you will make it clear that you understand what is important in this field and that you can “do the job.”

The second question “Will you love the job?” can be problematic for police officers. Employers may perceive—especially if the job is not police or security oriented—that a retired police officer will miss the action of police work. It is up to the candidate to show that he or she has come to terms with hanging up their gun belt and are ready to find excitement that comes with the new opportunity whether it’s improving a manufacturing process, developing business leads or closing a sale.

“Can we tolerate working with you?” is another issue where a retiring officer may need to overcome prejudices other candidates won’t encounter. Some people, due to their own actions, have had negative experiences with police officers. Others may hold preconceived notions of who a police officer is or what officers do through books, movies or television. Officers should be used to these feelings from attending social events with family or non-police friends. During the job interview, it is important to show that you are not overly authoritative or judgmental. Demonstrate through your demeanor that you are someone they would enjoy working with every day.

Police officers have one of the most challenging jobs in the world–successful police officers should be able to excel in many positions not only related to law enforcement or security. The three questions identified by Forbes are a good place for transitioning officers to start as they prepare to seek a second career.

~Tim Hardiman

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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