Applying to Be a Police Officer? Follow These Tips for A Successful Application


So you want to become a police officer! It’s a great goal that can lead to stable employment, a fulfilling career, and a lifetime of helping others. Every department has its own set of qualifications, and you’ll be expected to undergo several tests, background checks, and interviews that will determine whether you are offered a position.

The very first step, however, is completing and submitting an application. You’d be surprised how many people never make it past the first stage of the hiring process simply because they’ve made a careless mistake in how they complete the initial application.

To ensure your application makes the grade, follow these important tips.

  1. Read the job announcement. The job announcement includes important information such as prerequisites, minimum requirements and automatic disqualifiers. If you are not sure whether you have met the requirements or have questions about the process, reach out to the department for clarification.Understand prerequisites. Will you need to take a written test or a physical agility test? If so, what is the passing criteria you will need to achieve? Be sure to check what additional tests you’ll be required to complete.Pay attention to any testing dates. It is your responsibility to keep track of any required test dates—the department may not remind you. 
  2. Follow directions and pay attention to detail. You are applying to be a police officer, and police officers need to be able to follow instructions.
  3. Name your uploaded files. If the application requires you to upload any files, make sure the filename includes your name and a description of the document, like John_Smith_references.doc
  4. Check for grammar and spelling. You may not think that grammar and spelling matter in policework, but having effective communication skills is essential for police officers, as is attention to detail. Officers are required to write reports on calls they participate in, and those reports need to be well-written and accurate. Check your application for any errors before you submit it. 
  5. Complete all required fields. Everything on the application is important to the department doing the hiring—that’s why it’s on the application. Failing to provide answers will look careless.
  6. Be honest. Police departments don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be honest and forthcoming.
  7. Be thorough. Make sure you’re giving a complete picture of your motivation and qualifications.
  8. Make a good first impression. Your application is your chance to present yourself as a good candidate—make sure you are showing yourself in the best possible light.
  9. If you have questions on the application, ask! If something is unclear or you don’t understand how to proceed, don’t guess—the department will be happy to clarify.
  10. Be patient. Hiring a police officer is a long process, so be prepared to wait a few weeks to a few months for a response.
  11. Keep the department informed. If you apply to a department then change your mind, of if you’ve been hired elsewhere, do the department the courtesy of letting them know you want to withdraw yourself from consideration. 

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