July 18, 2017

Finding a Law Enforcement Job

Since the events of September 11, 2001, there has been increased attention on public security and safety. As a result, the number of people working in a law enforcement career has increased, creating new jobs at the local, state, and federal levels. However, finding a law enforcement job requires months (or years) of determination and hard work.

Many agencies require more than just a high school diploma. To improve your chances of finding a law enforcement job you should obtain a post-secondary degree and/or certification in law enforcement. Full-time military experience, including military training and education, will also qualify you. However, law enforcement agencies look far beyond a candidate’s education when considering whom to hire.

Viable candidates should also have demonstrated community involvement in programs that support youth or the elderly, the disabled, or drug/alcohol programs. Agencies seek candidates who possess qualities such as assertiveness, accountability, sound judgment, problem solving, responsiveness, and adaptability. They look for conflict resolution, public speaking, interviewing, self-defense, and computer skills. When applying for a job, ensure your resume fully and accurately reflects your qualifications.

Finding a Law Enforcement Job When ready, you will complete the 10 to 15 page employment application, which seeks information on your employment and education histories, credit and financial information, and criminal records. Answer all questions completely and truthfully, as your information will be verified fully. Agencies perform background checks on everything from driving records to schools attended, family members, and doctors.

You will be required to take a series of examinations. The first step in the process of finding a law enforcement job is the written exam. Prepare well for it; a high score improves your chances of getting hired. You will also need to pass a physical exam, which tests your levels of fitness, agility, and endurance. Your eyesight and hearing will also be tested. Other tests include a lie detector test and a psychological test to determine your level of mental stability.

One last requirement is the job interview. This is typically a panel interview, with interviewers checking everything from your clothing and grooming to your body language and how you answer the questions. You will also want to be well prepared for this meeting.

While there are law enforcement jobs available, the competition for each job is high. Even with solid education and experience, a qualified candidate will need to arm him- or herself with patience and persistence in order to survive the application process and get the desired job.


As with any profession, resumes for law enforcement careers should be specific to the job for which the applicant is applying. Many people write their own resume, while others seek the help of a professional resume writing service. If you are comfortable preparing your own resume, there are specific steps you should take before getting started, as well as certain information you will want to make sure is included on your resume.

The first step you should take is to research and review the various formats used for resumes for positions in law enforcement. Many websites provide sample resumes. Select one that reflects levels of education and experience that are similar to yours, or one that can be adapted easily to the job for which you are applying. If you are preparing a resume to submit in response to a job advertisement, you should consider tailoring your resume and cover letter to that specific job. On the other hand, if you plan on posting your resume on a job board or submitting it to an employment service or directly to a specific law enforcement agency, you will use a general format for your resume.

Many human resources departments and hiring firms use specialized software that electronically scans resumes and cover letters for keywords and terms that are specific to a particular job. Assuming you meet the qualifications, your resume should reflect the keywords that are relevant to that position. If your resume does not contain these keywords, it will never make it to the desk of the human resources manager for further review. Several examples of keywords that can be appropriate on a law enforcement resume are traffic enforcement and control, investigative analysis, emergency response, and investigation procedures.

You might want your resume to include a clear objective statement indicating the type of job you seek. This statement should also highlight an important quality you can offer the hiring agency or company, to make them want to keep reading through the entire resume. For example: To represent the City of ______ as a police officer, utilizing law enforcement experience obtained during eight years as a security guard.

Next list your work experience, incorporating the relevant keywords when possible. Regardless of the amount of direct law enforcement experience you possess, highlight your accomplishments and make them relevant to the job for which you are applying. Demonstrate the skills and expertise you have developed, matching them with the qualities of a good law enforcement official. Employers look for applicants who display dedication, leadership, and teamwork, as well as knowledge of the skills specific to the job, for example supervisory or emergency management.

After experience, list your education and training. Include all degrees and/or certifications you have received, along with educational honors. Highlight the course of study for each item and provide the name of the educational institution that conferred the degree/certificate, as well as the year in which you received it.

To let potential employers learn even more about you, you can indicate other pertinent skills and activities in a separate section. Here you will include your foreign language competencies, computer proficiency, leadership activities, and community involvement. Share honors and awards you have received.

Finally, make sure your resume looks professional. It should not exceed two pages. It should focus on your accomplishments, highlighting their relevance to the law enforcement position you seek. It should be simple and easy to read. And it should always be truthful. If you follow these tips, your resume will get the attention it deserves.


The job interview for many law enforcement careers is another important step in the lengthy application process. If you are a candidate who has reached the interview stage, congratulate yourself; this means you successfully completed the written and physical examinations and passed the criminal, driving, and credit background checks. To be equally successful in the interview, take time to prepare yourself fully. Not only will you feel more confident going in, you will also make a favorable first impression on your interviewers, possibly even landing your dream job.

One step in preparation is to learn as much as you can about the law enforcement agency that will be hiring you. You need to understand the current political climate, as that can impact your probability of getting hired. You should understand the chain of command and know the names of the individuals in the top positions of the agency and/or municipality. Stay abreast of events in which the agency is involved; an opportunity could present itself where you can demonstrate your interest in recent happenings.

Next, make sure all the necessary paperwork is in order. By taking the time to prepare fully and organize all the application forms and paperwork you will be demonstrating your preparedness and organizational skills. Make sure any forms you will be taking with you to the interview are properly filled out. Incomplete or missing forms could be cause for disqualification from the application process. In addition to two forms of identification, other paperwork you should take to the interview includes copies of your resume, your education degrees and certifications, your letters of reference, and your gun license if applicable. Organize these documents in folders or binders and bring enough copies for everyone who will be interviewing you.

Another critical step in preparing for your interview is to anticipate the questions you will be asked and prepare your responses in advance. You will first be asked general questions, such as name, age, education, and work experience. You will next be asked behavioral-type questions that are more probing in nature. Your responses will be indicative of your personality and level of professionalism, and help the interviewers determine whether you will be a good fit for the job.

Examples of probing questions you could be asked include: Why do you want to become a police officer? and What are the key attributes of a good police officer? Behavioral questions test your reasoning skills and seek to understand how you would react or respond in a particular situation. Sample questions include: Give an example of a situation when you had to deal with someone who was irate and hostile toward you; how did you handle that person and what was the outcome? or, What would you do if a thief were fleeing the scene of a crime on foot – would you pursue the criminal on foot, too, or would you remain at the crime scene to begin your investigation? Review lists of typical interview questions and prepare responses. Then practice with a friend or mentor, someone who can provide insights into how well you answered the questions, or where you might need to improve.

Expect to be interviewed by a panel of three to five people. They will be observing your body language and taking notes throughout the approximately one-hour interview. Dress in business attire and be well groomed. And although it is fine to pause momentarily before providing your response to a question, when you do answer, speak in a clear, confident tone. Face the interview and interviewers as if you were already in the job: professionally.


Anyone applying for a new job can expect one’s potential employer to perform background checks to some extent. Anyone applying for a job in law enforcement can expect to go through a thorough, in-depth check of all information provided on both the applicant’s job application and resume. Professionals in law enforcement careers everywhere can confirm this to be the case. They will also tell you how important it is to provide good personal references, as these will receive the same amount of scrutiny as everything else you indicated on your job application. With increased attention on public safety and security, law enforcement agencies are very careful about whom they hire. Therefore you, as the job applicant, will want to put a lot of thought and care into the names you provide on your list of references. Consider the following tips as you prepare your list.

Although your mother or favorite uncle might be the first name you want to list as a reference, you will need to find others who will make strong and positive recommendations on your behalf, as listing family members is not allowed. Consider former supervisors and co-workers, people who are aware of your accomplishments and work ethic. If you are a recent graduate, consider, too, former instructors or professors who are familiar with your dedication and practical skills. Professionals should consider business acquaintances. If you have been involved in volunteer community affairs or programs, the individuals in charge of the programs or others with whom you worked alongside can speak well of your accountability and dependability. In essence, you should have a well-rounded list of references who can address your education, work experiences, and character as favorably as possible.

Once you have decided on your references, you will need to obtain permission from each one before using them. In your approach, let each person know about the job you are seeking and ask whether the person would mind serving as a reference for you. You should not be offended if anyone declines; it is better to have someone decline your request upfront (for whatever reason) than serve as a reference and provide negative commentary about you.

Help your references help you. Provide them with a copy of your resume and make sure they are aware of the skills, accomplishments, and traits you would like them to portray, especially as they relate to the job for which you are applying (and assuming they are true). Thank your references for their time and support. As a courtesy, you might even want to follow up with them later to keep them informed of your job status.

Rather than listing your references directly on your resume, list them instead on a separate sheet of paper that acts almost as an addendum to your resume. Include complete information for each reference listed: name, title, business name and address, contact telephone numbers, and email address. You want to make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to be able to reach your reference person. It is not necessary to attach this list to the resume unless you are requested to do so.

Finally, keep the list handy with your other job application and resume paperwork, so you will be prepared to produce the list in the event someone asks for it. Review and re-confirm the list for each new job to make sure the reference is still willing to act on your behalf and also to make sure you have his or her up-to-date contact information. A positive reference is always good to have in your job-hunting arsenal.