The events of the past twenty years have changed our perception of safety at school. Children shooting on fellow students and teachers, injured and dead people, and traumatic memories and news pictures one can hardly forget…
Obviously these are extreme cases, and they happen rarely, but they do happen and we should do everything we can to prevent them from happening. Working as a school resource officer, this will be one of your main duties. But your job does not end here. You will also conduct safety drills with students and staff, help to break up any fights that occur in the premises of the school, and help to de-escalate any aggression between students and teachers.
Let’s have a look at the questions you will face while interviewing for this important job, which pays better than most jobs you can ever get as a trained police officer. Before we start I want you to realize that these interviews are quite competitive recently. Considering the job conditions, salary and employee benefits, and that countless people lost job during the pandemic, many police officers find the position attractive, and you will often compete with more than five people for a single vacancy. This emphasizes a need to prepare for the questions, making sure you won’t answer them with silence…
Why do you want to work as a school resource officer?
Forget the salary and employee benefits. They want to hear something completely different at this point. You should actually do your best to convince them of two things. First one, that you see a meaningful purpose in this job, that you believe school resource officers have their place in every public educational institution, and their work helps to minimize the number of undesirable incidents of any kind.
Secondly, that you have what it takes to do this job well. You can talk about your strengths, such as excellent observation skills, ability to work independently, courage, stellar communication skills, and of course understanding for the life at schools and their students. You can also talk about your education and experience in police. Considering everything, you see the job of a school resource officer an excellent match to your skills and personality, and cannot wait to start and make a positive difference at school.
How do you imagine your typical day in work of a school resource officer?
Keyword to remember: proactive approach. You should not spend your days hiding somewhere, in a quiet corner where nothing ever happens. On the contrary, you want to be out there, at the entrance in the morning, in the halls and playgrounds during the breaks, participating in the events, simply wherever something is going on and many students meet. Of course, you will learn where to be and what areas to patrol during different times of the day, as you spend some time doing the job.
I suggest you to avoid mentioning being involved in any conflicts or fights during a “typical day” at work. You want to do your job well, focusing on prevention first, and while they have you around nothing bad will happen on a typical day. Of course, if you apply for this job at a school that faces plethora of problems and fights are commonplace–perhaps that’s the main reason why they need a new school resource officer–you should mention pacifying them in your answer.
As our new school resource officer, what will you do to prevent fights and other incidents from happening?
Prevention is always the best remedy, and job of a school resource officer is no exception. Maybe the school already has some program in place, for example some safety drills students and staff members do twice a year, but maybe they want you to implement such programs. In any case, you should emphasize the importance of prevention, and at least suggest some ideas on how to prevent problems from occurring.
Security cameras, installed in right places, can also help you spot a problematic group of students or a coming fight early enough to intervene, and prevent something serious from happening. You can take this even further, talking about speeches in front of students in the classes, giving them instructions on how to react if A, or B, or C happens at school.
You spot a group of six students starting a fight in the playground. You can see they have knives, and the situation looks dangerous. How will you react?
The key is to show that you can evaluate the seriousness of the situation, and won’t try to be the hero at all costs. Six students, knives, maybe even guns–that’s not something you should try to handle on your own. I suggest you to say that you’d immediately ask for reinforcement from local police station, and try to stop the fight from a safe distance.
Of course, this depends on the actual situation, the background of students involved in the fight, and on other factors. Sometimes you have to make a split-second decision, and you should say so in the interviews. You will always try to do the right thing, but in certain circumstances you’ll have to act quickly and a mistake can happen. It is completely normal, and a risk we have to accept and live with.
Why did you apply for the job with our school? Why not some other place?
This one is a bit tricky. Before deciding what you will say, think for a while about the situation at school, especially when it comes to violence. Does it happen often, or not? Will you have your hands full? Will you have to focus more on law enforcement, or will education and counseling play a prime in your work? Once you understand what you’re up to, you can come up with a good answer.
If it is a challenging place of work, you can emphasize the impact you can have in such a place. Introducing new policies and taking the safety at the school to a new level, you can really make the school a better place for everyone. And that’s no small achievement, and it can definitely motivate you.
On the flip side, applying with a “better” school, you can talk more about education and counseling, and how the good reputation of their school attracted you. Of course, you can point out other reasons of your choice, such as proximity of your living place, good knowledge of local community, and so on. Whatever you say, they should get an impression that they are your first choice, and that you have an idea of what you’d like to achieve while working as school resource officer at their place.
Other questions you may face while interviewing for a job of SRO
- Tell us about the most difficult experience you’ve had while working in the police.
- One students hands a suspicious substance to another one while they pass each other in the hall. Will you search the students?
- A secretary receives an anonymous call that there is a bomb at school. Describe the steps you will take from the position of SRO.
- You know something about our place by now. What do you consider the main challenges we face here when it comes to students’ safety?
- How long you’d like to have this job?
- You are searching a student who’s suspicious of carrying drugs, but you do not find anything. They accuse you of racial profiling. How will you react?
Succeeding in the interview for a school resource officer position is not easy. You will typically compete with a few other candidates for a single vacancy, and they will be all hungry to succeed, and get this well-paid job. What’s more, you can face some tricky questions, and interview in front of a panel consisting of both school representatives and law enforcement officers.
Different bodies can have different expectations when it comes to SRO work, and it isn’t always easy satisfying everyone with your answers. Spend enough time preparing for the questions and researching about your new place of work. The more time you spend preparing, the better chances you will have on the big day. I wish you good luck!
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