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Interviewing Tips

Thomas W. Adair

No one is ever truly prepared for a job interview. I certainly have crashed and burned in a few. Some people just interview better than others and all of us can experience a degree of stage fright rendering us a temporary imbecile. That said, I am continually amazed that applicants keep committing certain mistakes. Many of those mistakes defy common sense—and yet, they rear their ugly heads time and time again. After a recent oral board experience, I decided it was time to identify the Big Five Mistakes, as I like to call them, in the hopes that prospective job applicants will avoid committing them in their next interview.

Interviews for criminalists are somewhat different from those for other law-enforcement jobs. Consequently, there is a need to prepare properly for the event. Obviously, all interviews are intended to be challenging. They are designed to cull the lesser candidates from the group while providing an opportunity for the good candidates to shine. Knowing that, good candidates prepare themselves in such a way as to minimize these mistakes when highlighting their attributes.

This list is far from exhaustive and merely represents the common mistakes that continue to befuddle me when I conduct interviews.

Mistake #1: Failure to know something about the job
I can't believe I actually have to write this down, but there are a number of applicants that apparently have no understanding of the job they seek. This is bad enough when the applicant has no work experience, but it is inexcusable when the applicant has a longer work history than some of the interviewers. Case in point: In the last three fingerprint-examiner positions I sat in on, there were several applicants who could not describe or define the meaning of the ACE-V acronym. Not even the words making up the acronym! What's worse, some of these applicants were examiners in large agencies for years and had testified as fingerprint experts in court. Another applicant claimed to be an expert bloodstain pattern analyst but couldn't describe one thing an investigator might determine by examining bloodstains at a crime scene. Not one thing!

Mistake #2: Making excuses or false claims
The only thing worse than not knowing anything about the job you are applying for is making up poor excuses for it. This is especially true if, as an applicant, you have used the same excuse in previous interviews with other agencies. Comments like, "I just moved and all my books are in storage," or "I meant to look that up before I came," are not ringing endorsements for an applicant claiming to be interested in a job. Poor excuses are disturbing indicators of an employee's future performance and employers generally view them critically.

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The Interview

Steven Staggs

From my experience as both a candidate and as an interviewer I have three main things I think you should do to have a successful interview.

Undoubtedly there will be many individuals who will be interviewed for the job. What you need to do is be memorable. After the interview panel has completed all their interviews and begin to decide on whom to hire, they need to remember who you were. You make yourself memorable by standing out in your interview. Here is how you can stand out:

Be prepared to answer the question: "What do you know about us?" Learn everything you can about the community and the department you are applying to. Read everything on their web pages. Google search the local newspapers for stories about the department, the types of crime they investigate, and any controversy in the community about the department or their delivery of service. Call the CSI Unit and tell them you are about to be interviewed for the position and ask to talk to someone in the Unit. Find out all you can about the Unit including how many work there, what their duties are, what types of crime scenes they process most, and what issues they are dealing with. Ask a supervisor if you can do a "ride along" to see the unit. Be prepared to tell the interview panel all about the community, the department, the challenges it faces, all about the CSI Unit, what types of crime scenes they process, and tell them that you talked to people in the unit and did a ride along. By doing this the interview panel will know you did your homework by investigating the department and unit. They will know you want the job after checking them out thoroughly.

Show them what you can do. Have you taken classes in crime scene photography and evidence collection? Take a couple of fingerprint lift cards you have done (your best work) and one or two photographs (a close-up photo of evidence and a painting-with-light photo). When they ask something like "What have you done to prepare yourself for this job?" show them the lift cards and photographs. Explain what they are ("this is a black powdered latent lifted from a coffee mug, this is a painting-with-light photograph, the painting-with-light technique works especially well for documenting large crime scenes at night"). They will see that you have a basic knowledge about the job and that you will be able to do the job. This is also something that probably none of the other candidates will do so it helps you to stand out.

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Article submitted by the Author

Related Content
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    The idea of The Fingerprint Sourcebook originated during a meeting at which individuals representing the fingerprint, academic, and scientific communities met in Chicago, Illinois, for a day and a half to discuss the state of fingerprint identification with a view toward the challenges raised by Daubert issues. The meeting was a joint project between the International Association for Identification and West Virginia University. One recommendation that came out of that meeting was a suggestion to create a sourcebook for friction ridge examiners, that is, a single source of researched information regarding the subject. This sourcebook would provide educational, training, and research information for the international scientific community.
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    Crime Scene Technician I
    High Point Police Department, High Point, North Carolina, USA

    Final Filing Date: December 27, 2019
    Responds to crime scenes and document through note-taking, photography, videography, and sketches with measurements; Develops fingerprints with powder and chemical techniques, collects and preserves evidentiary items while maintaining chain of custody; Processes crime scene with chemicals for additional evidence; Prepares written reports and testifies in court as an expert witness;
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    Under general supervision, learns to perform and performs specialized support work related to the custody, control, and disposition of property and evidence held by the Police Department; receives, inventories, stores, seals, maintains, releases, and destroys all property coming into the possession of the Department; produces evidence for court, attorney's and investigators; performs other related duties as required.
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    Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Tallahassee and Tampa, Florida, USA

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    Virginia Department of Forensic Science, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

    Final Filing Date: December 30, 2019
    Process evidence submitted to the Latent Print Section utilizing various chemical and physical techniques for the development of friction ridge. Utilize various light sources to examine evidence for the detection of impressions. Use digital capture equipment to record impressions developed. If a fully qualified candidate cannot be found, a Forensic Scientist trainee position may be offered.
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