What recruiters are looking for in ex-police applicants

Published on: 13 Jun 2022

Leaving the police can be a challenging time for career officers, especially those who've been with the service for many years. In particular, finding a job in a completely different field may feel like a daunting prospect, as you'll essentially be starting from scratch.

To stand the best chance of success, it pays to think about things from the perspective of employers. Understanding exactly what skills and experiences recruiters will value can help you present yourself in the best light, whether this is on your CV or during an interview.

Why recruiters may favour ex-police officers

The good news is that you'll likely have a range of skills and experiences picked up from your time in the force that are in high demand among recruiters. The task for you, therefore, is mostly about how you communicate these and showcase how they can apply to the role you're looking to apply for.

Key transferable skills that are especially valuable to recruiters include:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Determination and resilience
  • The ability to work under pressure
  • Leadership
  • The ability to multitask

You may be tempted to deemphasise your police experience in an interview if you're concerned recruiters won't see it as relevant, or won't understand the details. But while it's important to frame your experience in terms non-officers can relate to, you should always highlight what it's taught you and the skills that made you good at your previous job.

What employers want to see on a police leaver's CV

A CV needs to be more than just a summary of your education and work history - it should tell employers what's unique about you, and this means making sure you're highlighting your biggest successes and accomplishments throughout your policing career. 

This may be successfully pursuing a particularly complex or lengthy investigation, how you're worked on a project with community groups, or awards or recognition you've received in your service. If you're unsure of what to emphasise, ask yourself where you've made a difference, or what improvements you helped achieve - this is exactly the kind of detail recruiters want to hear about.

Highlighting this can have a major impact on your chances of success. For example, Blue Light Leavers noted that CVs that are achievement-led are 70 per cent more likely to be selected for an interview, whereas only 20 per cent of CVs that focus mainly on listing duties and responsibilities are selected to move forward.

The need for networking

One area that may be new to many former police officers is the concept of professional networking, which is often not something many people will have had a need for in the past. However, it's vital if you're to succeed in the private sector.

For starters, a profile on professional sites like LinkedIn is a must. You may not think you have a lot of relevant work history to add on these platforms, but it's more than just an extension of your CV. 

Being able to reach out directly and connect with people, whether recruiters, employers or your peers who've also left the force helps build your profile and make connections that may stand you in good stead for years. Recruiters also like to see these links, as it shows you're reaching out and improving your appeal to employers.

Attending events is also a good way to get your name out there. With in-person careers fairs back in business in 2022, recruiters are eager to meet potential employees face-to-face. Events such as the Police Resettlement Expo are an ideal place to start, as it ensures you can connect directly with employers who know the value of former officers.

What to focus on in an interview

When you do get to the interview stage, this is your chance for recruiters to get to know you as a person. A key thing to remember here is that this stage of the process is not as heavily focused on your qualifications or career milestones. 

Don't spend too much time repeating information that's on your CV, as the interviewers will have already been through this. Instead, be prepared to expand on specific events or highlights you're proud of, and can showcase your personality as well as any relevant transferable skills.

When in an interview, recruiters are keen to learn about your 'behavioural skills', which include how you interact with others and respond to specific situations. If they ask you to talk about a certain achievement or situation you've highlighted in your CV, they're often less interested in hearing about the outcome than about the reasoning, problem-solving and communication that went into your decision-making, as well as how you tackled and overcame any issues along the way.

Ultimately, you need to be confident in your own skills and not worry about whether they'll be relevant to the private sector - they almost certainly will. Just remember to keep it personal and avoid the use of official jargon that civilian recruiters won't understand, and you'll give yourself the best chance of success in whatever new direction you're aiming to go in.