As part of the UK police promotion ‘postcode lottery‘, some police forces ask candidates to submit a personal statement as part of the promotion process. Vast cohorts of Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector candidates fail the initial stages of a selection process. It happens every year! If you aspire to the next rank and wherever you are at in your promotion journey, get started on your own personal statement now.
Your force may not ask you directly for a personal statement in a written application. It’s more likely to be phrased as follows:
- Tell us why you are right for the role of Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector? Why now?
- What relevant attributes do you possess for promotion to the next rank?
- Tell us about your experience and qualifications that support your immediate promotion to Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector?
“When aspirations are perceived to be achievable, ambition and drive can erase excuses.” – Lori Myers
All the bullet points above are essentially the same. Simply, they are prompts seeking answers to the question: Why You?
Your personal statement helps you ‘sell’ your skills, knowledge and achievements to those considering you for promotion. It’s an extremely valuable opportunity to persuade assessors of your suitability for advancement, in writing.
For many officers, it’s a wasted opportunity. Some are unaware of the importance of personal statements. Others start too late. Another issue is writer’s block. This is because personal statements can be difficult to compile, especially under self-inflicted time pressure of short submission deadlines for promotion applications. Consequently officers produce a simple, chronological career summary, instead of doing the following:
- Specifically answering the question(s)
- Ensuring evidence relates to the role functions and behaviours
- Aligning content to the competency and values framework
“In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction. Your life is a product of choices.” – Dr Kathleen Hall
A personal statement is something I encourage every aspiring promotion candidate to commence ASAP. Most importantly, if you are reading this you can get to work on yours now. Besides, it’s in your power and an important choice.
Capturing the essence of who you are, with supporting evidence aligned to specific CVF behaviours, can be a difficult task. Doing so in just a couple of hundred words needs dedicated time. If you aspire to promotion now or in the near future, give yourself time. Here’s a two-word plan: START TODAY! It’s probably one of the most significant choices you will ever make on your promotion journey.
Even if your own force doesn’t require applications as part of a promotion selection process:
- It is still a valuable development exercise.
- You can also compile a personal statement to support your promotion interview preparation (I’ll cover more on that in a separate blog).
- Done well, your personal statement is a gift to yourself that keeps giving.
Use the three points at the beginning of this blog as a prompt to get started. Because even if it’s just writing down your first draft, you’ll be thinking on the right tracks and it will serve you well.
“The devil is in the detail.” – Aby Warburg
At the beginning of your application form, there is often a “general information” section. You will be asked to answer questions requiring supporting information about your skills, qualifications or specialist knowledge. This “general information” section may or may not form part of the application scoring. In any case, it is important to read through and carefully check the detailed guidance provided. Pay just as much attention to these parts! Use the opportunity, conveying what you can within the permitted word limit.
What you write in this section may ultimately influence which role/post you are promoted into. This is because officers are needed where they will be most effective to the force. Don’t let your focus or standards drop on this section, even if you are told it doesn’t form part of the scoring. Always take such advice with a pinch of salt, because it still requires professionalism!
By the way, I purposefully put “general information” in inverted commas: Don’t be fooled, because they are not looking for general information! They are really looking for specific information, matching you to the role functions and behaviours.
What does a personal statement look like?
“Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will.” – Malcom. S. Forbes
Here’s a typical first section on a promotion application form. This example seeks “general information” on personal motivation and development for promotion to Inspector rank:
How do you meet the requirements for the rank of Inspector? Tell us why you believe you are right for the role now. Your evidence should cover your personal motivation and your development to get to this point. (450 words)
You may notice that these instructions contain four separate points (the role requirements, your readiness, personal motivation, and CPD). Breaking them first down into sub headers can help ensure you cover each required element of the question. Below is an example answer and personal statement, with links to other key content for further understanding. I provide more varied examples in my popular and extensive ‘What Works: Promotion Evidence & Examples’ guides for both Sergeant and Inspector / Chief Inspector ranks.
I believe I’m right for the role of inspector because I possess a proven track record of leadership ability. I am aware of current/future challenges facing policing, including greater public scrutiny/expectations, complexity of demand and changes in technology/crime types.
As Temporary Inspector, I’ve acquired a breadth of operational and leadership experience over two years. Together with strong commitment to shared values, this equips me to lead and support colleagues/partners through change and deliver future policing services.
I meet the role requirements, having supervised Constables, Sergeants and Police Staff effectively, whilst performing at middle manager level. I also received a Chief Constable’s Commendation for my investigation leadership following a stabbing of a male on a bus. My attributes include having the required drive, energy and resilience necessary to ensure Anyforce remains a place where people feel safe to live, work and visit.
My personal leadership style is essentially transformational, favouring a supportive/empowering approach to colleagues. I am personable and treat individuals according to their needs. This people-focus helps me establish and maintain professional working relationships, overcoming personal barriers. For example, recent praise from Community Leaders for my influence in improving relations with key partners and stakeholders.
I concentrate on setting, maintaining and improving standards around what my teams ‘can’ do. I focus on drivers of public confidence, including the effective investigation of crime (ensuring Sergeants are managing investigations, reviewing workloads and updating victims), alleviating ASB in communities, and delivering the best service possible with resources we have (prioritising resources efficiently and reviewing what works).
Policing is a vocation for me. It inspires and motivates me towards career progression. I am ready for substantive promotion, but realise my capacity to grow as a leader is founded in my personal development and enabling development opportunities for others. My Continuous Professional Development (CPD) plan includes leadership modules (managing teams through change, leading Critical Incidents), Temporary Inspector duties, coaching/mentoring activity, and utilising 360-degree feedback. I communicate effectively and can work at all levels. I understand the role is about driving performance, through developing people and improving processes.
I serve my community as a Local School Governor, leading the school’s Safeguarding Committee. I am level-headed in challenging environments, accountable for my decision-making, most importantly supported by clear rationale. I maximise opportunities to identify the most vulnerable, by instigating sound risk assessments to ensure appropriate safeguarding is implemented. I can recognise and learn from mistakes, identifying lessons/good practice through debriefs.
As an Inspector, I believe that connecting my teams with our force mission, vision and values through my personal leadership will maintain a consistent focus upon building trust and confidence with our communities.
You can convey a tremendous amount about yourself and your skills within 450 words. Imagine if you had to distil it to 250! What else would you say if you had 1000? Always use your full word allowance to compile the very best ‘pen picture’ of you and your potential for assessors to consider. You’ll normally have up to six additional questions or examples to deal with as part of your promotion application. These are more focused on specific CVF competencies and/or values.
It is very important to maximise the opportunity a personal statement offers, because you can communicate additional information about yourself. This is especially valuable in an interview scenario, so see my blog on personal statements for interviews.
For now, if you are serious about achieving a promotion, it’s time to act.
Kind Regards, Steve
“Being ready isn’t enough, you have to be prepared for promotion.” – Pat Riley
Author’s Note: This post was first published in January 2019, as part of the additional free written content I provide for cops on the popular police news site, Police Hour. Minor updates have been made when incorporating the content here on my main blog site.
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. For more completely free, no-strings content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus more free blog content via my Police Hour guest articles.