Promotion to the rank of Inspector across UK and Ireland policing is highly competitive. An Garda Síochána and PSNI openly call it a competition! Whatever the various promotion selection processes consist of in your police force, having a meaningful understanding of the role of Inspector is critical to effective preparation for your promotion board or selection process. Such an understanding dramatically improves the odds of your success. How do I know this?
Well, in the years since I left policing as a Detective Inspector (and for several of my final years as DI), I’ve been helping serving police officers convert leadership aspirations into promotion success. It’s my specialism as a police leadership coach/mentor, and over the years I’ve established and developed comprehensive resource materials on ‘what works’.
“Role – The behaviour pattern that an individual presents to others.” – TheFreeDictionary.com
In many conversations with aspiring police promotion candidates, I consistently find uncertainty exists about promotion selection processes.
- How do I deliver a briefing on something I won’t be told about until 30 minutes beforehand?
- What type of questions will I be asked?
- What kind of interview is it?
- As an Inspector candidate, how do I cover the strategic aspects?
Confidence issues, knowledge and awareness gaps, imposter syndrome and self-doubt all lurk as uncertainties in the background. They can knock your confidence. Some candidates allude to such thoughts as ‘the monsters in your head’ (and I’ve had Masterclass feedback describing how Rank Success helped ‘tame’ them!).
Having been there and experienced all of those before achieving promotions myself, I always wished someone could have provided some direction or signposting to helpful resources, reducing my uncertainty. Such means didn’t exist at that time. I never forgot that, so they do now and it’s why I do what I do.
I share a range of entirely free resources to get you started. These include detailed blogs, regular podcasts, downloadable eGuides and varied YouTube videos to help support, challenge and respectfully provoke your thinking. Take a look below for example at my recent video, and extended podcast, all about the role of Inspector. These free resources are for you as an officer seriously considering career progression through the federated ranks (and beyond!). The focus is always upon topics relevant to your police leadership CPD.
If you want to go further and hit the ground running, my Inspector’s super-briefing and toolkit will supercharge your approach. It includes rank specific evidence of what good evidence looks like and 250+ minute promotion masterclass video. Using the 20% saver code RSGUIDES20 provides further support and applies to any digital guide or bundles.
“Thank you. Not only did you get me through my Sergeant board 5 years ago, I got the call today to say I passed my Inspector board. Your videos over lockdown and after were brilliant, in setting everything out clearly to me around the CVF. I watched every video more than once. I bought your promotion guides, which again helped settle me and make me believe I could do it.” – Zoe
Bridging Knowledge Gaps & Practice Interview Questions
A consistent theme evident in conversations with many aspiring candidates is the knowledge gap around the Inspector’s role and its different aspects. The role must be considered and understood to perform well in a competitive police promotion selection process or assessment centre. After all, it’s the entire context of how you will present your CVF-aligned evidence for promotion!
Knowledge of the role can be assessed through interview questions, presentations, stakeholder briefings or other aptitude tests, such as Situational Judgement Tests. Not being totally familiar with the role you aspire to places you at a disadvantage compared to someone who has internalised it.
You may already be performing the role of Inspector, for example in an acting or temporary position, understanding the operational day to day aspects of ‘what you do’. But here’s the thing, performing acting/temp duties in the role offers little advantage above other candidates if you don’t know what you are talking about. What I mean is that in the context of a promotion board, you are expected to know not just what you are doing, but to also share some insights with the panel about how and why you do things. So unsurprisingly, there are reasons why good sergeants fail to make Inspector, including not thinking strategically about promotion.
Here’s some example promotion interview questions and prompts to get your mental cogs going. Don’t think of them as words you are reading; imagine you have just been asked each one by your promotion panel. That may prompt the kind of focus you’ll need on the day of your board…
- What is your understanding of the Inspector role?
- Describe the differences between the Sergeant and Inspector roles.
- As a new Inspector, what is the leadership you will need to provide?
- How will you approach performance issues as a newly promoted Inspector?
What is your five-minute verbal response to each question? Don’t think it, speak it out loud. If it is a challenge, great! It simply means that you have gaps, some work to do in developing your verbal responses to hit these out of the ballpark. Questions don’t come any easier than this for well-prepared candidates!
Even if you don’t get asked any of these questions, your preparation will have helped. You will be a more rounded candidate, having developed meaningful responses and a broader understanding of the dimensions of the Inspector role in practice. This in turn will aid your confidence in being verbally proactive when it matters, sharing with the board what you do know. If are required to deliver a presentation or briefing, then making links to the role functions within your content also becomes easier with such preparation.
The Role of Inspector
So, what is the role of Inspector? One short response might be:
“To inspect standards and to mobilise and focus the energy and resources of the organisation.”
What do you think about that? Having a ‘nutshell’ version of the role can be a good prompt and anchor for you. But what other functions and dimensions of the role will, or can you talk about?
That’s where things get interesting because the best performing candidates tend to nail this. You can find information on the Inspector role at the College of Policing, via job descriptions, essential skills lists and general guidance like this, which suggests an Inspector must be able to:
- Perform to middle manager level
- Be responsible for supervising teams of Constables and Sergeants
- Have responsibility for controlling, planning, organising and authorising the work of a range of sworn and civilian police personnel in a variety of law enforcement and related tasks
- Be responsible for managing an assigned specialist function
What might need to be added to this? Does this hit the mark? What’s missing? These are useful questions for you to ponder, aided for example by my free podcast/videos above and toolkits. As an aspiring Sergeant or Fast Track candidate, I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas to add into the mix. Ultimately, it’s this kind of thinking that will make the information meaningful to you. In turn, this allows you to articulate in an authentic manner why you would make a great candidate for promotion.
The sheer volume of information can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when the role is just one aspect you need to consider in realising your potential in your promotion process. It’s why I encourage candidates to chunk information using mnemonics, including to recall the key aspects of the Inspector role. Don’t worry too much about this, you’ll find a bespoke mnemonic for this in my digital Inspector+ toolkit. A summary is shown in the infographic above and has stood the test of time across multiple national/local promotion frameworks and process changes!
“Hi Steve. I used your toolkits for my Inspector board. Passed it first time round, three days before giving birth!! Thanks.” – Danielle
“Strategy is just a fancy word for coming up with a long-term plan and putting it into action.” – Ellie Pidot
The higher up the rank structure you go in policing, the more strategically you must think and behave. This can be a quandary to aspiring officers since most forces assess both the Sergeant and Inspecting ranks against Level 2 of the CVF! But there are clear differences which separate a good Sergeant from a great Inspector, as I outline in my Inspector & Chief Inspector’s toolkit/masterclass. One of these key differences is strategic thinking.
Sergeants aiming for promotion to Inspector should for example be able to demonstrate awareness of your force strategic priorities. Making links for example to your local policing plan by verbalising this conversationally in promotion interviews, stakeholder briefings and/or presentations, helps demonstrate you are a good candidate. You will also need to ‘cross the Rubicon’ in terms of your CPD focus (as I outline in my strategic thinking tools blog).
The management of resources, including people, money, time, and equipment, is a core part of the Inspector’s role responsibilities. Consider for example the following interview question:
“As a newly promoted Inspector, how will you use resources effectively in supporting public trusts and confidence?”
You can predict questions like this ahead of a promotion interview, as I do in my Interview Guide Question Bank. You can then start to prepare/practice your responses, reflecting around and emphasising strategic aspects. The following may provide you with some food for thought:
- One attribute distinguishing a strategic leader is adapting CPD, recognising that what has made you successful to date does not guarantee future success.
- Strategy is usually distinguished from tactics.
- Strategic means taking an interest in your force, partners, and the police service as a whole; not just your own department, area, or unit. Consider for example the highlights of the Strategic Policing Review or your force PEEL assessment. Were you aware also for example, that the College of Policing is planning to change promotion processes again, as part of its new ‘Race Action Plan, Improving Policing for Black People’?
- Strategic awareness can be demonstrated by linking outcomes (End result, outcome, consequence, or conclusion) of your example evidence to benefits for the force. For example, how did your actions benefit staff or the wider community or contribute to performance? What processes were improved because of your actions? How have you contributed directly to force policing priorities, to improvements across other departments, or perhaps a change you made has been implemented as good practice elsewhere?
- Strategic means a leader who does less yourself, achieving more through others. Improving your delegation skills and confidence is a way of working more strategically.
- There is a distinction when the role of leader changes from influencing individuals to influencing organisations.
- Strategic also means operating across longer time horizons to achieve performance aims and objectives. Developing and implementing plans may take many months to achieve, with milestones and reviews (i.e. ‘inspect’!) built in along the way.
These are just some aspects and considerations that can really elevate your supporting promotion examples or evidence. Furthermore, if you aspire to take the next step to Chief Inspector and beyond, why not take another stride in developing your police leadership awareness and CPD by reading more of my relevant bespoke blogs:
- Step Up, or Step Aside – Stepping up to Chief Inspector is not for the faint-hearted!
- Thrifty Shades of Grey – Strategic management in times of uncertainty
- Strategic Thinking Tools – Environmental scanning, SWOT, Pushes & Pulls, & more.
Wherever you are on your police promotion journey, I wish you well, and you’ll find premium information, guidance and support at ranksuccess.co.uk.
Kind Regards, Steve
Want to go further? 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. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.