Examples of Scenario-Based Interview Questions in Criminal Justice

Scenario-Based Interview Questions Relate to Hypothetical Situations

Employers typically use two types of questioning—experience-based and scenario-based interview questions—for criminal justice oral board interviews. Experience-based questions require that you talk about how you've responded to actual situations in the past. Scenario-based questions ask you to describe how you might respond to a hypothetical situation in the future.

Employers look for certain types of answers to scenario-based questions. They're trying to pin down your thought processes rather than have you recite learned responses from memory.

An Ethical Scenario Question

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The Question: You and a fellow officer respond to a traffic crash. When the other officer inventories one of the vehicles to be towed, he discovers a large amount of cash. You see him put the cash in his pocket. Later, you notice that no mention of cash is listed on the inventory sheet. How would you respond?

It's easy to simply say that you'd report the officer to his superiors and be done with it. But what employers are looking for here are indications that you understand why the other officer's action was wrong. You're conscious of the high ethical standards you'll be held to and you can overcome peer pressure and do the right thing for your community.

A successful answer will articulate all these points.

A Work-Life Balance Question

The Question: Your shift is currently short-staffed and everyone has been asked to take turns working extra hours to help out. You've already worked late once this week, but a coworker called in sick and now your supervisor is asking if you can fill in again. You have plans with friends after work. How would you respond?

Your employer is looking for insight into what sort of work ethic you possess and where your priorities lie. It's not just about whether you're willing to work. It's about how you prioritize your​ work-life balance.

Acknowledge the difficulty a supervisor might have in ensuring staffing and that you understand the need to pull your weight at work. But you can also make it clear that depending on the plans you made, you might not be able to cancel them easily. You might indicate that even though you can't cover that particular shift, you would be willing to pick up the next one. 

A Followership Question

The Question: Your supervisor comes to you and asks you to do something which you're certain is either against policy or out of line with your organization's standard procedures. How would you handle this situation?

It's not uncommon to disagree with a supervisor, and employers understand that they can sometimes get it wrong. What the interviewer wants to see here is that you have the interpersonal insight to deal with the supervisor politely and respectfully while at the same time doing the right thing.

A good answer will discuss the steps you would take to seek clarification from your supervisor, how you would let her know you think the situation should be handled differently, and that if it's not illegal, immoral, or unethical you'll do what you're asked. It would also be good to mention that you'd want to discuss the situation with the next-level supervisor later. 

An Interpersonal Question

The Question: Two coworkers on your shift clearly don't get along, and they each come to you to gossip and complain about the other. Describe what you would do in this situation.

The purpose of this question is to get a glimpse into how you'll interact with coworkers. Would you participate in the gossip? Would you impolitely tell them to knock it off, or would you deftly guide them toward more productive and collaborative discussions?

Interviewers want to see that you have the maturity and communication skills necessary to minimize conflict and encourage a positive work atmosphere.

A Leadership Question

The Question: You notice that one of your team members seems distracted a lot lately and she isn't following orders, maybe because she never really heard them in the first place. What would you do in this situation?

This is a good opportunity to show some empathy while at the same time demonstrating that you know the job comes first. Is your team member experiencing a problem, and is it work-related or personal? Explain what you would do to get to the bottom of the situation, being mindful that a team member's distraction and inattention can put you all at risk. When and how would you alert a supervisor to the problem?

Ace Your Next Interview

Be sure to provide organized, logical, and well thought-out answers, no matter what type of questions you're asked. Provide details, not quick, off-the-cuff answers. Take the time to show that you recognize what the issue is, why it's an issue that needs to be addressed, and how you would work to resolve it.