What You Need to Know About Getting Hired in Corrections: The Interview and Selection Process

Job Interview Panel

If you are new to the field of corrections and interested in obtaining employment, there are some things that you should know about getting hired.

As you become involved in the application and hiring process, you may find differences between traditional hiring processes and correctional hiring processes. We want to provide you with the upper edge by sharing some of these secrets so that you are better prepared.

In our previous post, we discussed the application process. Now we want to cover the subsequent steps in the process to obtaining a correctional job: the interview and selection phase.

The Interview/Selection Process

You may receive updates on your status from your online account, by email or by mail. This is especially true as they are working through the process. Normally the only time that you will receive a phone call is if you are being asked for an interview. Sometimes you may be informed of a request for an interview via email or mail. If you are not chosen, often you will receive a letter or email, but it just depends on the organization.
The hiring process can take months. This is especially true for positions that involve testing or group hiring. There may be multiple parts in the recruitment and hiring process and/or they may be hiring for a future date (i.e., eligibility lists), so a delay is expected.
Panel interviews are common in corrections. Interviews can be scary enough when you are meeting with one interviewer, but many correctional organizations utilize panel interviews as part of their hiring process. Panel interviews are interviews in which a group or committee of interviewers will ask the applicant questions. This strategy is used because often these employers have numerous candidates that need to be interviewed and approved by multiple related officials in the organization, making panel interviews the quickest and easiest way to accomplish this.
Preparation is key when it comes to interviewing. Advanced preparation can help you to successfully complete a panel interview. This prep can include reviewing your own work history and experience, so that you can accurately provide details and relate your skills to the work that you are applying for. Do some research on the history of the organization, along with some of its current policies, procedures, and philosophies. Make sure that you know some of the important correctional terminology. For example, you may be asked what certain acronyms stand for (a question recently used in a state department of corrections interview asked if the applicant knew what PREA stands for). Be prepared for situational questions where they describe a scenario and ask you how you would respond. Also be mindful of the terminology that they choose to use and follow suit. For example, know how to properly refer to those who are part of the criminal justice system—for pre-trial, it is often defendants, detainees or clients; for individuals who have been convicted and are housed in institutions, it can be offenders or inmates; for probation, it may be probationers or individuals on community supervision; for parole, it may be parolees or individuals on supervision; for community residential and youth justice, it is often clients. If you are unsure what terminology the agency you are interviewing with uses, check their website or see if you can talk with someone who works there. Language can indicate your mindset and level of knowledge, so choose your words carefully.
You will need to be able to pass a background and criminal history check. Although employers in general are increasingly relying on these checks, they are particularly vital in corrections. This process may involve fingerprinting, verification of credentials, examination of employment references, review of credit history, and review of criminal history and military records. Be prepared to discuss any red flags that may arise (if given the opportunity).
You may need to pass a polygraph test, written/verbal psychological exam, medical exam, and drug test. Similar to law enforcement agencies, correctional organizations employ advanced levels of testing to ensure that the individual being considered is fit to work with offenders. This can include a polygraph test, also known as a lie detector test, which can help to assess your level of honesty and integrity. They may utilize a written and/or verbal psychological test to determine your mental well-being. You may have already been tested for physical agility to perform the job, but they may also require you to undergo a medical evaluation with a doctor to determine overall good health. You may also need to take a drug test to make sure that you do not use illegal drugs.
If hired, you may need to attend a correctional training academy. This can vary depending on the type of position that you applied for, but it is wise to know that it may be a possibility. Some academies range from 2 weeks to 2 months. You will need to successfully complete the academy by learning the skills taught and passing any tests that they may have. Successful completion of the academy is required, therefore those who do not complete it for any reason will no longer be eligible for employment. Academy training can be rigorous and can include both classroom and physical training.
In addition to completing a training academy, some states require you to be certified as a Peace Officer by their local Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. The need for this certification, along with how it is facilitated, varies. Often you will have a period of time after hire to obtain this certification. The certification process can involve attending a P.O.S.T.-certified academy and meeting any other requirements that are established by P.O.S.T. (including age, education, and training requirements). Being a peace officer means that you are officially recognized as a law enforcement officer appointed to preserve law and order.

Although getting hired in corrections can involve more steps in the process than other employment opportunities, the systems are put into place to allow employers to recruit individuals that have the drive, qualifications, and skills needed to successfully do the job. By becoming familiar with the process, you will know what to expect and how to proceed in order to achieve success in your job search.

Have you ever applied for a job in corrections?
What differences did you notice from traditional hiring processes?

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