Examples of Scenario-Based Interview Questions in Criminal Justice

Tips on Answering Scenario-Based Interview Questions

When employers develop questions for criminal justice oral board interviews, they typically use two types of questioning: experience-based and scenario-based interview questions. Experience-based questions require you to 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.

To help you prepare for a good start to a career in criminal justice, I've compiled a few examples of scenarios you may be asked, with tips on what kind of answers employers are looking for.

Ethical Scenario Question

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Fleet and property managers keep law enforcement officers equipped. Musketeer/Getty Images

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

In this question, it's easy to just respond that you'd report the officer to his superiors and be done with it.

What employers are looking for, though, are indications that you understand why what the other officer did was wrong; that you are conscious of the high ethical standards you'll be held to; and that you can overcome peer pressure and do the right thing for your community. A successful answer will articulate all of these points.

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. You have plans with friends after work. How would you respond?

In short, your employer is looking for insight into what sort of work ethic you possess and where your priorities are. 

It's not just about whether or not you're willing to work, but how you prioritize your​ work-life balance. Acknowledge the difficulty a supervisor may have in ensuring staffing and that you understand the need to pull your weight at work.

At the same time, though, you can make clear that, depending on the plans you made, you may not be able to easily cancel them but that if you couldn't cover that shift, you would be willing to pick up the next one. 

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 the 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 for your supervisor, how you would let them know you think it should be done differently, and that ultimately if it's not illegal, immoral or unethical you'll do what you're asked.

It would also be good to mention that you would want to discuss it with the next-level supervisor later,

Interpersonal Question

The Question: Two coworkers on your shift clearly don't get along, and they both 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 of how you might 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?

Here, interviewers are looking for insight into how you might get along with coworkers and how you might get along with coworkers who don't get along with each other.

What they want to see is that you have the maturity and communication skills to minimize conflict and encourage a positive work atmosphere.

Ace Your Next Interview

No matter what types of questions you may be asked, be sure to provide organized, logical and well thought-out answers. Provide details, not just quick answers. Take the time to show that you recognize what the issue is, why it's an issue that needs to be addressed, how you would work to resolve it, and whatever followup you might do to make sure your actions worked. By providing smart, logical and detailed answers, you'll be well on your way to giving a successful interview and landing a great new job.