How to Nail Police Recruitment Briefing Exercises
“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson
To join the police, you may be required to deliver a formal briefing or presentation as part of the competitive police recruitment process. Particularly now in light of the changes to national online assessment centres I recently described, which involve online briefing exercises and written exercises. A common question asked by those wanting to join the police is, 'How can I pass the briefing exercises in the assessment centre?' This blog offers food for thought on the topic of briefings and how you might approach this type of assessment exercise.
Police officers need to be effective communicators, so a short presentation or briefing as part of joining the police provides assessors with insights of your communication skills and values. This step usually comes after successful completion of your police application form. For many people, the very thought or prospect of formally briefing or ‘presenting’ to strangers fills them with dread, especially if not done this before.
As a coach/mentor who has helped hundreds of police officers achieve promotion across UK police forces, I know prior knowledge of what lies ahead in a selection process can provide valuable insight, help reduce uncertainty and underpins personal confidence levels. Your first port of call will be to read the candidate guidance you receive carefully, this will also help familiarise you with the briefing exercises and outline the mechanics of what to expect. However, regurgitating the process guidance you will receive anyway adds no value to my clients, so I’d like to instead focus on how you can prepare for them. Briefing exercises are a fantastic opportunity to stand out from competitors, which you can do by familiarising yourself with some helpful structures, experiment with some of the ideas posed here, and making a solemn commitment to yourself to practice.
Tools to Navigate Briefings
“Not a lot of people know that.”
- Michael Caine
With the new police online assessment centre tests, some direction and guidance can make the difference between success and failure. In this blog we will look at some free guidance that is ‘hidden in plain sight’; members of the public are able via the College of Policing’s website to access the police Authorised Professional Practice (APP) at any time. APP is the documented professional standard for the daily business of operational cops. Not a lot of people know that!
Why is this important? It’s important because APP provides a virtual treasure trove of helpful information and background reading for anyone thinking of joining the police. APP contains police guidance and principles across different areas of policing including investigation, critical incident management, public order, detention, operations and custody. Among these is where you will find information on briefing models and structures.
Here you will find briefing aids such as ‘SAFCOM’ and ‘IIMARCHD’, together with links to related briefing models for joint emergency working (aka ‘JESIP’). These names may appear strange, but are well known mnemonics within policing and emergency services, serving as communication aids for briefings and risk management.
In briefing exercises as part of the police recruitment assessment, you will generally be given a scenario or set of circumstances. You will then be required to ‘brief’ the assessors on what actions need to be taken or outline your approach for a potential or suggested resolution. These exercises will likely be policing-related, reflecting requirements of the police constable’s role.
Here’s a quick look at the two most frequently used briefing models in policing, with insights on how you could apply them to your own briefing exercise approach...
“The quality of your communication determines the size of your result.”
- Meir Ezra
SAFCOM is a mnemonic for summarising the headings of this police briefing model: Situation, Aim, Factors, Choices, Option and Monitor. The model is sometimes referred to in policing as a ‘briefing upwards’ model, i.e. updating more senior officers to summarise a situation, incident or problem, what is to be done and why. It is also very helpful as a thinking tool to tackle briefing exercises!
If you look at the headings you might already be thinking, this is quite a simple structure, easy to recall and the notion of ‘briefing upwards’ is relevant for assessment. In your mind’s eye, imagine ANY scenario or challenge that you could be asked to deliver a briefing on. Here’s an insight of how the SAFCOM model can be applied to many exercise scenarios. I’ve included some speech as prompts to get you thinking.
SAFCOM is a flexible briefing tool but is often overlooked. It can be a great mental aide to proactively ‘get to grips’ with your briefing from the outset and to help you make best use of limited time. If the model doesn’t ‘fit’ your scenario or task exactly, you can still use the headings to generate questions or structure your thoughts. For example:
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
- Tony Robbins
IIMARCHD is an alternative briefing aid. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘briefing down’ model. It’s used mostly for operational briefings in law enforcement, but you can easily use elements of it in an online assessment centre briefing exercise.
IIMARCHD is a mnemonic to summarise the components of Information, Intention, Method, Administration, Risks, Communication, Human Rights and Debrief. As with SAFCOM, you can use these headers as a flexible thinking tool to generate questions, clarify issues and communicate with others...
IIMARCHD is a tried and tested briefing model. In earlier iterations it was known as IIMAC and IIMARC, so it has evolved with the changing police landscape, but has stood the test of time. The 'D' is sometimes added to ensure a debrief is not overlooked. Take from IIMARCHD anything you find helpful. It simply offers an alternative mental model to think through your own approach to a briefing exercise and to help generate questions and actions. With that in mind, you could experiment by mixing aspects of this model with SAFCOM headings to tailor your own mnemonic!
Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.
“All you're trying to do with improvisation is get as much material as possible for the editing room.”
- Martin Short
A mnemonic is one method to ‘chunk’ important information that helps you recall it when it matters. You can easily adapt or improvise elements of different models and structures. Here’s a DIY-model, a ‘mix and match’ of aspects of SAFCOM and IIMARCHD to make up a new mnemonic: SCORCH. I’ve put some thinking prompts in speech alongside each heading. You can experiment to develop your own structure...
A memory aid doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Having options to think through beforehand can make all the difference to being proactive in your approach. By reading to here, you’ve already done some thinking that may help you adapt to any briefing scenario you may encounter. Which of these briefing structures initially appeals to you? What will your own mnemonic look like?
Practice Makes Perfect
“Remember the three P's of success: Passion, Planning and Perseverance.”
- Homer Hickman
You have the potential to deliver an effective briefing. The key to doing so confidently and with impact is experience. Experience comes from practice. This is such an important issue that underpins success. Here’s three reasons why:
Those who practice enhance their ability to nail a short briefing or presentation. I encourage individuals to deliver a ten-minute presentations, then a five-minute presentation to a family member, close friend or even the dog! The topic can be anything; it’s the time practicing and then reflecting on improvements that counts. Reflect and consider after the shorter, five-minute exercise: What did you keep? What was removed? Why? In doing so, you’ll develop speaking skills, awareness of timings, content, how it sounds, but most importantly boost confidence knowing you are honing in on the impactful delivery.
Imagine for a moment how your favourite movie might have looked if the actors hadn’t read the script or practiced their lines until they arrive at the shoot. Think for a moment how not practicing might feel before being required to deliver a ten-minute briefing or presentation to people you don’t know, on a topic, scenario or circumstances you just found out about. That’s what we are talking about here!
“Experience comes from practice.”
- Steve Cooper
Contrast that with having practiced for hours beforehand and how much more confident about your own ability you would be. Lots of candidates don’t think about this aspect enough and are unable to realise their potential when it matters. Here’s how a presentation task might look:
In the new online assessments, you will be recording your presentation by video and uploading it, rather than delivering it in person. For other selection processes, you submit power point slides ahead of the day. This may feel clunky or unnatural, but the briefing structures covered remain applicable to support your thinking, approach and to help you generate or answer questions.
A Reality Check
“There is only one proof of ability: ACTION.”
- Marie Ebner Eschenbach
Once you are provided with guidance and instructions for your briefing exercise, you will be clearer on exactly what is required of you. Consider while reading which briefing option or model might be appropriate to address your specific task.
Here’s an insight to preparation time required by Wayne Burgoff that I connect candidates with, to help them focus and to adopt to the right mindset for the task ahead. It conveys an idea of what is required to excel, especially in highly competitive selection processes where doing some homework in advance can make all the difference…
“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.”
This quote tends to resonate with individuals because it’s a reality check. Some are disheartened, but it simply highlights that sincere commitment to meaningful preparation aids effective delivery. Many presentations and briefing exercises for police selection processes lasts around ten minutes, so it’s understandable that your first thoughts on reading this quote may include, “Where am I going to find ten hours?” Whilst your briefing exercise might not be exactly ten minutes, or might even be recorded and split into sections, the principle is the same: Effective briefings are based on prior thought and preparation. Instead of worrying about what the briefing scenario or topic could be, you can choose to think about mental models, mnemonics or structures you can apply.
One question I am often asked as a coach/mentor is: “What is the best way to deliver a presentation?” My response is that there is no single best format or model; you just have to choose one. The good news is that there are tried and tested options, some are alluded to in this blog. Familiarising yourself with these now will support your thinking and confidence. It is the highly motivated people equipped with ideas, alternative structures and a choice of thought processes tend to do better than those who simply show up and hope for the best.
Does any of this work? Can you really use this kind of approach to nail briefing exercises? I’ll leave the final words on that to others who successfully navigated briefing exercises in highly competitive selection processes…
“Steve, I passed my Inspector board achieving top marks in the presentation, interview and briefing exercise.” - Jamie
“I passed my Sergeant’s board; practice presentations made a huge difference.” - Rachael
“Hi Steve, I passed my Inspector board. I achieved very high marks on my presentation, SJT and my interview.” - Scott
I hope you found this blog helpful, whether you are an aspiring to join the police as a member of the public, leaving the military, a serving Special Constable or PCSO. Download the comprehensive Police Success guide (below) for more detailed guidance, or feel free to arrange some 1-2-1 coaching for bespoke support. The guide includes comprehensive information about the role, CVF, assessment tests, interviews, practice questions, and much more to help you excel and achieve your ambition to join policing in 2020!
Steve Cooper is a former Royal Marine, Detective Inspector, and is a qualified coach/mentor. With extensive police experience, Steve also established Rank Success to help officers achieve police promotion.