College of Policing PCSO Application Form, Assessment Centre and Interview Preparation

Are you applying for a position as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) with a UK police force? The College of Policing has designed a national framework for recruitment that will test your skills against the competencies they require in each PCSO, which is used by individual forces in their recruitment processes. This article will guide you through this recruitment process, and highlight the resources available to help you prepare for each exercise.
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Police Community Support Officers are paid, full time positions with the police. PCSOs are found patrolling a beat and interacting with the public, while also offering assistance to police officers at crime scenes and major events. PCSOs do not have the same powers as regular police officers (they cannot make arrests, interview suspects or investigate crimes to name a few), but they do have a lot of responsibility, and are valuable members of the local police force. The College of Policing has designed a recruitment process that reflects the skills needed by PCSOs.

The College of Policing recruitment process involves:

PCSO Competencies

The key qualities the College of Policing are looking for in recruits are:

  • Effective communication - you communicate clearly at all times, and adapt the way you communicate to suit the people you are talking to.
  • Community and customer focus - you see things from the public’s point of view, and build a good relationship with the community.
  • Team working - you work effectively in a team.
  • Respect for race and diversity - you treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of their background or current circumstances.
  • Personal responsibility - you take pride and personal motivation in your work, and responsibility for your actions.

PCSO Application Form

The first stage of the application process is the application form. As well as the usual questions about you, your education and work experience, the form contains a competency assessment. The answers you provide in this section are used to assess your skills and determine whether you will be a suitable candidate as a PCSO. The competency assessment asks you to provide three examples from your recent past of situations you have encountered. They are looking for information about how you behave in certain situations of the type you may encounter as a PCSO. The best way to approach these questions is to take your time, and plan out your answers.

PCSO Assessment Day

The College of Policing have developed an assessment day format which is used by many forces in their PCSO recruitment. The assessment day is designed to test you against the competencies listed above. The assessment centre interactive and written exercises follow a case study of the fictional retail and leisure complex, the Westshire Centre. You play the part of a newly appointed Customer Services Officer. You are given the details of the role you are playing ahead of the assessment centre, and a welcome pack which will help you prepare for the exercises. Read up more about how to handle case studies on the JobTestPrep website.

The activities at the assessment centre are:

PCSO Interview

The interview is designed to assess your skills against the skills required in a PCSO. The interview will last 20 minutes, and you are asked four questions, with five minutes allocated to each answer. The questions relate to the competencies listed above. You should always provide examples from your previous experience to back up your answers. The best way to answer competency questions is organising your answers around the STAR method. Find out more about answering competency questions and the STAR method on the JobTestPrep website.

Interviews can be nerve wracking, especially when they are designed to test your experience in this way. Planning your examples and delivery ahead of the interview will help calm your nerves. You could practise your delivery in front of the mirror, or with a friend, but a practise interview with a professional who can offer you feedback and tips for next time will be even better. JobTestPrep offer Skype based interviews, which can do just that.

PCSO Interview Questions

In the interview you are asked one question against each of the following four competencies. The best way to prepare for these questions is to think of examples that highlight that you have the skills needed against these competencies.

  • Service delivery
  • Serving the public
  • Professionalism
  • Working with others

A sample interview question on the competency professionalism is:

"Please give me a specific example of a task, project or responsibility that you have undertaken that you are particularly proud of."

Interactive Exercises

You will take part in two interactive role play exercises at the assessment centre. Each role play will last for 10 minutes, split into five minutes for preparation, and five minutes to carry out the role play opposite an actor who has to respond according to a set of guidelines. The two scenarios will be:

  • A conversation with a customer who wants to discuss an incident that happened at the centre.
  • A conversation with a shopkeeper who wants to discuss an incident at their shop.

Acting in a roleplay requires you to take on a part, which may not be familiar to you. You will need to continue in that role throughout the exercise. See how JobTestPrep’s role playing pages can give you tips on how to negotiate the interactive exercises.

Written Exercises

The assessment centre includes two written exercises, each lasting 20 minutes. The written exercises are once again based on the Westshire Centre case study. In these exercises you are given a proposal document template, on which to write your responses to two different scenarios.

  • Written exercise 1 - write a proposal document about issues at the Westshire Centre.
  • Written exercise 2 - write a proposal document about an incident that happened at the Westshire Centre.

You will have to follow the format given to you on the template, which will help you focus your information, but which also requires filling out fully. JobTestPrep can help you prepare with our written exercises pack.

In Summary

PCSOs use a number of different skills each and every day on the job. The College of Policing have designed a recruitment process that will enable them to identify the candidates with these skills. You need to be prepared for the assessment day in order to pass, and you can do this by preparing for the day in advance. This article has been written to guide you through the process and highlight the practise resources available to you. We hope it has been useful, and good luck.

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