When an interviewer asks an open-ended question like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin...and end! This question haunts many individuals who may accidentally go a little too in-depth into their personal lives. It happens. Keep your reply light, and work relevant. Share how you became interested in this career path and what you enjoy about it. This is an excellent opportunity to describe yourself by discussing the strengths and qualities that you bring.
"I am a competitive individual who is driven and likes to win. In addition to my successful career in corrections, I also spend time playing competitive sports. I give back by volunteering at the local homeless shelter and working for a variety of annual fundraisers in our community."
"I am a very active individual who loves to workout and goes to the mountains on the weekend. I feel that my level of activity on my off time greatly improves my work during the week. I have a high amount of energy to offer!"
"I am a calm and quiet leader, with excellent communication skills. Even though I am quiet, I can motivate my team and keep morale high within the prison."
Avoid choosing critical job-related skills as your weaknesses. You want to be honest about what you feel your weaknesses are, but you do not want to make it sound as though you are not a good fit for the role. For instance, saying, 'I've been told I am not a strong communicator,' would talk you out of a job immediately. Choose to discuss some weaker areas that are easy for you to start improving on right away. Be sure to mention how you are improving on these weaknesses, as well.
"I do not fear that my weaknesses would make me a poor fit as a correction officer, but I do know what areas I would benefit from working on. Personally, I am working on my ability to completely let the emotions of my day go when I arrive home. This way I will always come back to work feeling refreshed."
"I just recently completed my education in criminal justice and am happy with the knowledge that I gained. One thing my training did not cover was a lot of technical skills. I would like to have stronger computer skills, so I recently enrolled in a 6-week evening course on Excel and Outlook."
"I'm very good at getting inmates to comply. A lot of the time, I can de-escalate the situation before it gets physical. But I'm not as experienced in dealing with inmates once the situation gets escalated into a physical altercation. I'm taking martial arts classes now to help me learn how to contain the inmate without causing injury."
As a correction officer, you may be required to work sporadic, and long, shifts. Assure the interviewer that you are aware of this career requirement. It is absolutely okay to ask the interviewer about the schedule requirements in their facility.
"I am aware that long hours and a variety of shifts are par for the course with being a correction officer. In my current position my schedule will switch from day to night shifts and I usually work 12 hours per day. Could you share with me the average schedule here?"
"I am willing to work any shifts required of me. I am fully dedicated to growing a successful career as a correction officer and will do what it takes to build a great reputation here."
"As a seasoned correction officer, I am fully aware of the hours required in this line of work. Currently, I am available for most shifts except for Sunday's. I coach my son's hockey team and so this day is off-limits to me. Will this work with your expectations?"
The interviewer would like to know that you are capable of meeting the physical demands required to be a corrections officer. A fit test will be administered; however, this is an opportunity for you to disclose any concerns you may have regarding the fitness portion of the role.
"I am fully prepared to complete the fit test. I am in great physical shape. To train myself for a career in corrections, I have attended CrossFit 5 times per week for the last 12 months. I also run 6 to 15 miles every week."
"I am in peak physical condition. While attending university, I worked as a personal trainer part-time. You can be sure that I am fully prepared to pass the fit test."
"I work out regularly and am prepared for any fitness test you require me to take. To stay fit I workout five days a week with boxing and running. I have also started studying jiu-jitsu."
The interviewer would like to know if you are satisfied with your interview performance. Be sure to show confidence in the areas that you know have gone well. If you need to clarify an answer, then you can certainly ask to do so! If you feel that your performance in the interview is going well: "I believe that this interview has been quite informative and I am happy with my performance. Is there anything that I can clarify for you from this conversation?"
"I believe that this interview has been quite informative and I am happy with my performance. Is there anything that I can clarify for you from this conversation?"
"If you feel that your performance in the interview is not going well: "I am not sure if I have been able to portray myself 100% accurately in this interview; although, I am trying my best. If there is anything more that I can clarify for you, I would be happy to do so."
"I feel confident about our discussion today and am looking forward to the next steps in the interview process."
The interviewer would like to confirm that you have a genuine interest in becoming a corrections officer. Perhaps you read law related books, follow particular journals or subscribe to a blog related to law enforcement. Briefly share with the interviewer how you stay up to date on current events related to corrections or the prison system.
"I am always interested in learning more about this industry and the changes that are taking place. It's truly fascinating how the law can change, and I like reading up on different case studies. Most frequently, I read The Police Journal. There are also a couple of blogs that I follow including Brian Cain's 'Just a Cop.'"
"While attending school to be a corrections officer, I received a few resources from the professors that I quite enjoy. I also have Google alerts set up so that any changes in the industry are sent straight to my email inbox."
"My absolute favorite resources are policeone.com and justice.gov. I also have a mentor who I meet with a couple of times a month to catch up and discuss current events. Which are your favorite resources?"
For obvious reasons, prisons need to be very cautious about who they hire. There is a chance that much of the information you are going to access could be confidential and dangerous if put into the wrong hands. You will be working with the public, and with vulnerable individuals. Assure the interviewer that you are most willing to comply with any form of background check they require.
"I am happy to comply with any background check required. My record is clean, and I have a strong credit history. I do not participate in drug use, either. You can be assured that if you hire me for this role, I will maintain a clean record."
"I have no discrepancies to disclose at this time. If you'd like, I can certainly provide you with additional documentation and identification for your back check process."
"My credit is strong, and my criminal background is squeaky clean. Having been a border patrol officer for the past nine years, I have been very careful to color within the lines in all aspects."
Show the interviewer that you are unique and that you stand out from the crowd! If you can't think of ways that you are unique, ask a few friends or family members what they feel sets you apart from other people. Their observations may help you understand how you are perceived. Perhaps you already know what sets you apart! This could include any industry accolades, individual achievements, additional industry related training, a second language, or how involved you are in the community. Don't be afraid to brag about yourself a bit. In an interview, you are your most influential advocate.
"You should hire me because I am unlike anyone else you have interviewed before. I am dedicated to law enforcement and engaged in this career path to the point where I commit myself to taking at least one career development or leadership related workshop every year. I am a competitive achiever and an honest person. You won't be disappointed when you hire me."
"I'm qualified and passionate about public safety. I am excited about the idea of contributing to the high level of safety that our citizens have come to know, and expect."
"In addition to meeting all of the must-have's for this role, I bring additional skills such as being trilingual and having a dual degree in communications as well as criminology. I look forward to adding these skills to your already amazing team."
The interviewer wants to put a bit of extra emphasis on the fine line between being a good person and not being caught. This answer should be kept very simple, and 100% honest. If you have never committed a crime: "I have never committed a crime. I was raised to be an honest person and to respect other people, their property, and myself."
"I have never committed a crime. I was raised to be an honest person and to respect other people, their property, and myself."
"If you have committed a crime: "I was a troublemaker in my teen years and was pressured into shoplifting at a gas station when I was 15. I was never caught with it but always felt terrible. When I was older, I went back to that gas station and paid them back."
"I have never committed a crime. I have led a sincere life and am proud of the fact. I was raised in a strict home and was lucky enough never to be tempted by drugs or alcohol as a teen."
The interviewer would like a more detailed breakdown of your law enforcement training and any other education related to your career in corrections. Likely, this is listed on your resume; however, this is an invitation to give a more detailed breakdown. Be sure to highlight any awards, scholarships, or individual accolades that you may have received.
"I have a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Louisville. I am very proud to say that I graduated with honors, and was even working part-time during those studies."
"I do not have a completed degree; however, I am interested in taking some criminal justice related coursework via online correspondence this year. I understand that not having a degree will affect my pay grade so, for that reason, I plan to earn my bachelor's degree in Criminal Investigation, over the next few years. This, of course, would be in tandem with working full time."
"I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Criminology eight years ago. I have been working as a corrections officer ever since. I feel that my blend of education and experience will provide you the level of expertise that you seek for this position."
The interviewer wants to gauge if you can maintain healthy relationships in the workplace. They want to know more about the dynamics with your coworkers. Think about what you enjoyed about some of your relationships with past coworkers. Excellent communication, sense of humor, and support are all great qualities that make co-worker relationships healthy and harmonious.
"I get along great with my fellow officers. I try to maintain a positive attitude and be supportive, whether I am offering to assist someone who is overwhelmed, or if I am taking time to listen to someone who is having a bad day."
"I can get along with a great variety of individuals. I appreciate diversity in experience, and I look forward to learning from everyone on your team."
"One thing I have learned through my many years as a corrections officer is the fact that it never helps to bring an ego to work. I am happy to work harmoniously with everyone on the team. My references will also attest to the fact that I am easy to approach and get along with."
Being a bright communicator is an essential skill to master. Have you taken any courses in communication and writing? Are you confident in your written communication skills? Talk to the interviewer about your communication abilities and support your answer with a brief example or story.
"I rate my communication skills as a 9/10 as I will, on occasion, have times when I am not as clear as I would like to be. My supervisor and co-workers will attest to my clear and concise communication skills. Because I am an open leader, my team will let me know if I need to clarify anything."
"I consider myself to be a strong communicator, always calling upon a mix of written and verbal communications. When working in teams, I tap into interpersonal communications to build strong relationships with others."
"I would describe my written communication skills as very strong and would rate myself as a 9/10. I have always had a penchant for writing and have taken university courses related to communication, public relations, and report writing."
Before your interview, make sure you have researched the median salary for the position (and location). You can look at salary reviews on Glassdoor.com or Payscale.com. Always make sure you give a salary range, not just a number. Providing a range allows you to negotiate down the road if you are given an offer. However, if you just tell the employer you are looking for $50K it doesn’t leave room for negotiating later on. Also, make sure the lowest number of your range is something you are comfortable with! Another great option is to tell the interviewer what you are currently earning and tell them that you are seeking a competitive offer. Use your current earnings as an example. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.
"Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year plus health benefits. I would like to stay in the same range or slightly higher."
"I am new to my career as a corrections officer and am looking for a fair range, given my blend of education and training. I understand that the average range for this role, in our state, is $40-$45k/year. Do you have a particular number in mind?"
"I am currently making $60K per year and look to grow in my career and level of responsibilities. A satisfactory salary range for me is $65-70K/year. What are you offering for this position?"
The way you answer this question will reveal a lot about your character to the interviewer. Discuss how you would handle a situation like this. If this has happened to you in the past, you can use a real-life example. Focus your answer on the resolution, rather than the problem.
"Last month I witnessed a colleague purposefully engage in an altercation with an inmate. I spoke with the individual off-hours about what I saw. We agreed that it was inappropriate and the colleague shared with me that she was going through a tough transition in her personal life. We agreed to keep each other accountable for our behavior in the workplace. I believe that everyone wants to be great at their job so usually an open conversation is all that is needed. If the situation were illegal or dire, I would report it immediately."
"As a corrections officer, it is in my best interest to keep my team safe. This includes ensuring that we all act appropriately and according to policy, at all times. If I saw another correctional officer doing something inappropriate, I would report it to my superior."
"I have come to find, through my many years in corrections, that we all make mistakes from time to time. We work in a high-stress environment where emotions can run high. If I witness an officer make a mistake, I will approach them on a personal level. I'll let them know that I witnessed the behavior and will ask if they felt it was appropriate. I will then offer to lend a hand if they feel like they have lost control of a situation. It's important that we present a united front at all times."
Although it can be difficult to brag about yourself, now is the time! Be sure to include unique reasons as to why you are a stand-out candidate. You don't want your answer to be the same as everyone else! Think of the characteristics that would be important in this work environment and draw on those keywords. You can also highlight some of your key skills or training that would make you a great correction officer.
"In addition to my experience as a correction officer, I also have targeted training from my time in the military. I can teach combat and deescalation techniques to your junior staff. I am a fantastic coach and mentor."
"I am the best person for this job because I recently completed my correction officer training with glowing references and reviews. I am bilingual, in English and Spanish, which you listed as a great asset in your job posting. Most importantly, I have a great deal of integrity and drive to succeed in this industry."
"I have a lot of experience with verbal de-escalation and am very good at getting inmates to comply, which reduces the likelihood of physical altercations. This drastically increases officer safety and maintains order because inmates are more likely to misbehave when they see other inmates being disorderly."
The interviewer will learn a lot about your character and workplace personality when you answer this question. As a correction officer you will come across inmates who will say anything to get a reaction out of you. Assure the interviewer that you have the ability to keep a level head.
"I am accustomed to this type of behavior now that I have worked as a correction officer for eight years. When I first began this career it did bother me, and I would take things personally, but now I let it slide. If disciplinary action needs to be taken I will follow those protocols; however, I know better than to show any emotional reaction in a situation like that."
"If an inmate said something extreme to me, I would ignore it. I know that as a corrections officer, my reaction will just fuel the fire and nobody will get anywhere. I try to remain professional and poised in all situations."
"I have had many insults thrown my way in my career and can say that I prefer to choose kindness over an angry reaction. If someone says something rude to me on a personal level, I can let it slide. I will remind them that my job is to protect others from their poor decisions. Keeping a level head is always the better answer, in my opinion."
If you have previously worked as a leader, discuss a time when you had to use corrective discipline with an unreliable employee. If you have not been a leader before, you can answer this question more hypothetically.
"I have had subordinates come to work consistently late. We have a system for documentation which I follow carefully. I also ask them straight out if there is a problem with which I can assist. Perhaps they are having a transportation issue, childcare issue, or troubles with sleeping in. You never know another person's struggles, so it's important to ask."
"If I had a subordinate who was consistently late for their shift I would be sure to have a one-on-one conversation with them. Documentation is essential in these situations, as well. If the behavior continued, there would need to be disciplinary action."
"As a leader, I strongly believe that people do not want to disappoint you. My initial instinct would be to uncover the challenge the employee was facing. Perhaps it's a transportation issue or something from their personal life. I would rather act as a mentor and help them to resolve the roadblock causing the tardiness, over coming in hot with disciplinary action right away."
The interviewer would like to know that you are okay with stepping down in a situation when it's required of you, or the safest decision to make at the time. It isn't always necessary to be correct, and the interviewer is looking for your ability to let go when needed. Tell the interviewer about a time you did just that, and how you feel it helped the situation in the long run.
"I found myself in an intense situation with an inmate, earlier on in my career. I could have pushed it further, but I realized that I needed to save my energy for the bigger battles. I chose to de-escalate the situation and walked away. I am happy that I walked away because it helped me to build trust with that inmate in the long run."
"I am new to my career as a correction officer, so there are many times where I need to remain silent when I am working with more seasoned officers. I understand the importance of stepping down to keep a situation safe or to prevent escalation."
"One time, an inmate was breaking a minor rule, and I drew his attention to that fact. He grew very frustrated and began shouting, and he got very close to me, and the situation escalated. I could've made the situation worse by physically containing the inmate, but instead, I verbally de-escalated the situation by [technique]. I showed the inmate that I have my eye on him and that I'm the one in control. At the same time, I showed him that I respected his dignity, and that made it easier to gain his compliance in the long run."
This is an excellent opportunity to give an example of a time when you went over and above and were recognized for your additional work.
"Just last week we had an officer call in sick while another was away on holidays. We were very short staffed and were processing a couple of new inmates. I offered to stay late and work a double shift so that we could ensure the safety of everyone in prison. My supervisor was thankful for my attitude and brought me lunch the following day as a way of saying thank you."
"I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and there were a few students in my Criminology Literacy class who were struggling. I started a volunteer tutoring group. We met once per week, for an hour. It felt great to help others, and I build some strong relationships with other future officers."
"I go above and beyond, nearly every day. Some ways that I do this is to have conversations with the inmates, allowing a tired CO to have an extended lunch while I cover for them, being on call more often that is required of me, and training new CO's whenever I see an opportunity to help."
The interviewer needs to make sure that you are not a loose cannon type of personality - especially in this line of work. Be sure to talk about things that trigger you but avoid turning this into a time to complain about people or your job. You want to show that you are level headed and mature.
"The times when I feel anger in the workplace would mainly be when an inmate is purposefully being disrespectful or trying to start a fight. When a situation like this arises, I don't give in to the anger, but I do firmly put the inmate in place."
"I am not the type to become angry very often, or easily, for that matter. I become angry when innocent people are hurt, or when a total lack of respect is present. With that said, I do not lose control in anger."
"I am incredibly level-headed, as my references will attest. If I do become angry, it is because someone has unnecessarily been hurt. There is no need for violence and threats so if an inmate is presenting this type of behavior; I will not tolerate it. Of course, I am sure always to follow protocol, regardless of my level of anger in the situation."
As a correction officer, you need to be able to report to a variety of levels comfortably. Using a real-life example is always the best route to take when asked a behavior-based question. If you can, discuss the relationship between yourself and your most recent employer.
"I do not have a problem with answering to authority. While working in prison, you must always answer to your authority figures with the utmost respect as the inmates are always watching. My previous supervisor and I had a very great working relationship, and she is happy to give a strong reference as well."
"I fully understand that there needs to be a level of authority in the workplace, especially in the prison system. I will have no issue with authority. It's necessary, and I embrace it."
"Not! I have had many varieties of personalities supervising me in my career, and I have also been a leader in a wide range of personalities. Clear-cut authority is a must in the corrections system, and I respect this, to the fullest degree."
The interviewer would like to know that you have a history of being reliable and trustworthy. It can be difficult to speak highly of yourself; however, providing a great example of your trustworthiness and ability to be responsible is what will set you apart from other candidates.
"I have always shown trustworthiness and responsibility throughout my career as a correction officer. One specific time I can think of would be when I caught an inmate with a significant amount of drugs. In that particular prison, there was an issue with correction officers assisting inmates to smuggle contraband for a financial kick back. I exercised responsibility and reported it immediately."
"I just completed my training at a local state prison and learned that the best way to show my superior officer that I am trustworthy is to listen to my orders without hesitation and keep my nose clean when it comes to altercations."
"One time, I caught an inmate smuggling contraband by hiding objects under a loose tile. The cameras didn't cover this area. The inmate observed that I saw him and approached me and offered me a substantial bribe to turn a blind eye. I told the inmate that I would think about it and immediately reported to the captain."
A correction officer's role in preventing contraband is incredibly essential. You will want to answer this question with some passion. Give some examples of how you avoid contraband in your current role.
"I believe that my role as a correction officer is to ensure the safety of everyone in the prison whether that be officer or inmate. By keeping my ears and eyes open to any suspicious activity or conversation, I am ensuring that drug abuse and violence are prevented within the prison."
"The prevention of contraband in prison is 100% the responsibility of the facility staff. My role as a correction officer will be to ensure that regulations are followed while maintaining the safety of fellow officers and the inmates."
"I believe a correction officer plays the most important role, in the fight against contraband, because we are on the floor, and around the inmates more than anyone else working in the prison system. I have been diligent with contraband prevention in my eight-year career and am proud to say that I have personally seized over $500,000 in illicit drugs in the past three years. I have a keen eye for suspicious inmate behavior."
The interviewer would like to know more about your leadership skills and ability to manage a large group of people. How you answer this question could determine whether or not you are viewed as a correction officer who could grow into a leadership role. Talk about a time that you were given the opportunity to lead. Be sure to highlight the successes.
"I was recently asked by my supervisor to lead the team while he was on vacation. It was my job to manage 15 junior correction officers and to ensure they were set and ready for their shift each day. I spoke to them as a group, and to each of them individually, every day. If anyone were falling behind, I would speak with them directly about my concerns. All-in-all, it was a very successful experience, and my supervisor thanked me for a job well done when he returned."
"Although I have not yet led a group of people in my role as a correction officer, I do stand as a leader in my church and volunteer community. We hold multiple fundraisers annually, and I have led those initiatives for the past five years. I think that the specifics necessary on a group project include clear communication, consistency, and a strong leader. I provide all of these things and look forward to working my way into a leadership position at your facility."
"In my previous role, I managed a team of 25 new correction officers. I led this team by showing respect, setting high but reasonable expectations, and encouraging a collaborative environment where all ideas are welcomed. This method worked well, and I had no issues with their performance. The beauty of being a true leader is that you don't need to be in a position of management to exude leadership qualities."
The interviewer would like to know if you have difficulty acting on orders that you do not agree with. Each prison will have varying policies, and you may not agree with all of them. Explain to the interviewer how you feel about this type of situation and how you have handled it in the past. Avoid coming across as a disagreeable employee. Focus on the positive!
"Yes, I have faced policy that I do not agree with. One thing that I realize now that I am more advanced in my career is that I do not have to agree to enforce it. Policies are in place for a reason, and I will always abide by them despite my feelings or understanding of them."
"I have worked for companies in the past where I did not agree with the policies at all times. I chose to trust that my boss understood the long-term goals more than I did, at that time. I plan to bring this thinking with me in my career as a correction officer. I am new to the industry and certainly do not have all of the answers."
"What I've come to understand is that policies aren't up to me to decide and that as a CO, my job is to enforce whatever policies are in place. I may disagree with policies that endanger officer safety, and I tell my commanding officer about those. But at the end of the day, there are people up the chain of command who have more information than I do, a wider broader view. So I have to trust that they're making the best decisions that they can give the constraints they have. No matter what I think, it's my sworn duty to uphold and enforce the laws and regulations that we have on the books."
The interviewer would like to know that this wouldn't be your first stressful work environment. Reassure the interviewer that you can handle the stress factor that comes with being a correction officer.
"I have been a correction officer for five years now and am accustomed to working in a stressful environment. Before becoming a correction officer, I worked in the military. I manage my stress by taking care of my own physical and emotional needs when I am away from the prison. I am active and social outside of work which helps me handle the stress very well."
"I don't let stress get me carried away and limit it by focusing on the present moment, and what I can control. When I get out of work, I have a daily routine that helps me unwind. And when it's my first day off, I make sure to get plenty of rest and have some fun with my family and friends."
"I have worked in a variety of stressful work environments including my time with the military, and my fifteen years as a correction officer. I handle the stress like the seasoned pro that I am! My duties as a correction officer can be tough some days, but I am sure to blow off some steam at the gym or on my days off."
Correction officers monitor individuals who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or who have been arrested and are waiting for their trial. Besides counseling and rehabilitating prisoners, correctional officers also inspect facilities periodically to ensure that all safety and security standards are met.
A high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum qualification required for this job. In addition, correction officers have to go through a training academy to learn the practical aspects of the job. Correction officers must have good judgment and must have excellent self-discipline, physical strength, and negotiating skills.
Expect to go through a rigorous interview. The interviewer will want to ensure that you are the right candidate for the job and will ask you about your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to this role. Are you a good judge of character? Do you have the necessary self-discipline so you can be a role-model the individuals you are in charge of? To gauge your ability to handle challenging situations, which are the norm in this job, the interviewer may provide you with a mock scenario and ask you how you would handle it. Your answer will play a key role in whether or not you get hired as a correction officer. You can find several more questions at Mock Questions. Go through them and spend some time thinking about how you will answer them. The more compelling your replies, the higher the chances of getting hired.