How to Write a Resume for a Police Officer Position

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The demand for police officers is expected to increase by 7 percent over the next 18 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Despite this relatively healthy rate of growth, competition for positions tends to be high because it is a profession with a low level of turnover. Police officers often say they feel a calling to risk their own safety to “protect and serve” their communities. A healthy median salary of $62,960, relatively good benefits, and a strong sense of camaraderie with fellow officers and first responders mean police tend to stay in their positions for decades. Those looking to enter the field or relocate to a new department or municipality need to craft strong resumes and cover letters to be considered for each coveted position. In addition, each state and municipality will have slightly different criteria for consideration. For example, some require bachelor’s or associate’s degrees; others require specialized training in an academy. Make sure you do research on your community’s basic requirements before you begin your resume. And if you’re a still a little unsure of which direction to go in upon finishing the article, consider using a resume builder for top-to-bottom guidance on crafting your resume for a police officer position.
Crafting and submitting your resume is just the first step in the very lengthy journey to securing a job as a police officer.
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What to Include

Skip the Objective, Keep the Summary

Don’t include an Objective section. Instead, begin your resume for a police officer position with a Summary that parallels the title in the job description as closely as possible and highlights skills from the description that align most closely with your experience. Never lie on a resume for a police officer, as integrity is an essential quality for the role and lying on your resume will very likely disqualify you from consideration.

Skills and Work Experience

If you are just entering law enforcement, the bulk of your resume for a police officer should focus on skills needed in the profession: physical fitness, strong communication skills, and languages spoken. If you’re an experienced officer, lead with a Police Skills section that highlights past competencies such as emergency response, report writing, and crime investigation. Work Experience will take up more of your resume if you have a long tenure in the field; if you’re less experienced, a longer Skills section and shorter Work Section will help de-emphasize your relative lack of direct experience.

Education and Certifications

Even if you are applying for a position in a municipality that doesn’t require a college degree, a study in areas like criminal justice or security studies can help you stand out. Certifications in law enforcement areas like crisis management and membership in professional associations can be included as well.

Cover Letter

Always include a Cover Letter, even when it is not asked for, and tailor it to reflect any keywords used in each job ad that honestly reflect your background. Writing a cover letter can be a daunting process; if you think you’ll need help with yours, consider putting a free cover letter builder to use.

What to Leave Out

Limit the Jargon and Acronyms

In many municipalities, an automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) will be used to assess your resume to narrow the number of applicants reviewed by human eyes. Most ATS are not programmed to scan for abbreviations, so spell out all acronyms, even those widely used in the field. In some cities and states, a human resources department filters resumes before police officials, so explain anything you think a person with no background in law enforcement might not understand.

References

If letters of reference are required with your application, provide them separately. There’s no need to mention them in your resume.

What to Emphasize

The Recent Graduate

If you don’t have much experience, lead with a skills section that combines applicable skills and knowledge gained in the classroom and the work world, and highlight soft skills, such as problem-solving and communication.

The Mid-Career Shifter

If you are looking to leverage experience from another field, begin your resume for a police officer by crafting a Professional Summary that explains how your existing skills will allow you to excel in law enforcement.

The Law Enforcement Veteran

If you are relocating or applying for a leadership position, emphasize the skills mentioned in the job description immediately after and within your summary, along with career highlights such as cases solved and initiatives piloted, along with statistics to back up claims of success whenever possible.

What to Modify

Replace Paragraphs with Bullet Lists

Try not to present your experience in the form of lengthy paragraphs or long lists of skills. Instead, separate different aspects of your experience into bullet lists and be as concise as possible.

Check for Accuracy

Background checks for law enforcement are part of the process, so make sure you have made only honest claims. Also, because report writing and accurate communication are such crucial aspects of policing, check for spelling or grammar errors.

A Resume Is Just the Beginning

Crafting and submitting your resume is just the first step in the very long journey to securing a job as a police officer. Because each state and municipality has its own criteria for selecting officers, once your newly revised resume for a police officer position helps you pass the first hurdle, you can expect to face more challenges in the near future, including written and physical fitness exams, medical and psychological testing, polygraphs and background checks.

The good news is turnover among law enforcement officers is low for a reason. If you’re like most in the profession, a long tenure keeping your community safe and helping others awaits you.

LiveCareer has been helping job seekers build stronger resumes and cover letters since 2005. Access a wide variety of resume templates to work from, including an MS Word-formatted template for a police officer position. Also find resources for interviewing, salary negotiation, and researching companies.

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