top of page

Psychological Evaluation Preparation (PEPtalk)

DR. MARK LERNER, Clinical & Forensic Psychologist

Too many young men and women are wrongfully branded as "Psychologically Unsuitable." This determination compromises their ability to ever be employed in a law enforcement career. In the same way candidates prepare for the physical evaluation (e.g., Job Standard Test), they should also be prepared for the psychological evaluation process.


The primary objective of a PEPtalk is to explain the psychological evaluation process, reduce the candidate's fears, and empower the candidate to present in a favorable and authentic light.

During this informational process, the following three areas are addressed:


1.  Critical information about the written psychological evaluation,

2.  Discussion about the individual interview process, and a

3.  Confidential review of the candidate's history.

To schedule a PEPtalk, contact Dr. Mark Lerner, Clinical, Forensic and Police Psychologist directly at (631) 385-7551


Law Enforcement Psychological Interview Dress Code


You will have only one chance to make a first impression during your interview. How you choose to dress can impact whether you are found to be psychologically suitable for the position. Following is a list of what to wear:




•  Dark suit, preferably navy blue

•  White dress shirt

•  Conservative tie

•  Black belt

•  Well-polished black dress shoes

•  Dark socks

•  A watch

•  A conservative haircut

•  minimal facial hair (neatly trimmed moustache that does not go over the corners of the mouth is        OK)

•  No cologne

•  Cary a black portfolio or briefcase




•  Dark suit or conservative dress, preferably navy blue

•  White conservative blouse

•  Conservative shoes - No high heals

•  Minimal, non-distracting jewelry

•  A watch

•  Professional hairstyle

•  Minimal make-up - No perfume

•  Manicured nails

•  Cary a black portfolio or briefcase


Most important, dress to look like a law enforcement officer.

What NOT to do during your


• Arrive late
• Ask too many questions
• Show feelings of anger if confronted
• Use profanity
• Try to present yourself in an overly favorable light
• Become confrontative
• Become agitated 
• Assume the worst
• Be defensive
• Be guarded
• Be fidgety
• Sit slumped in your chair
• Be afraid to ask relevant questions
• Ask for the results of you evaluation
• Assume the evaluation is aimed at deterring you from become an officer
• Have piercings and tattoos 
• Make excuses
• Make negative comments
• Treat the interview casually
• Focus on salary and job security
• Seem desperate for the job
• Chew gum or smell like cigarette smoke
• Bring a relative or friend to the evaluation
• Tell jokes during an interview
• Be soft spoken
• Speak negatively about anyone
• Be aggressive
• Be overly talkative
• Make excuses or minimize transgressions
• Text or use your cell phone
• Fix your hair or rub your head or neck
• Sit with your arms crossed
• Wear cologne or perfume
• Try to overly impress the evaluator with questions
• Be overbearing or conceited
• Use poor grammar


What TO DO during your


• Arrive before the scheduled time
• Be well dressed and well groomed
• Dress conservatively
• Be yourself
• Show appreciation for the interview opportunity
• If you wear reading glasses, bring them
• Have a light snack prior to your evaluation
• Bring a record of your employment history
• If you know the examiners name, warmly greet him/her by name and use your name (e.g., "Good morning, Dr. Green. I'm John Smith."
• Greet the evaluator using his/her title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.)
• Let the evaluator initiate the conversation
• Have a firm handshake
• Make appropriate eye contact with the evaluator.
• Sit with your legs and arms uncrossed, and your body open and toward the evaluator
• Speak clearly, as if your evaluation was being recorded
• Think before you speak
• Be honest
• Be consistent
• Be confident
• Be warm and respectful
• If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification.
• Know that written tests have built in "lie detectors." Be honest and consistent.
• Tell it like it is
• Be prepared to answer "Why do you want to be a police officer, a correction officer, etc."
• Read everything you sign
• Tell the truth
• Be polite and courteous
• Smile
• Speak naturally 
• Treat everyone you encounter with courtesy and respect
• Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting or slouching
• Turn off the ringer on your cell phone
• Show enthusiasm and self confidence
• Show empathy
• At the end of the interview, thank the evaluator for his/her time 
• Be very familiar with the job description
• Express yourself with a strong, clear voice
• Take a moment to think before you answer difficult questions
• Be prepared to answer questions about your family
• Recognize that honesty and integrity are most important

What is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2 (MMPI-2)?


The MMPI-2 is perhaps the most widely utilized objective personality measure administered to law enforcement candidates. It is a standardized test with a large body of research to support it. The MMPI-2 aims to identify personality characteristics/structure and the presence of psychopathology.


The test consists of 567 true/false questions. Although you may be tempted to try to practice taking this test, we strongly advise that you don't. The MMPI-2 has validity scales that detect whether candidates are being consistent and truthful in their responses. More often than not, we find that candidates have problems with credibility, and trying to present themselves in an overly favorable light ("Fake Good" profile), more often than those who exhibited valid profiles and psychopathology.


Our advice ... be truthful and consistent. Don't lie to try to make yourself look better. Read each question slowly and carefully. Don't over think and look for an underlying meaning in a question. The MMPI-2 is used across the country for pre-employment psychological evaluation of law enforcement candidates for a reason. The best advice, be honest.

Troops Return Home with Scarlet Letters: PTSD

"Psychologically Unsuitable for the Position of Police Officer"

You served your country. After two tours of duty in Iraq, you are Honorably Discharged and begin transitioning back to civilian life.


A fellow Marine encourages you to visit the VA. He informs you that there is money available to compensate you for some of the stuff you’re going through—recollections of small arms firefights and roadside bombings, disturbing dreams, and jumpiness with loud noises. You figure, “What do I have to lose?”


At the VA, you undergo screenings for depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While your scores show no signs of depression, you endorsed statements indicating symptoms of PTSD. Ultimately, you’re awarded a 10% disability pension.  


Fast-forward one year. You’ve been working at a deli while applying for law enforcement jobs. You complete written examinations, physicals and meet with police department psychologists. Ultimately, you receive a letter from a department indicating that you have been found “Psychologically Unsuitable for the Position of Police Officer.” You’re informed that you have thirty days to file an appeal.


Your childhood dream of becoming a police officer is shattered. What went wrong?


After retaining an attorney to file your appeal, you to meet with a private psychologist. He will review your file from the police department and conduct an independent evaluation. Months go by as you wait for the the police department to photocopy your file for the independent evaluator.


You ask yourself, “How do I explain to my family and friends that I’ve been psychologically disqualified from being a cop? With everything I went through in the Marines....”


Finally, you receive the phone call you’ve been waiting for. The private psychologist received your file and he wants to meet with you to discuss the documentation. He then informs you that you were psychologically disqualified due to “Poor stress tolerance— PTSD.” He further indicates that while there were no data to suggest an inability to manage stress at the time of your evaluation with the police department. Apparently the 10% disability pension from the VA made you a “marked man.”


Unfortunately, this scenario is playing itself out over and over again across the country. Troops returning from the military, aspiring to work in law enforcement positions, are finding that instead of their military experience being viewed as a positive asset, they are deemed “psychologically broken.”


While there are certainly a number of troops who develop war-related PTSD, the vast majority of people do not. And although many troops return from war experiencing traumatic stress reactions, normal responses to abnormal events, all of our troops will not live their lives with significant distress and impairment of functioning—with a traumatic stress disorder. 


When transitioning from the military to civilian life, normal men and women will no doubt grapple with symptoms of PTSD, particularly those who were exposed to the theater of war. However, we must recognize that these symptoms generally dissipate with time, and that they should not prevent experienced troops from pursuing careers in law enforcement.

bottom of page