How to make a successful hire in corrections

If a rookie corrections officer has the right attitude, everything else they need to know they can learn, which is the responsibility of both the FTO and the new hire


Many great leaders say they always hire attitude as you can teach what a person needs to know to do a job, but you cannot teach a positive attitude. But does a positive attitude alone create a successful employee?

The role of the human resources department

Many times, the human resources office in corrections is pressured from above to speed up the hiring process because more bodies are needed on the floor. In my opinion, this results in the quantity but not the quality needed to maintain professionalism and integrity.

How many times have you seen a person assigned to train a new officer in a certain area, but the trainer is not well versed in that area? A trainer who lacks knowledge does not help anyone.
How many times have you seen a person assigned to train a new officer in a certain area, but the trainer is not well versed in that area? A trainer who lacks knowledge does not help anyone. (Photo/Corrections1)

Ideally, we need to hire people with core values such as dependability, reliability, loyalty, commitment and honesty. Applicants with those traits can be taught on the job. 

The hiring process should be taken very seriously, and no stone left unturned. The goal is to hire retainable officers. Hiring just to fill a position and then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not the answer. We owe that much to the officers who have been around for years and will be tasked to train and work with our new hires. Providing a good foundation for trainers to work with is key.

The role of the Field Training Officer (FTO)

How many times have you seen a person assigned to train a new officer in a certain area, but the trainer is not well versed in that area? A trainer who lacks knowledge does not help anyone. We also have trainers with knowledge but not experience on the job. This can cause a problem with how the new officer learns the job. People with a good attitude want to learn from someone with knowledge and experience. Providing new officers with a solid trainer and the right tools for the job is a good scenario for everyone.

Here are some things to consider:

  • You are there to train the new officer and not to be his or her buddy.
  • Start slow and teach well.
  • Never get caught up with “This is how we do it every time.”
  • Assign the trainee different trainers so they are exposed to different training techniques.
  • Teach from knowledge and experience within the framework of policy and procedure.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Give the trainee verbal scenarios and require an answer.
  • Ask questions and get answers.
  • Do not micromanage, give the trainee a reason to think.
  • Do not accept wrong behavior because accepted behavior will be repeated.
  • Adapt the trainee’s thinking to the job and it will change the way the trainee acts and responds.
  • Encourage the trainee to engage with hands-on training.
  • Show the new officer how to locate policies and procedures online.
  • Show the new officer how to complete online training.
  • Let the new officer know they can count on you after training is completed for future advice.

As a trainer, it is your job to help mold a new officer. It would take a book to list everything they need to learn. Provide the new officer with a solid foundation and the rest will be up to them to learn from experience as they go. It is the agency’s job to provide you with the best possible candidates who have the right attitude, the ability to learn and the willingness to learn. Everyone’s safety depends on how well trained an officer is. Train with passion and success for all in mind.

The role of the new officer

New officers should look, listen and learn. Corrections needs energetic people with questions in mind and an eagerness to learn. Here are some things supervisors like to see in a new officer.

  • Ability to listen.
  • Pays attention to detail.
  • Is not a “know it all.”
  • Is not afraid to say, “I do not understand” (now is the time to learn).
  • Is not afraid to ask questions and get answers.
  • Is professional.
  • Wears the uniform properly.
  • Learns when to be quiet and when to talk.
  • Does not speak over the trainer.
  • Respects their trainer.

New officers getting ready to be assigned to a field training officer should ask themselves these questions:

When new officers ask these questions, it shows they genuinely want to learn and do a good job. Learning anything requires commitment and the ability to go through unsure and uncomfortable times until you reach competency.

NEXT: Overcoming a new employee’s fear of the unknown

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