A correctional officer usually works in a prison, a young offenders institution, or in other locations where offenders need to be supervised.
The main duties of a correctional officer is the security, supervision, training, and rehabilitation of people that have been remanded in custody or are serving a prison sentence. Great correctional officers have mental and physical strength, keep calm under pressure, and are able to work with different types of people on a daily basis.
Corrections officers usually work in a shift pattern that includes unsociable hours and long days, and on a daily basis, they are responsible for maintaining proper order in the institution and protecting the prisoners, other staff, and visitors.
Choosing the right applicant for a role as a corrections officer is not always simple, as there are different skills and abilities that the recruitment team should be looking for, and these are not always easy to spot in a resume or application form, or even during interviews.
In this article, we will discuss the different skills and abilities that a recruiter should look for in a potential correctional officer. These are the aptitudes and competencies that have been found to lead to long-term success in the role, and they are often things that are difficult to gauge.
This article will also look at the different tests that could be used to assess each candidate in their level of skill. Pre-employment screening assessments allow the recruiter to choose the most skilled and qualified students to take further in the application process, saving both time and money.
What should a correctional officer be able to do?
A correctional officer may have to undertake various duties in a normal working day, with activities ranging from administration to direct supervision.
Correctional officers are responsible for ensuring the ongoing safety of inmates, visitors and other staff members. They do this by performing searches of prisoners, cells, and visitors, as well as screening mail and intercepting packages.
All details about the inmates need to be recorded, from their intake and identification information to their charges, reports of any incidents that they are involved in, and daily logs of their activities. Correctional officers are responsible for maintaining this information.
Correctional officers may be required to directly supervise prisoners in various different places. This might include during meal times, while they are performing work duties, or accompanying them to different places within the establishment as well as outside or when visiting a hospital. Whilst they are guarding an area or inmates, they may be required to use physical force, weapons, and handcuffs to maintain discipline and order. They may also have to locate and recapture any escapees.
There is an element of service in the role of the correctional officer; they may be required to serve meals or ensure that inmates get commissary items or take their prescribed medications correctly. They are also responsible for helping inmates and answering questions, noting down any concerns or mentions of regrets.
Skills to look for in a correctional officer
While much of the skills needed for a successful corrections officer come from training and previous experience, there are certain competencies that a recruiter should look for in an applicant, including:
- Database/Word Processing Software: prisoner records are held in a database, and a corrections officer will be expected to update these records when needed. They will also need to use word processing software to complete reports.
- Active Listening: dealing with uncomfortable and sometimes volatile situations is easier if the corrections officer can utilise active listening skills when dealing with problems. Good listening skills also help with rehabilitation.
- Persuasion and Negotiation: a corrections officer will need to be able to deal with people who are emotional and irrational, and good persuasion and negotiation skills will make it easier to encourage inmates to behave correctly and make the right decisions.
- Critical Thinking and Complex Problem Solving: a successful corrections officer is able to use all the available information to think about a problem critically and solve complex problems. They are also able to use good judgement for better decision-making.
- Time Management: life in prison is regimented and time-keeping skills are important. Duties will vary, but the corrections officer will need to supervise the timely movement of prisoners for mealtimes, recreational time, and any external visits.
Useful abilities for a correctional officer
When you are recruiting for a corrections officer, there are certain abilities that candidates should be able to demonstrate which are more likely to lead to success in the future.
These are not always things that can be taught, but more inherent aptitudes that shape the way a candidate will behave in the workplace. Some of these abilities include:
- Oral Comprehension and Expression: a corrections officer needs to be able to give clear instructions that can be understood, and they need to be able to understand what other people are saying too.
- Deductive and Inductive Reasoning: logical thinking is an important part of many job roles, but when dealing with the possibility of danger and violence, clear thinking and the ability to make reasoned deductions could prevent injury or worse.
- Written Comprehension and Expression: the maintenance and completion of records is an important part of the corrections officer's role, from noting down daily activities and occurrences to completing reports, so the ability to read well and write clearly is needed.
- Reaction Time: when in a potentially volatile or dangerous situation, a corrections officer needs to be able to react quickly for the safety and security of others.
- Physical Strength: the role of a corrections officer means that it is likely that hands-on force will be needed to deal with problems and keep everyone safe, so one of the key abilities that an applicant might need is strength.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a correctional officer?
There are certain skills that a recruiter should look for in an applicant for a correctional officer role, but these so-called 'soft skills are not things that candidates are likely to get qualified in. This means it can be difficult to gauge their level of skill when looking at their resume or application form, and it can even be difficult in an interview situation.
There are some soft skills tests that would be appropriate for use in the recruitment process, and these include:
- Communication: as communication encompasses both the ability to speak clearly and understand the speech of others, as well as additional skills like active listening and recognising non-verbal cues, the communication test is a good way for a candidate to demonstrate their proficiency.
- Decision Making: corrections officers will need to think critically about a situation to make the best decision, and in this soft skill test they can show how they prefer to make decisions in the workplace.
- Interpersonal Skills: working successfully with other people demands a good level of interpersonal skills including communicating, listening, teamwork, and leadership - and in the interpersonal skills assessment, the candidate will work through several work-based scenarios and choose the most appropriate course of action, showing the recruiter how well they can use their interpersonal skills.
- Accountability: correctional officers will need to be able to make rational decisions - and they also need to be held accountable for those decisions. Taking responsibility for the well-being and safety of inmates, colleagues and visitors mean that the correctional officer has to be ready to defend their choices.
- Leadership: while not all correctional officer positions will come with direct supervision of other employees, the correctional officer will be in charge of the prisoners and need to provide them with excellent leadership.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a correctional officer?
Technical skills are often slightly easier to assess using a resume or application form, as they are often accompanied by some sort of qualification. However, it is not always easy to judge the level of competency a candidate has in their technical skills, or in different aptitudes - which is why technical and aptitude tests should be considered as part of the pre-employment screening process.
Some of the assessments that might be useful when hiring a correctional officer include:
- Microsoft Word: proficiency in navigating this popular word processing software means that the candidate will be confident in using it, and this skill can often be transferred to other, more bespoke software.
- Logical Reasoning: any candidate for a role as a correctional officer needs to be able to make rational and logical decisions, often under extreme pressure. This assessment asks the candidate to take unfamiliar information and make a decision based on patterns and trends.
- Error Checking: spotting changes in behaviour, finding prohibited items, and keeping staff, inmates and visitors safe come down to a good eye for detail, and in the error checking test the applicant can demonstrate how skilled they are at spotting errors.
- Verbal Reasoning: in the verbal reasoning assessment, the application is able to demonstrate that they can read and understand text, using the information that is contained in the text to find the right answer and make a good, sound decision.
Our recommended test battery for a correctional officer
While it seems like it would be best to test applicants in as many ways as possible before taking them further into the application process, using too many tests puts more of an administrative burden on the recruitment team and can be off-putting for candidates.
Using a select few assessments can provide just as much detail without overwhelming the applicants, so below is the test battery we would recommend to help find the right correctional officer for the future.
Communication: in the communication assessment, the candidate will be provided with a number of questions, each based on a scenario. The scenarios used will all be realistic workplace problems, and there will be several different possible solutions that the candidate must choose from to solve the given problem.
Logical Reasoning: in the logical reasoning assessment, each question is based on a series of shapes or images that use a rule or pattern to create a sequence. For each sequence, there is a missing item. The candidate needs to find the rule that governs the sequence and apply it to the multiple-choice answers to find the item that completes the sequence.
Leadership: in the leadership assessment, the applicant needs to demonstrate their skills in negotiation, communication, and decision-making as it relates to leadership skills. The candidate is provided with different workplace scenarios, each with several different courses of action that could be taken to solve the problem. The candidate needs to choose the one that is more like them at work, and more likely to solve the problem.
Here at Picked, we know that finding the right candidate for a role, especially one like a correctional officer, can take a lot of time and expense. This is why we have created a correctional officer job knowledge test, to provide recruitment teams with the data they need to make the right decision.