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What Kind of Interview Questions to Ask Professional Women in the Criminal Justice System?

by Jane Quanbeck, studioD

The criminal justice system has traditionally been male-dominated but women are gradually making their way into the various careers available in law enforcement, criminal prosecution, correctional and rehabilitative services. The requirements for male and female applicants do not vary greatly in keeping with existing equality and affirmative action laws. Interviewers need to ask professional female job applicants questions touching on their interpersonal skills, integrity and personal commitment, and ability to handle pressure-packed situations . It is also important to understand their level of awareness of gender-responsive approaches.

Interpersonal Skills

The nature of work in the criminal justice system is largely interdisciplinary and professionals need to know how to relate to people both in their field and with collaborators. In spite of the increasing numbers of women in the system, it is still largely male-dominated and women professionals may have to put up with sexual stereotyping and harassment, chauvinism and disparagement. Interviewers would be interested in understanding female applicants’ abilities to continue to maintain their interpersonal relationships in spite of this. Questions that would give the interviewer an idea of the female applicant’s tolerance levels and interpersonal capabilities include, "How would you describe your ability to deal with prejudice?" and, "What approach do you take to get people to accept your ideas?"

Personal Commitment

Although for a long time women faced a variety of barriers in joining the criminal justice system, the reality is that a career in the field can be strenuous on an individual’s body, emotions, psychological state and family life. As a result, interviewers need to understand an applicant's commitment level to ensure that she is aware of the nature of the job and to avoid high turnover rates. They can ask, "Why did you choose to work for us out of all the other agencies and institutions in the criminal justice system?" and, "What are your greatest strengths and limitations for this job?"

Handling Pressure

Working in the criminal justice system sometimes exposes the professionals to high-pressure and even dangerous situations, and it is desirable for them to know how to handle themselves appropriately. Female professionals and particularly those in law enforcement often have to handle situations that require physical strength or agility, quick reflexes and ability to temper escalating situations. To understand her ability to handle these situations, the interview panel may ask questions such as, "Tell us of a time when you had to handle a high-pressure situation?" and, "Give us a detailed account of how you resolved it?"


It is important for criminal justice workers and especially female professionals to be aware of the issues affecting women who are in the system in order to adopt progressive gender-responsive approaches. According to Dr. Stephanie Covington, women who are detained or have been released from the criminal justice system face unique challenges and have special needs. As a result, professionals need to be literate on these issues. Therefore, interviewers can ask questions such as, "Are you familiar with gender-responsiveness in criminal justice?" and, "What are the intended benefits of such an approach?" or, "What sentence would you recommend for a first-time young female offender and why?"

About the Author

Jane Quanbeck’s professional writing career dates back to 2004. She holds a Masters in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Commerce in finance from Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western and Queens School of Business, respectively. She also has a diploma in journalism from Grant McEwan College.

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