Nekkid as a jay bird

This was no ordinary interview.

I was given last minute instructions; “Enter the room, acknowledge the recruitment panel of 8 elderly men in uniform, hang up my robe on the hook provided, and stand, facing the panel, on the footprints marked on the floor, NAKED AS THE DAY WAS BORN! Upon hearing the instruction “Turn”, I should face the wall to the back of the room, followed by “Touch your toes”. When told to, I should then face the panel again, and answer any questions that may have occurred to them. Lastly, I’ll be thanked, and should put the robe back on and exit via the other door.

In total, this whole episode took no more than 45 seconds. Of course it felt like a fortnight at the time. I wonder if the London Metropolitan Police still subject current applicants to such scrutiny?

I had applied at the age of 17, in 1982, seeing a career in law enforcement in the Big Smoke as my chance to get away from small-town Scotland (and I wasn’t likely to get the grades for university anyway). The No.1 attraction was that everyone has to join at the Entry Level, and is therefore theoretically on an even playing field.

The interview process took 3 days, and consisted of a variety of physical, written and of course medical exams, as well as the traditional interview. I met fellow applicants in the hotel we were staying at, including a former Army Marine, whose application was surely a formality. He had some interesting tattoos, as most soldiers do. Apparently in the naked inspection, he was asked if he would consider having his tattoos removed. He declined, and was not offered a place at the academy. He was certain having prominent eyes tattooed on each arse cheek counted against him, especially when he had to touch his toes.

Update: Apparently in the mid-1990’s someone in HR asked why the naked part of the interview was done at all – there had been a few complaints. The answer was that they had always done this, and presumed there was a good (but unknown) reason. To avoid any inconvenient law-suits, they stopped this practice forthwith.

For my part, I passed all the tests, but was considered too young, and asked to re-apply in 2 years. I reckon I’d have been a good cop.

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Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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