Jobs in prisons are getting ever more popular. You do not need any particular education or experience to qualify. It is enough passing the interview, the psychological exam (understand the psych test), and the test of your physical abilities. It seems quite complex but honestly, unless you apply for a job in a special detention facility, the physical requirements are not hard, and you do not need to prepare for the psychological exam (you will pass it unless you have some mental problem you are unaware of). The hardest part of all is the interview, and it often starts with the famous “why?” question: Why do you want to work as a correctional officer? 

Speaking honestly, you cannot do miracles with this question, but you have some options. One is talking about the meaningful purpose you see in the job. First of all you help to keep the society safe (at least to some extent), but you also help the detainees to perhaps get on track and start a new, better life, once their sentences end. Another option is focusing on your abilities and strengths, simply things that make from you a good candidate for the job–at least in your eyes :). Think about discipline, vigilance, respect for authority and rules, resilience, mental and physical strength, etc as some good examples of such strengths.

Last but not least you can bet on complete honesty, saying that with your education (or lack of it to be more precise), and in your present life situation, you can hardly hope to get a better job than the one of a correctional officer. You can also add that you got a recommendation from a friend–who doesn’t know at least one person working in prison? And of course you can mention an option to retire early (conditions differ from one country to another, so check it for yours to make sure you do not show unrealistic expectations), and other details that motivated you to apply. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question, including all options I mentioned + more.

7 sample answers to “Why do you want to be a correctional officer?” interview question

  1. First and foremost I see a meaningful purpose in this job. Of course, it would be ideal if we didn’t have crime in this country and didn’t have to lock up people, but we have to see things realistically: Prisons are here to stay, and we help to make sure that citizens who abide the law can walk down the streets feeling safe, knowing that those who do not respect the law are safely guarded behind the wire fence. In my opinion, correctional officers play an important role in the society, and for me it makes much more sense to do this job than any other one I can realistically get with my education and working experience.
  2. I just feel to be a perfect match for the job. I have always had a huge respect for authorities and law, and never struggled with discipline. What’s more, I really like to have a clear order in work, knowing who I am responsible for, and who I report to. On the top of that I am mentally resilient, can control my emotions, and I also have great observational skills. Of course, one cannot be complacent and we can always improve on our abilities. But I believe that I am a great match for the position of a correctional officer, will enjoy it (at least to an extent one can enjoy this type of work), and will do a great job.
  3. Let me be completely honest with you right from the start: While I understand what you do here and that prisons play an important role in today’s society–and I will be proud to contribute with my job, my main motivation is simply the fact that I can earn here better salary and benefits when compared to any other job I may realistically get with my resume. At the end of the day I have a family and bills to pay, and in my opinion there’s no shame in trying to earn better, so you can provide a better life to your loved ones.
  4. My first impulse was a recommendation from a friend. We just talked life and jobs, and he explained me the nuances of a work of a correctional officer, including both the good and bad things. I must admit that I liked it from the first moment, and I liked even more when he pointed out the option to retire early, after twenty years of service. Of course, I see both sides of the coin. I know the job is rather monotonous, one cannot climb the career ladder as they may in the corporate world, there is some danger involved etc. But such things suit my personality, and his recommendation really motivated me to give this career a serious shot.
  5. To put it bluntly, I’ve been always fascinated by prisons. Loved to watch all the series, including the ones depicting prison breaks, Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie of all times. I’ve read plenty of books about prisons, interviewed former prisoners, and I could go on and on. Of course I would like to experience it too, but from the right side of the bars. But it isn’t only a mere fascination. It is also a rational decision, considering the benefits and advantages you have in this job.
  6. I know it may look strange, considering I’ve been employed in a different field for ten years. But honestly speaking, I feel that I deserve better than moving heavy boxes from one place to another, earning less than $25,000 annually. I am a strong guy with a clear mind. Maybe I wasn’t blessed with high intelligence, and maybe I lack education to get some well paid corporate job. But I believe to have what it takes to become a good correctional officer, and I will earn at least ten thousand more annually here than I earn in my present job. It is highly motivating to me to say the least.
  7. Teamwork, discipline, ability to act quickly, and responsibility are some my main strengths. When I was thinking about my career, I was trying to match them with some job I could realistically get, and at the same time some work in which I can see a meaningful purpose, that it plays an important role in human society. Correctional officer came out as a winner. Since then I started to work on my body, to get myself in shape to pass the test of my physical abilities. I did pass it, and am happy to interview for you face to face, being one step closer to the job that I feel is a great match to my strengths and personality.

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check all 20 most common interview questions for correctional officers, or 7 sample answers to “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” question for correctional officers. Thank you, and good luck in your interview!


Matthew Chulaw
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