When I meet with potential firefighters who are testing with a department, the very first mock oral board question I ask them is this:
Please describe your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that make you the ideal candidate for our department.
Many times the answer is, “Um, I really like this department and um, I am a hard worker and um, I’m a FF1.”
This type of answer is typical for the unprepared candidate and will do nothing to help the candidate get a badge.
When I ask candidates if they know themselves, most of the time they don’t realize how much information and practice this requires. The short answer is most candidates don’t.
A candidate must realize that they are going to get this type of oral board question in one form or another. To use a baseball analogy, this is your fastball down the middle, and you must hit a home run.
As a interview coach, this is the one question I can guarantee a candidate will be asked, and you must be prepared to answer it. This question can be disguised in many ways. Here are a few examples:
What have you done to prepare yourself for this position?
Why are you the ideal candidate for this department?
Please describe yourself to the oral board panel.
Tell us why you want to be a firefighter.
Each of these questions is asking the same things: What are your KSAs, and why should we hire you?
So what are your KSAs? Obviously a large part of any candidate's KSAs includes fire service training and experience. When I am a rater on an interview panel, I hear the same qualifications over and over again -- Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2, EMT/paramedic, rescue systems, volunteer experience, driver operator and on and on. What a candidate must realize is that most candidates will have much if not all of the same training.
There is a distinct difference between a candidate regurgitating his or her certifications and completely boring the panel and a highly prepared candidate articulating his or her KSAs and tying them into the organization with a knowledge of its operations and culture. This will set the candidate apart and show a level of knowledge and dedication the panel will appreciate and engage with.
An important aspect of knowing your KSAs is that they don’t have to always be fire-service related. Interests, hobbies, previous job experience, family, etc., all should be evaluated as your KSAs. As long as the candidate can articulate these as relevant to the department, they are important and can help separate him or her from the other candidates.
When candidates take a hard look at their KSAs, they are usually surprised at how many non-fire-service related skills and abilities they have that relate to the job for which they are testing.
A candidate recently relayed his time growing up on a ranch and all the skills and knowledge he acquired during his youth. The candidate had no idea how that could relate to the department with which he was testing.
When we discussed that the agency served several hundred miles of urban interface with many ranches and thousands of heads of cattle, he began to see where his KSAs fit in. It became apparent to the candidate that his years of experience could directly correlate to the job he was seeking.
The next step for the candidate is to articulate this information to the oral board panel while tying it into the operations of the organization and how he would be an asset.
For a candidate to be highly desirable, he or she must be prepared. This preparation takes time and dedication. Take the time to get to know yourself, and apply your KSAs with the next organization you test for.
Remember, “success is NO accident.”
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