I often hear the same complaint from firefighter candidates. “Nobody’s hiring!” The reality is at any given time our site, FireRecruit.com, has hundreds of available jobs throughout the nation. The problem seems to be that everyone wants a job in a rather specific location, or in a department that fits a certain criteria. The more selective you are, the more you reduce your chances of getting hired. If you are going to be selective, you’d better be doing everything possible to stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants looking at those same coveted jobs with those same select agencies.
Every year, 10’s of thousands of young men and women move away from home to spend the next four to six years paying 10’s of thousands of dollars to study in a college in hopes that when they are done they will be able to land a job in their chosen field. If you are a young aspiring Firefighter you may have the opportunity to relocate to a new place and get paid to get trained in your chosen field. So you need to ask yourself a few questions. How bad do I want this job? How far am I willing to go to get it? What’s more important, the job or location? I post many job announcements in areas that cannot fill Firefighter positions. Often these departments are re-opening entry level firefighter jobs every few months and have little to no requirements for the position. The reality is there are jobs out there where few applicants are applying. Yes, the pay is usually not great and it may not be in the most ideal location, but it’s a paying job, a great job that is going to give you the knowledge, training and skills in your chosen field along with a pay check. So the next time you see a job announcement in Small Town, USA perhaps it is your opportunity to take that next step in your career. I know many candidates that have taken jobs in areas they initially had no desire to relocate to and ended up settling down and being very happy and successful there. I also know many others who did so and gained valuable experience in their field and ended up moving on to other departments. I have yet to meet anyone who regretted such a career move.
Consider these three candidates.
Candidate #1: 23 years old, Firefighter I and EMT certificates, 2 years experience as a Firefighter/EMT in Small Town, USA. Job duties included working as a Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician, as well as an Engine Driver/Operator. He/She also possesses several other certifications, which were obtained as part of their employment in Small Town, USA.
Candidate#2: 23 years old, Firefighter I and EMT certificates, working as a store clerk and taking Fire Science classes at the local community college.
Candidate #3: 23 years old Firefighter I and EMT certificates, 1 year of experience as an EMT with Ambulance Company X and currently enrolled in a Paramedic School.
Based solely on background and education alone, how do you rate these candidates? Which one are you most like?
I find that the majority of candidates look most like number 2. In most metropolitan areas, these candidates are a dime a dozen. Yet many think that their schooling has not only prepared them for the job, but makes them a good candidate. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good start and everyone has to start somewhere, but far too many candidates stop there and then wait to test with local agencies and never take that next step. Those next steps include things like; teaching CPR and First Aid, working as an EMT for a private ambulance company, working as a Firefighter out of State or out of the area, working as a seasonal Wildland Firefighter with a Local, State or Federal agency, going to paramedic school, etc. Easier and less desirable choices are simply finishing up your fire science degree without doing any of the above. Taking classes and having certifications in hand is great, but when they aren’t combined with actual experience, many hiring agencies will question the candidate’s motivation, passion and abilities.
I understand that not every candidate is in their early 20’s and has the same opportunities. But no matter where you are in life or what your other obligations may be you need to maximize your opportunities, show your passion for the job and gain the knowledge and experience you need to perform the job. This will require sacrifice. Perhaps you will need to move, or work less hours to go to school or fit in some volunteer/reserve time, or even quit your job or take a loan out to go to paramedic school. These are the resumes and candidates that impress a panel, because they show passion and sacrifice along with the knowledge and experience most agencies are looking for.
When you are being interviewed the panel will be asking themselves what experience does this person come with, how bad does this person want the job and would I want to work with this person. You should take a step back and objectively evaluate yourself and your own resume in the same way by asking yourself the same tough questions. Then ask yourself, what more can I be doing?