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Tips for Successful Firefighting Panel Interviews

By Kim Alyn

Here are some essential tips for acing your panel interview and getting the job you deserve: 


  • Clean
  • Pressed
  • Professional


  • Shaved
  • No hair patches!
  • Combed
  • Clean


  • Conservative jewelry
  • Easy on the makeup
  • Don’t marinate in perfume


  • Application: What you must include
  • Resume: What you want to include
  • Bring 7 copies of resume and OFFER to hand them out before the interview starts
  • Resume should be one page in length (exceptions for higher positions can include a four page color resume)
  • Don’t include high school stuff, personal information, or unrelated information
  • Don’t assume ANY of it will get read!

Beginning the Interview:

  • SMILE!
  • Strong, firm handshake
  • Don’t change your handshake if it’s a woman
  • Pronounce names CORRECTLY and use their rank. (Chief Smith, Captain Jones)
  • Ask to move the chair if needed

Answering Questions:

  • LISTEN to the question thoroughly
  • Pause for a moment and THINK!
  • Remember: Listen, Think, Respond!
  • SMILE as you begin (it’s almost always appropriate)
  • Come out and answer the question and then elaborate
  • Answer should be no more than 2-3 minutes in length
  • Relate the question to the position
  • Give an example where you can and only if it fits
  • Be honest
  • Be passionate about your answers
  • Have a close to the question: “And that’s what leadership means to me.”
  • SMILE when you’re finished!


  • Video tape / record yourself doing panel interviews
  • Become self-aware of your bad habits and STOP THEM!
  • Practice your panel interview skills
  • Show some passion and enthusiasm for the job!
  • Have your opening memorized: 3-4 minutes only
  • Have your closing memorized 15 seconds – 1 minute only
  • Bring in your favorite quote / story (SHORT!)
  • Bring out information from your resume – assume it won’t be read
  • Know how you would answer a wide variety of questions, especially about YOU:
  • Your strengths
  • Your weaknesses
  • Why you want to promote
  • Why you should be selected over other candidates


  • Get cocky
  • Answer too quickly
  • Speak too low
  • Mumble
  • Tell the panel how nervous you are
  • Fidget
  • Spin in your chair
  • Name drop
  • Exaggerate
  • Ah and um your way through it!
  • BS your way through a question
  • Use slang
  • Ramble on and on and on
  • Ask if that’s what they were looking for or if you answered it thoroughly enough
  • Turn on the water works (There’s NO CRYING IN PANEL INTERVIEWS!) – don’t even well up!
  • Give a bunch of personal information in the interview
  • EVER SAY “Wow, that’s a tough question…” or “Wow, that’s a great question.”
  • Ask to have every question repeated – once or twice is ok.


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