The Least You Should Know, Before the Interview

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The Least You Should Know, Before the Interview

By Tony Vitalie

There is nothing worse than walking into an interview excited about the prospect of getting a job and then being asked a question that you are completely unprepared for.

There are many things you should do to prepare yourself for an interview. Visiting the department stations and doing your homework is one of them.

Chances are good that they will ask you, “What do you know about the department?” Chances are even better that they will ask you this question if you haven’t done your homework.

The following is a checklist to take with you when doing your department research. This is intended for small to medium-sized departments.

If you are interviewing with the New York City Fire Department, much of this information will either not apply or not be realistically obtained. This is merely meant to be a basic guide, so be sure to tailor it appropriately for the department you are interviewing for.

Filling out this form is the easy part. Conveying this information appropriately and coherently in an interview response is the difficult part. You want to be brief, concise and articulate. You do not want to simply rattle off or recite names, facts and figures. You also need to choose what to talk about and what to omit, if asked.

This will depend on how the question is worded and presented, and the department itself. Hit on what you feel — based on your research — to be the most important points.

Different departments pride themselves on different things. Try to learn what those things are and make sure you understand them and touch on those areas.

If the question does not come up, don’t feel the need to use this information. Do not try to force it into your interview if the opportunity doesn’t arise. It may come up later in the Chief’s interview, or not at all, but you need to be armed and ready just in case. That is what this job is all about, being as prepared as possible for anything and everything.



City manager:

Day population:

Night population:

Square miles of the city or jurisdiction:

What is the city known for (industry, commerce, agriculture, etc.):

Fire Department

Fire Chief:

Assistant Chief:

Battalion Chiefs:

Department mission statement:

History of the organization:

Total number of fire suppression and prevention personnel:

Organizational structure (learn it in detail by drawing a hierarchy tree):

Annual budget:

Number of stations and their locations:

Busiest station:

Equipment and staffing of each station:

Any specialty equipment (air truck, foam truck, USAR, Haz-Mat, etc.):

Target hazards:

Mutual or automatic aid policies:

First alarm response of each station:

How jurisdiction is divided into fire districts:

Daily station routine:

Reserves or volunteers? Their role in the department:

Total number of responses for previous year: % Medical, Fire, Haz-Mat/Misc:

Paramedic/transport provider:

Public education/fire prevention programs?

Future stations or changes in department, or jurisdiction:

Anything unique about the department or service area:

Salary range:

Number of immediate openings and expected openings:

Anticipated start date:

Probationary period (how long/academy, etc.):

Promotional ladder: (FF, ENG, CAPT, BC, etc.)

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