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The oral board is for all the marbles

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The oral board is for all the marbles

By 'Captain Bob' Smith

Since 100 percent of your score in obtaining a firefighter job is in the oral board, what are you missing that's keeping you from gaining a badge? If you don't know how to take a firefighter interview, which is like no other, you must establish yourself and the other essential skills needed to score high enough — otherwise you might as well not show up.

According to retired Hayward, Calif., Battalion Chief Dennis O'Sullivan, "The oral interview gets you the job! This is where you putt for dollars.

Understand one very important thing here. If I'm on your interview panel and you're my kind of guy or gal, I will fill in some of the blanks to make up for your short comings. If you start off without establishing this natural bridge and are being a know-it-all, I will never fill in any of your shortcomings. This is human nature."

Most candidates do poorly on their oral boards. The problem is most of them don't know how bad they are actually doing. I've seen it too often after being on more than 100 oral boards. It's the most misunderstood and least prepared for portion of the testing process.

Bottom line: Most candidates don't do enough interviewing to get good at it. This is also true for any job interview. You've got around 20 minutes for a 25-plus year career. How are you going to stun the oral board panel to convince them to give you the badge over the other candidates?

With all respect to the following comment, this is one of the most important clues why candidates have trouble in their oral boards:

"I recently had an interview, and I know my answers were great especially after hearing how another candidate answered them. He made the list, and I did not. Go figure!" Jed.

This is the problem! Most candidates think their answers are great when they aren't. If their answers were as great as they thought, they would make the list and get a badge.

They listen to other candidates and firefighters who make them into clones. Have you noticed that once a person becomes a firefighter, they're instantly the experts on how to get hired?

Candidates who get this far in the process usually feel discouraged and tell me that it seems like they have hit a wall. Some of their friends (with lesser credentials) have been hired. They're frustrated and embarrassed.

"Stop looking in the magnifying glass at others ... and start looking in the mirror at your self. That's where the problem is."

If you're passing the written and agility, which are usually pass/fail and you're not placing high enough on the oral, that's where the problem exists.

What most candidates do if they don't place high enough on the oral is go back and try to pack on more credentials. "Oh, I have to finish my degree or get through that academy." They do little to nothing in gaining the skills for the oral board, which is usually 100 percent of the score.

If you don't do anything to improve your oral board skills nothing is going to change, you will never ever see that badge. The oral board is for all the marbles. This is where the rubber meets the road.

From Fire Recruit contributing author Steve Prziborowski, Battalion Chief, Santa Clara County Fire Department:

"Do what you have to do be more marketable so you can take more tests and have something more to offer a department, but remember that it all comes down to that 15 to 30 minute oral interview. I've seen some awesome candidates with resumes packed full of accomplishments that couldn't sell themselves in an interview to even make the top 50 percent."

"Being a firefighter is a front row seat for the greatest show on earth!"

Receive a special bonus when you sign up for the free newsletter here. To learn more about the hiring process and Oral Board Interviews, with 300 pages of free information visit

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