PASSION: Passion is essential for most jobs, but particularly the fire service. Without it, candidates are not likely to take the steps necessary to get hired in the first place, and even if they did, they will most likely wash out somewhere along the line during the testing process or probationary period. The fire service is not for everyone, and it is up to the departments to determine who will wear their badge.
Those chosen must exhibit a passion for the career and specific job duties. A person that lacks passion for what they do will cease to better themselves once hired. This is why passion is one of many traits departments are looking for in a candidate. They look for it in your resume, but truly sense it in your interactions; your ride alongs, your station visits, your interview, etc.
Passion is hard to fake and can fade over time, but at no time in a candidate's life should they exhibit more passion then when they are just getting started. If you don't have it now it's likely you never will and may want to reconsider your career choice.
PERFORMANCE: You will not get the job if you do not perform well on all phases of the selection process and you will not keep the job if you fail to perform well during probation. Your performance on the test is objectively measured by your written test scores and physical agility scores and objectively and subjectively measured during the interview process.
These rudimentary tests are simply tools to help a department predict how well an unknown candidate will perform once hired by measuring basic aptitude, physical ability, related knowledge, experience, and character traits.
They are by no means foolproof and don't mean squat once you are handed a turn out coat and helmet and placed in an academy or on the job. Being able to perform on the entry level tests is key to getting hired, but do not underestimate the importance of being able to perform the job skills and battery of other tests (both personal and professional) that will follow once hired.
PRO-ACTIVE: Unlike other careers, there is no clear path into the fire service. It is up to each candidate to find their way and this vagueness requires that candidates be proactive in seeking resources and carving their own unique pathway. Although many candidates do take similar paths, different regions afford different opportunities and these paths are rarely clear.
Even in urban areas, it may be difficult to find schools and classes, or find volunteer or other hands on opportunities. Being resourceful is essential and a trait most successful candidate's possess.
PRODUCTIVE: Being productive means taking classes, earning degrees and certificates, having work experience in any field, etc. Departments are looking for candidates that have a proven track record of productivity. Gaps in your resume can hurt you. Your resume does not need to be chock-full of fire related experience and training.
Departments understand that not all candidates begin their fire career pursuit at a very young age. However, having periods of time when a candidate was doing nothing reflects poorly on their motivation. Most successful candidates have a history of productivity ie awards, achievements, honors, degrees, etc.
PERSISTANCE/PERSEVERENCE: It is a rare individual that has been hired in the fire service and did not take multiple tests and go through multiple recruitment processes. Being persistent and being able to persevere are the keys to success.
Getting hired requires a continued steady belief in yourself and your career choice. You will need to withstand discouragement and often overcome obstacles. All of which require persistence and perseverance.
PROGRESSIVE: Being persistent is essential, but it does little good if you do not learn from your mistakes or grow and progress as a candidate and person. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
If you aren't scoring great on any phase(s) of the testing process, and aren't doing anything about it, you may be persistent but you will most likely continue coming up short. You must be willing and able to progress and continue to improve as a candidate and firefighter.
When I was testing for a job I did not walk into any written, physical or interview with the goal of getting hired. Instead my goal was to score 100 percent and/or be number one on that portion of the exam. I knew that once I was able to do so consistently on all phases, getting hired would follow.
PATIENCE: Patience implies that you realize it may take time to get where you want to be, and you are willing to put in your time. Patience is NOT waiting for something to come your way, it is understanding that Rome wasn't built in a day...but that Rome was built and it took time, blood, sweat and tears to get it done.
Patience means seeing the long term pay off far down the road and the willingness to put in your time and energy.
PARAMEDICINE: If you've read my previous articles you know I do not encourage every candidate to go to paramedic school. However, it cannot be denied that there are more opportunities for licensed paramedics and you are much more likely to land a job if you are a paramedic. As preached before by myself and others, do not go to paramedic school if you do not want to be a paramedic. Although this has worked for some, I do not endorse that. What I do suggest is that candidates look into becoming a paramedic to determine if it is right for them.
A passion for the EMS often develops. I know many candidates that went to paramedic school just to get into the fire service. Some hate being paramedics, but many developed a true passion for paramedicine and became great EMS professionals. These people grew to enjoy being both a firefighter and a paramedic, even though they were first only drawn to firefighting. One way to determine this for yourself is to work as an EMT on an ALS ambulance first. Doing so will will help you decide if paramedic school is right for you.
PERSONABLE: There are two reasons firefighters have a great reputation. One is our job itself. We are the go-to guys of our community…the ones our citizens turn to in times of crisis and when they simply do not know who else to call. But I truly believe there is another reason there is such a positive public perception surrounding firefighters.
It is because most are very personable. Firefighters are more personable than most other professions simply because we get to choose our own co-workers and we usually have a very large pool of people to choose from. We aren't going to choose the drones, bores and isolationists if we have other choices. The successful candidate is good with people. They are friendly, warm and good conversationalists.
They are likeable, or at least know how to appear to be likeable and can pull it off when they need to. Believe me, this is not to say all firefighters are truly likeable, but the successful candidate can usually play the game and work a crowd. So you may be asking yourself, "What do I do about this, go to charm school?" The short answer is, Yes! Whether it be reading a book about making good impressions, taking a public speaking or speech class to improve your communication skills or overcome fears, or simply getting out there in the world and finding what works for you, do whatever helps you to generate more positive feelings with those you interact with. It will pay off in every aspect of your life, not just professionally.
PREFERENTIAL STATUS: There are many departments where preferential hiring takes place. Whether it is directly by giving "preference points" to certain individuals, or done in a less obvious manner it can be a factor. Preferential status can take many forms. It can mean a department is seeking to hire women and/or a certain minority group. It can mean the department is ideally seeking someone with a certain level of certification, such as EMT or paramedic, (even though it is not required), or it can mean that a department prefers to hire their own reserves or volunteers.
In some of these cases the agency may give actual "preference points" for these individuals. Preference points are points that are added on to a candidate's overall score after the selection process is completed. Departments may also give preference points for military service. Some departments are known to give preference points for bilingual speakers as well. Direct preferential hiring should always be noted somewhere on the job announcement.
The announcement should highlight such preferences and state the preference points given, if any. However, it may be more indirect and not stated at all, or simply state that "women and minorities are encouraged to apply," which may be an indicator of preferential hiring based on gender or ethnicity. Although there is usually little that one can do to fall within the preferential hiring category, you can seek out departments that may be giving preference to you. If a department is giving preference to others, do not let it discourage you. Follow the other 9 Ps and you will find success.