How to be a better firefighter candidate

There are no trick question answers or secret handshakes that will land you on a fire department; it takes preparation, planning and work

The most common question I get asked, both in person and in writing, has to do with getting hired.

Being the best possible candidate is no easy task. This isn‘t the days of simply passing the civil service exam and waiting for a phone call. Dozens of companies have sprung up promising you answers to the trick questions in the interview, methods to prepare for your physical exam and a number of other “get hired quick” schemes.

Those may help you in the short term, right up until you don‘t get hired.

Let me fill you in on a fire service secret. Lean closer to the computer for a moment. Go ahead, you won‘t look silly. Are you ready?

There are no trick questions and no secret formulas to help you ace the interview.

Surprised? You shouldn‘t be.

Being a better candidate for a firefighter position requires research, will and the ability to pay attention. There are tools out there to help you become a better candidate, but not until you are willing to make an investment in yourself will they even begin to pay off.

An online resume cheat sheet might get you into the interview, but what then? How will you be prepared for the honest questions the chiefs will ask to learn more about you? Remember, they need to hire someone who they can invest hundreds of thousands of dollars of training on to successfully serve their department for the next 30 years.

Be prepared

Somewhere near you is a seminar for firefighter candidates. It‘s a half day or full day, and offers to help get you prepared for the exam, interview and hiring process. I want you to go there and check it out. Here‘s what I need you to bring:

  • Multiple copies of your resume.
  • two pens and a writing pad.
  • Business attire (ladies: pant suit or knee skirt and jacket. Gents: suit and tie).
  • A positive attitude.

You are not going to the event to get hired, but to make first impressions. If there is a speaker for resumes, see if you can get their input on yours at a break or after the event. Learn the names of the presenters and organizers. Take down not only their advice, but their email addresses and drop them a thank you note after the event.

Like I said earlier, there isn‘t a secret answer or handshake that is going to get you the fire job, it is your ability to show the interview panel who you really are and why you‘re a good fit for their agency.

There are folks out there who go from department to department administering these tests and interviews and quite often they are available different seminars. Believe it or not they will literally open the playbook and give you the answers to the most common questions you‘ll face in the interview. Questions like:

  • Why do you want to be a firefighter?
  • Tell us about what you do in your off hours.
  • What do you feel is the best aspect of being a firefighter?

These are all questions you can be prepared for if you are honest with yourself long before they ask the questions. Preparation will be the difference between you and the other 40 people who got the interview.

While they roll in wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a score of 95 on the written, you‘ll be the one they remember in your pressed suit with a sharp resume and honest answers to their very, very, straightforward questions.

Don‘t be intimidated by the process. Get out into the community and attend a seminar. Who knows, you may have the opportunity to network with the presenters and one day walk into the interview and already know the folks on the other side of the table.

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