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12 situational interview questions firefighters should study

All of these questions would be asked as “What would you do if ... " questions


The interview process involves situational questions, framed in a “What would you do if ...” manner.

Photo/Kris Blume

Becoming a firefighter is a competitive process. At some agencies, dozens, if not hundreds, of prospects apply for a handful of positions.

The process involves a firefighter interview, often involving situational questions, framed in a “What would you do if ...” manner.

Prepare to answer “what would you do if ... "

Here are five tips for responding to scenario-based interview questions.

  1. Understand the role: Before the interview review the job description’s specific roles and responsibilities. Make sure you understand the challenges and opportunities of the position to anticipate relevant scenarios.
  2. Think critically: After the question and scenario are posed to you, take a moment to consider the scenario carefully before responding to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
  3. Use a structured approach: The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is framework to organize your response to a what would you question.
  4. Highlight your skills and experiences: Include your relevant skills and experiences to the scenario.
  5. Be realistic: Provide practical solutions that show your understanding of real-world limitations of the fire department and its response protocols.

12 “what if?” interview questions

Here is a list of 12 situational firefighter interview questions you may encounter on a typical entry-level oral board. Consider your answers so you’re ready for the questions.

  1. For weeks you notice that someone has been eating your cereal and drinking your milk. You have already asked everyone to please not do so and have even started labeling your food. One morning you walk into the kitchen and senior firefighter Bob is helping himself to the last of your milk and cereal. WWYD?
  2. While shopping for groceries on duty, a civilian approaches you and asks why his tax dollars are paying for you to hang out and shop at the grocery store. He is obviously very upset and angry. WWYD?
  3. While on scene at a medical aid, you are asked to go back to the engine to get a piece of equipment. En route to the engine, you notice that its placement is blocking traffic. Traffic is backing up, and an irate citizen is yelling for you to move the engine. You are not the engineer. WWYD?
  4. You suspect a fellow firefighter has a drug problem. WWYD?
  5. You see a fellow firefighter slip an expensive watch into his turnout coat during overhaul. WWYD?
  6. During the final exam of your probationary academy, you see two fellow recruits exchanging answers. WWYD?
  7. Your captain orders you to get him a radio from the engine. On the way, the battalion chief stops you and asks you to deliver an ax to the team on the roof right away. WWYD?
  8. You feel a fellow firefighter is not pulling their weight when it comes to station chores. WWYD?
  9. Your shift captain clearly delegates much more work to you than to the other firefighters on the shift who are consequently all off-duty drinking buddies. WWYD?
  10. You are assigned a task that you strongly feel is unsafe. WWYD?
  11. You and another recruit are assigned duties together, but you continually end up doing all the work. WWYD?
  12. You are having dinner at the firehouse and someone makes a comment that you find personally offensive. WWYD?

If the department requires a firefighter or EMT certification, they may ask situational questions that are fire- or EMS-related. Be prepared.

This article, originally published March 25, 2014, has been updated.

Fire Recruit School is your comprehensive guide to launching a successful career in firefighting. Our articles cover everything from the initial steps to becoming a firefighter, mastering the interview process, and excelling in the fire academy. Whether you are just starting out or preparing for the next stage in your journey, you’ll find expert advice, practical tips, and invaluable insights to help you succeed in this challenging and rewarding profession.