Test Drive the Promotional Candidates


What is needed to qualify a candidate for a promotional position? Yes, a written test is necessary to set a standard for an evaluation for the position. But there is much more needed to make sure the candidate is qualified to lead, supervise and represent the agency to the citizens to protect life and property.

Ask yourself, would you buy a car without taking a test drive in it? Of course not. Then, why would you promote an individual only on the basis of their written score? Wouldn't you want to evaluate how qualified an individual is before you put them in charge of a company representing the department and being in charge of an emergency that is protecting your loved ones and citizens?

In our profession, we never know what's going to happen in the next moment – we could be part of someone's worst day.

Wouldn't you want the most qualified candidate available, so when the emergency takes place, the bells go off in the firehouse and the doors open, there is nothing that can be thrown at them that they can't handle?

Do you hire new firefighters on the basis of their written score? No. You also have a physical agility, oral board, background, medical, psychological evaluation and maybe a polygraph.

Having only a written score is like going back to the Stone Age. Departments over the last ten years have placed less importance on only the written test score and more on evaluations of qualifications through an assessment center.

Most departments conduct promotional assessment centers that can include, but are not limited to, in-out-basket, preparing a presentation, oral board, confrontation and disciplinary resolution, peer counseling, and tactical fire simulation.

What could be a consideration for your agency is a three-part test:

  • Written test: 30 percent
  • Oral board: 30 percent
  • Tactical fire simulation: 30 percent
  • Seniority credit: 10 percent

The tactical simulation is one area evaluated where the rubber meets the road. Too many candidates get sucked into the check off list for their tactical every time. 

A recent candidate called after he received our promotional program asking where the check off list for the tactical was? I told him we don't include it because there are too many variables with agencies' check off lists. Some departments have 50 boxes on their check off list and agencies such as Salt Lake City have 96.

Candidates try to plan their entire exercise on getting those boxes checked off – in the process, they lose control of the fire and their score gets hammered.

After talking about this problem during a recent coaching session, one firefighter I helped, Marc, still got sucked in to the check off list by making all kinds of assignments to incoming units for exposure, staging, etc., before he had assigned a RIC team or checked with fire attack on a report of conditions. 

By the time he came up for air after trying to get boxes checked off on the rating sheet and asked for a report on conditions from fire attack, the fire had spread to adjoining apartment units and to the floor above. Not pretty.

What's your best tactic for rescue or knocking down the fire? An aggressive attack on the fire! Go fight the fire with your resources. In the process, you will get the necessary boxes checked off on the rating sheet, could put out the fire, and get a top score.

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