The Fire Service Resume

Submitted by: Tony Vitalie with special thanks to Captain Grant Welling.

The fire service resume or “professional profile” is as individual as each applicant. A well constructed resume is your opportunity to illustrate your background and experience and paints a picture of who you are as a candidate and person before you walk into the interview room. If your resume intrigues the interviewer they will refer to its content throughout the interview, so be keenly aware of the information you’ve included as you should be ready to answer questions about and/or defend any information it contains. However, if your resume is less than intriguing, you may have already shot yourself in the foot before ever walking into the interview, as a poorly constructed resume reviewed by an Oral Board beforehand will have already left a negative impression on the Board before they even meet you.

If you submitted your resume with your application more often than not the interviewers will have a copy of your resume to review prior to the initial interview and almost always before a Chief’s interview. Given this is not always the case and since there are always multiple interviewers, it is recommended to bring at least 7 current copies of your most recent resume with you to the interview. These copies should be printed on a heavy bond paper that has a slight tint or color to it. Avoid plain white or a glossy paper. By bringing current copies of your resume, you not only insure each interviewer will have a copy, but you also create an opportunity to provide them with a ‘current or updated’ copy that will include any classes, training and or other relevant information that has occurred since the submission of your original resume. As you enter the interview room and finish the introductions, you should inform the Board that you have updated copies of your resume, and ask if you can provide a copy to each interviewer.  By informing the Board you would like to provide then with ‘current or updated’ copies of your resume, you create an opportunity to share with them the purpose of the resume update, i.e., recent classes, training, etc., which conveys to the Board in a subliminal manner that you are an individual who continues to learn and progress professionally; this all before the interview ever starts…not a bad way to begin! 

The resume is merely one tool in your application and interview process. Do not expect it to stand-alone, or speak for you. I have seen candidates who might as well have walked into the interview room, propped their resume up in the chair and walked out. A great resume does not make a great candidate, but it can assist a good candidate through the process and help the panel obtain more information and insight during that extremely short window of opportunity a candidate is given to convince the panel they are the single best person for the job.

Unlike in the private sector, where the resume is usually viewed extensively before an interview, the interviewers typically will look at your resume just minutes before you enter the interview room, if at all. This is why I firmly believe that a brief, concise and easy to read resume is of utmost importance. The interviewers will not have time to search for information. It must jump out at them at a glance. Save the fancy fonts and wordy descriptions for private sector interviews. 

Resume styles vary and there are different opinions as to how to format your resume. After having the opportunity to sit on interview panels this is what I have concluded about resume writing for the fire service. An old school rule of thumb that I recommend is sticking to a single page resume for entry level and lateral level interviews. Multiple page resumes should be reserved for promotional interviews, or for those who truly have a wealth of information, experience and or education specific to the job. Two pages can be used but only if absolutely necessary. Again, this is my opinion and there is no right or wrong way to put together a resume.

What to include:

You should include the following in any order you see fit.

  1. Name, address, contact phone number and e-mail address at the top.
  2. Employment objective.
  3. Present employment history, recent employment history and all pertinent employment history. This should include job title, brief job description and years of employment (start date to end date), or (start date to present). All in chronological order.
  4. Schooling, Degrees, certificates and honors.
  5. Special achievements, volunteer work or any extra-curricular activities that you’d like to share.

If you do not have a wealth of work experience and training with which to construct your resume, you can add hobbies and interests. However, be sure not to add anything that may be frowned upon or that will not represent you well. For example, there is nothing wrong with going to the skate park, but do you really want to put skate boarding as a hobby? Maybe, maybe not, the choice is yours. Be honest and be yourself, but know you will be judged, like it or not. That is truly what the interview process is all about.

Some people like to add attributes. This is acceptable just use caution when doing so. It is often difficult to share ones attributes in a genuine fashion in the non-verbal forum. However, I have seen it done successfully in a resume and when done effectively it really works.  Sometimes the career objective and attributes can be done in the same short paragraph and worked in together as this also can work well and save space.

I am avoiding specifics, because, again the resume is as individual as you are. I hope to be able to provide several sample resumes over the next few months, so you can choose a basic format that fits your experience level and personal style. Regardless of your experience or style I do strongly suggest that you put together a resume that allows the reader to quickly extract and absorb the information. Only include pertinent information that will help to sell your experience and abilities as a candidate. I feel the resume samples provided are a good example of this. I invite you to review all the resume samples which have been submitted and read the thoughts, insight and opinions shared on the topic and share your thoughts as well. I am by no means an expert rather I am merely sharing opinions on a very subjective topic. I invite everyone to comment as they see fit, expressing their own thoughts and opinions, as well. Consider this an on-going open forum on resume writing. More samples will follow in the months to come as they are submitted.


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