The Miracle Oral Board Tool

Editor's note: What are your tips for passing oral boards and assessment centers? Share your experiences at the FireRescue1 Forums or the Member Comments section.

What's the best tool on which to practice and rehearse your oral board and assessment center answers? A video camera's good — you need to see how you look in action. And sure, standing in front of a mirror after a shower is also useful. But you're missing the most valuable tool of all: a hand-held recorder.

I remember receiving a call from one of our new promotional candidates who had died on two previous promotional exams and wanted to set up a coaching session.  In just a few moments of speaking to him, I was aware of something critical. I then asked him if he was using a recorder to practice on. Like 99.7 percent of people, he hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Well, no, but, I'm thinking about it."

Even though he had our program that hammers and hammers the point home that you have to use a recorder and hear how you sound, he still didn't get the message. As a result, his answers were garbage.

Many applicants want a promotion so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. But all too often it doesn't include using a hand-held recorder to get your timing, inflection and volume right, or where to cut out material and get rid of the "uh's" and other pause fillers. Or to find out if you really sound like Donald Duck.

Narrows the distance
You need to get married to your hand-held tape recorder. You need to hear what the oral board is going to hear out of your mouth. By doing this, it will narrow the distance between you and that next badge you're looking for!

What is the first thing a candidate says when he hears his voice on a recorder? Yep, " That's not me." Yes, it is McFly. Once again, tou need to get married to a hand-held tape recorder and practice everywhere you go. 

The problem is often a guy thing. Guys think about their answers in their head and write them down. Then they think their answers are going to come out of their mouths like magic in the oral. Trust me, they don't! The brain and mouth don't work that way.

Try this. Take 3X5 cards and write down your oral board questions. Practice your answers with the recorder. If you hear something you do not like when you play it back, turn over the 3X5 card and write it down. The next time you go after that question, turn over the card first and see what you don't want to say.

Let me tell you how critical this really is. If you're not using a tape recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse and overlearn your material until it becomes second nature to you, you might as well not show up for the assessment center.
You are wasting the raters' time and yours! The previously mentioned candidate had already wasted some great opportunities. Had he been faithfully using a tape recorder to prepare for his previous assessment centers, he probably could have been already been promoted.

'Sounds canned'
Some will say, "Well, if I practice it too much it will sound canned." NO it won't! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent and luck is preparation meeting opportunity. One practice session with a tape recorder is worth 10 "speaking out alouds."

After practicing, you will get to a point where your answers will get into your subconscious. That's where the magic begins. You can't be fooled.

We think practicing with a tape recorder is so important that we will not do private coaching with a candidate if they aren't using one. It is a waste of our time and their money. Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a tape recorder. They are catapulting past you if you're not using one, too.

Here's what we know after 30-plus years of experience. Those candidates who get our program, use the work booklet that will become their script to audition for the job of an officer, use a hand-held recorder to practice and come back and do private coaching end up catapulting themselves into the Olympic camp to get a shot at that next badge.

Start asking yourself this question: What am I doing that can best prepare me for the most important part of the promotional process — the assessment center and oral board. If you can't pass the oral board or score high enough on the list, you don't get the job. Never! 

Now, where's your tape recorder …?

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge ... Nothing!"

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