Oral Board Questions
As someone taking either an entry level or promotional level oral interview, there should be no “trick” or “surprise” questions if you have done your research/homework.
Meaning, there are many websites and books that have sample oral board questions that pretty much cover the majority of the types of questions you’ll be asked. You can’t prepare for every question word for word, but you can prepare for every type of question theme, if that makes sense.
I bring this up because I had a candidate email me the other day after an interview saying there was one question that totally caught them by surprise. My response was it shouldn’t have.
While there is no way you can expect every oral board question – word for word, but if you have prepared for the typical questions, then it shouldn’t be an issue to use that answer or parts of that answer you have prepared to answer the specific question being asked of you.
If you prepare for the following types of questions, you can’t go wrong:
- F.D. specific, city or region specific. Meaning, know as much as you can about the F.D. you’re testing for as well as the local region.
- Personal. Know everything about yourself (strengths, weaknesses, education, training, experience, career goals, vision, values, integrity, capabilities, etc.) to answer the questions about you, which more than likely will come up.
- Ethical and Legal related issues (stealing, lying, harassment, alcohol/drug use, cheating, etc.). Know where you stand, what the laws are, and where you need to go with problems encountered – up the chain of commmand).
- Diversity and Change related issues. Whether you agree with diversity or change doesn’t matter. What matters is you realize both concepts are here to stay and you need to be prepared for questions on how you will fit in, what you tolerate, what you accept, what you’re willing to do to improve the department, etc.
- Customer service related issues. Customer service is a huge buzzword today. Have a definition, be able to provide examples from your past, and be able to provide examples of how you will provide great customer service in the future.
- Playing nicely with others and interpersonal related issues. Face it, a large part of some F.D. supervisors and managers time is spent on personnel problems.
- Situational issues for any of the above related questions. Unless you just crawled out from being under a rock, you’ve more than likely experienced everything mentioned above at least once in your life – whether at home, at work, or at school. Start documenting experiences relating to ethical related issues, legal related issues, playing nicely with others issues, customer service issues, etc. Have a memory bank to draw from. Anyone can give a definition on customer service – but can you also add a situation where you gave “wow” customer service?
- Fire service/governmental related issues. Know the issues facing the world, the fire service, and government in general. So, when you’re asked what are the biggest problems facing the F.D. or the state today, you have some answers.
Lastly, unless you’re an expert at body language and reading people (very few are), don’t try to interpret how an oral board felt about your performance. Some of my best interviews (so I thought) were my worst, and some of my worst were my best. Moral of the story? Don’t try to read into how I think they’re taking the answers I’m providing because more than likely I’m going to be wrong….. What’s meant to be is meant to be, start preparing for your next interview and when the results come in the mail, they’ll tell the true story.
Just some general subject areas off the top of my head; there are obviously others that can be brought up, so if I missed anything, throw it out there.
The key is that if you properly prepare yourself for your next interview, there should be no surprises!