Why do you want to become a firefighter?
That is a question that is commonly asked during an oral interview, and even during fire station visits or discussions with others when they find out your career aspirations.
Unfortunately many candidates fail to hit the grand slam when they answer this question.
Common answers include:
1. I want to help people.
2. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.
3. Because of the job security (not so much in today’s economy).
4. Because of the wages, benefits, working conditions (10 days a month, 20 days off).
Now regarding 1 and 2 – I hope every human being in this world (regardless of whether they are in the fire service or not…) wants to honestly help others succeed and in time of need. I also hope every human being wants to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Again, both of those are traits of genuinely great people – in and out of the fire service. They aren’t necessarily bad answers, but they’re not really “wow” answers ; they are answers that more than one person will use and after a while, it makes candidates appear the same and doesn’t allow candidates to stand above.
Now regarding 3 and 4 – I remember firefighters actually telling me to say those things when I was testing. However, I can’t speak for others, but I think when you hire someone just for the work schedule or the pay or the benefits, as opposed to items 1 and 2, you’re going to get a candidate that is only in this for the benefit of themselves – as opposed to others. Don’t get me wrong, I love the working schedule and the pay and benefits aren’t bad either, especially in a tough economy. However, what happens if we ever went away from our schedule to a more regular one? What happens if our wages and benefits ever get cut so much as opposed to what we’re used to today? Would you still want to be a firefighter? That’s the real question – some would, some wouldn’t. There are enough “8 to 8, out the gate” folks as it is in today’s fire service. In today’s fire service, we need future firefighters who will walk the walk, talk the talk and actually get involved in their department, their community – both on and off duty. Doing so would help our image and increase our level of positive relationships.
So if 1 through 4 are not “wow” answers, what is a “wow” answer. It’s very simple…..Think back to the one moment (or series of moments or experiences) that made you say “I’m going to be a firefighter.” That moment where you made the decision to start the process, start taking tests, start visiting stations, start taking classes, etc. I bet that moment or series of moments is something ONLY you can tell.
So why is that important? Because chances are it will be a unique answer that they will remember and make you stand out – assuming it is well crafted, not too long, and well organized and to the point. Obviously the moment better not be anything illegal, immoral or unethical….
Successful candidates provide answers that are unique and that stand out. Only you can tell stories about your past, your present and your future – and only you can make them sound personalized or unique. When it comes to trying to narrow down the best candidates when most candidates look alike, sound alike, etc., be the one that says the unique things or has the unique background to offer. It will pay off sooner than later.