Andrew Wilcox

3 Basic Tips for Surviving an Interview in the Fire Service

The quest for giving the perfect interview seems to be the desire of every aspiring firefighter. Making sure appearances are clean and professional, having the perfect resume printed on paper that probably costs more than its worth, and investing heavily in deodorant to handle the stress during the agonizing moments before your name is called in to interview are all things that everyone in the fire service seems to have experienced. The fact of the matter is that in many ways the interview is the most important 20 minutes of your career. You are going up against a multitude of fellow future firefighters and need to leave your mark in the most positive way possible. While I have no claim of being a fire interview expert I’ve made some observations that are consistent across the board that can help any interviewee regardless of the department they are applying for.

Appearance is everything. Seriously. From the moment that board lays their eyes on you the interview has begun and your appearance needs to be prepared. Having a suit that fits, a tie that isn’t out of date and not too overbearing, being clean shaven (making sure to have not missed places), shining your shoes, and on and on and on. I even had a captain tell me that he looks at the fingernails to see if the candidate had enough attention to detail to have them trim and not full of gunk before the interview. These seem like no brainers yet it amazes me how many people I see at interviews forgetting these key ingredients of being successful. Take the time to invest in your appearance before the interview, get an extra opinion or two on how you look and it will pay dividends on your overall score. How you present yourself to the board will be a reflection in many ways of how you will present yourself to the community and that is a big deal to those shiny badges on the other side of the table.

Practice, practice, practice. Then when you are done practicing, practice again. Not only should you have rehearsed frequently, but you should rehearse well. It’s the principle of working smarter not harder. Reviewing the same answers to the same questions is a gamble that the question you are given fits the memorized answer well enough to make you look like you know what you are talking about. Gamble wrong and you’ll be left sitting in the hot seat turning bright red grasping at words in an attempt to create a relevant sentence. Increase your odds by practicing multiple answers to the same question. Its no coincidence that the interview questions are nearly identical regardless of where you are interviewing, yet the answers that will work best vary between audiences. Maybe at one interview you could give an answer that is a bit lighthearted and have a punchline which would leave a positive impression on the board and get you a good score, yet with a different oral board an answer like that could be taken the wrong way and actually hurt your chances of getting that coveted job. Having different answers that all come easily and smoothly so that you can give the best answer to different audiences will allow you to do what all great firefighters are able to do, adapt and overcome.

Research is often times the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You have dressed well, you’ve practiced as much as possible, but you didn’t find out how many firefighters are employed for that department, or how many calls the department averages, or other facts to show how important this department and this job is to you already. You are now points behind the candidates who did. When a department hires the top 10 guys off their list, you don’t want to find yourself at number 11.  Take the time to read, a few times even, the departments website, visit a station and talk with the crews, even find a cool fact about the city so if the opportunity arises you can drop a tid-bit of info that possibly the board doesn’t even know and now they will remember you for it. Remember to have tact, and don’t inconvenience the crews when you need a favor from them, but I have yet to find a firefighter or captain who won’t answer a few questions about the department to someone who is applying for a job.

There are many factors that are involved in the interview process that take place before you receive the opportunity to work in the greatest career on earth. Some of these factors are out of your control and there is nothing that can be done to influence them. Others are all up to you to take advantage of and make the most of the opportunity. Controlling those factors to your benefit will put you higher on the list and one step closer to that firefighter position.

Andrew Wilcox

“All men are created equal, then a few become firefighters.”

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2 Responses

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  2. Tiffanie Burlock Says:
    March 12th, 2012 at 7:30 PM

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