Division Chief Paul Lepore

Filling out firefighter applications

I recently
spent four days with several other chief officers pouring through over 1,000 entry
level firefighter applications with a team of chief officers. Overall the
applications were very disappointing. The standout ones were awesome, but in
general the quality was pretty lackluster. Here are some of the things that we
as a group would like to pass along to aspiring firefighters.

Let’s start
with the basics. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Often times a department will provide specific
instructions. This may be to include copies of your proof of high school graduation,
driver’s license, or college transcripts. Those who do not follow the instructions
will be disqualified. These are required documents and your application will be
disqualified if you do not include them.

 DO NOT under any circumstances handwrite your
application. Find a way to type it. You may have to be resourceful (a good
trait for a firefighter). If you include a resume (which I greatly encourage)
make certain it’s perfect. This is a reflection of your work product. You had
the opportunity to make sure it’s perfect. Make sure it’s been proofread by
someone other than yourself. Do not fax your application and resume. They do
not copy well and look unprofessional. Make sure you sign your application. For
god’s sake, do not include a photo of yourself in a firefighter uniform.

It’s
important to keep in mind that someone is going to review your application for
completeness and to ensure that it meets the minimum requirements. With this in
mind, the better organized an application is the more likely the reviewer will
be able to determine if yours meets the minimum requirements. If the reviewer
is forced to sift through a bunch of documents to look for the required ones,
it’s likely that it will get put in the discard pile. You can avoid this by
putting the required documentation in front of all of the “nice to have
certificates”. Color copies are expensive but make a great first
impression.

Speaking of
documentation, it’s wise to review the directions before you submit your
application. Frequently the directions require that you put the documents in a
specific order (this makes it easier for them to be reviewed and verified).
Make sure that all of your copies are legible. It’s often necessary to include
a copy of both sides of the certificate to make certain it’s authentic and
still current.

Make sure
that your photo ID looks professional. I cannot tell you how many people had
“old” driver’s license photos that gave a glimpse into their past.
This includes insignias and slogans on the T-shirt you wore for your EMT photo.
It all sends a message about you. This is often our first impression of you.

DO NOT put
“see attachments” under job descriptions. This implies you were too
lazy to fill out the application and does not convey a positive first
impression. Take the time to spell out exactly what you do in the course of
your employment. For someone working as a reserve or volunteer firefighter, I
encourage you to come up with a good job description that includes your job
responsibilities such as the types of calls you respond to, learning the fire
station etiquette, and how often you participate in training. DO NOT highlight
cleaning the station and apparatus maintenance. This is selling you and your
experience short.

Include
proof of your schooling. This includes copies of your degrees, transcripts, and
certifications. It’s important to note that we pay attention to your grades. If
you served in the military make sure you include copies of your separation
papers (we also check these to make sure the discharge was honorable). Explain
where you served and your level of responsibility.

Your application is a statement of who you are.
It is the first impression the department and will have of you. Take the time
to make it look professi

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