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How to Ace Your Job Application

Prospective Firefighters invest a great deal of themselves, hoping for the chance to work in the profession of their dreams. If you think it isn’t a dream, please realize that if you apply for a department like Los Angeles County, you can expect to compete with 10,000 other candidates for an opportunity to take the entry-level test.

Even if your ambitions are more humble, you will likely be up against several hundred similarly qualified candidates; and while I can’t speak for LAFD, I can assure you that there is at least a 50% chance that someone, who is no better qualified than you, will get the job – should you apply to work for my department. You see, in order to work here, you have to pass all portions of the testing process; and at least half of you will fail the very first step – the application.

While Fire Academies excel at providing candidates with hands-on training, and certification for any number of specialties, many fail miserably at preparing the candidate to actually get the job. It doesn’t matter how well you can: Waltz, Tango, or do the Charleston, if you never get invited to the dance.

More specifically, you will never get an opportunity to put your training to use, if someone places your application in the “rejected” pile; and prospective firefighters get lots of rejections. While I will admit that prospective firefighters typically do a better job, at filling out employment applications, than unskilled laborers – you aren’t competing with an unskilled workforce…

To put this in perspective, our most recent recruitment garnered one-hundred and forty-eight (148) applications. One of the applicants was a “regular Joe” just hoping for a job; but I firmly believe that the remaining applicants were fully qualified. Unfortunately, seventy-four of them failed to provide any of the documentation required to support their qualifications. That’s right at 50% of the applications. Let me be quite clear on this point, the job announcement and employment application clearly state what has to be provided.

If a candidate can’t follow clear written instructions, in the comfort of their own home, why should an employer believe that they would be able to follow hurried, verbal instructions during the heat of an emergency? To put a finer point on it, 50% of the applicants failed the testing process at the application phase.

Because I have been in charge of recruitment and testing, of entry-level firefighters for eighteen (18) years, I know that eighty (80) invitations-to-test will net an eligibility list of ten to twelve (10 to 12) candidates. I also know that recruitment and testing is expensive, otherwise I would have eliminated an additional seventy-one (71) applicants. If you are keeping track, that means I received exactly three (3) complete and accurate applications out of a pool of one-hundred and forty-eight (148). Obviously, testing only three (3) candidates is a waste of time and money; so I allowed the seventy-one (71) applicants that had provided “nearly” complete applications an opportunity to rectify their deficiencies.

While the application process has always been viewed as the “first elimination phase”, the last several years has shown a significant degradation in the quality of applications. With this latest recruitment being the worst I have ever seen.

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