10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members
FireLink and Military.com
Step 7: Background Check
The background check may be the most invasive experience you’ve ever had in your life. Many fire departments hold their firefighter candidates to the same high standards expected of a police officer. These standards include criminal history, drug usage, credit history, employment record, encounters with the law and a candidate’s overall persona. Everything about you will be checked out. Your character, your finances, your driving and criminal records, to name just a few. The information here will help you prepare for the background investigation:
• Be honest and upfront
• Tell your friends and family
• The polygraph
Be honest and upfront
The most important thing about your background check is that it be complete, accurate, and truthful. Intentionally leaving anything out or falsifying information is the kiss of death. The investigators conducting your investigation will find out. They are less concerned with some minor violation of the law then they are with the fact that you would tell them about it. They are expecting truthfulness. It is better that you tell them of a 10 year old misdemeanor arrest then them having to find out some other way.
Tell your friends and family
You probably noticed a place on your application packet to list friends, family and former neighbors. There’s a reason for that. The background investigators will be making contact with your references. And from your references people they will get the names of “secondary” references, people you didn’t list but who they find on their own.
Before your investigation begins be sure to let you for friends, family, former neighbors, and former coworkers that you are applying for a firefighting position and that they may be contacted by an investigator. Let them know that they shouldn’t be surprised and that they should feel free to honestly answer any questions the investigators ask.
Background check and polygraph
Some departments administer a polygraph exam. They do this to verify the information you provided in the application packet is truthful and to address topics covered in the background investigation.
There is nothing fun about the polygraph. Everyone is nervous when they take one. As long as you were truthful during your interviews, in your application, and on your background investigation, you shouldn’t have anything to be worried about.
But just for the fun of it, here are the types of questions you might be asked:
• Have you ever stolen anything?
• Have you ever lied to your boss?
• Have you ever looked at child porn?
A thorough background investigation is important because of the role of the fire department in the community. The firefighter candidate will eventually hold a position of authority and responsibility. Firefighters are welcomed into people’s homes and businesses without fear for their personal safety or their prized possessions. If the candidate is of questionable ethical or moral character, he or she may ultimately become a liability for the hiring agency. This could erode public trust and compromise the department.
For more information, see Battalion Chief Paul Lepore’s article here: “Everything You Need to Know About Background Investigations.”