Preparing for Firefighter Candidate Interviews
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
I know the community will always need firefighters. It is comforting to know that firefighters rarely get laid off.
I like the benefits package offered by the fire department. I currently have to pay for healthcare benefits out of my own pocket. I know that healthcare and retirement benefits are part of the fire department’s employment benefits package.
The fire department pays good salaries, which will help me provide for my family.
The fire department’s flexible schedule would allow me to continue my education and also frees up more time for family activities such as coaching my daughter’s soccer team.
I like fighting fire. It is exciting and challenging to arrive on scene and perform hose lays, throw ladders, and rescue people. What a great sense of accomplishment that would be.
Since I am interested in medical calls, I would enjoy being an EMT. If the opportunity ever came up, I would like to consider being a paramedic.
It always amazes me how unprepared candidates are for this basic question. Invariably, when faced with this question, they are usually stumped for an answer. This is the easiest question of all since there is really no right or wrong answer. The panel is trying to determine what your motivation is for wanting to become a firefighter.
Do you believe firefighters have a lot of free time and make good money? If this is your primary motivation, you are in for a rude awakening. If those are your first two answers you are unlikely to get a job in the fire service. If you do manage to get a job with that perception in mind, you will probably have difficulty during your initial training.
These are just a few examples of why candidates want to become firefighters. I suggest you write the reasons that motivate YOU to become a firefighter. When asked the question in an interview, it is important that you not try to remember what you have written down, but rather speak from the heart. If you truly have thought about it, the answer will come naturally. It is discouraging to listen to someone try to figure out the answer to the question during the course of the interview.
On the other hand, it is refreshing to listen to a candidate who has given a great deal of thought as to why he or she wants to be a firefighter. Also, try to avoid using “canned” (rehearsed) answers. As a rater, it is discouraging to hear a candidate try to repeat what someone has instructed him or her to say. It is important to speak from the heart, rather than try to parrot some catchy phrase that you learned in an interview class.
Raters usually volunteer to be on the oral boards. As a general rule, most firefighters really enjoy their job. A candidate who demonstrates enthusiasm for the fire service will most likely strike a chord with the raters. If the raters love their job, you can bet they will be looking for firefighters who will also appreciate the job.
Remember, evaluators want to give you a good score. It is up to you to give them a reason to do so.