Navigating the Hiring Process
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
The best way to standout in the hiring process is to understand the role of a firefighter. A great way to gain knowledge and experience in the fire service is to become a volunteer or reserve firefighter. These candidates will have made a name for themselves long before the testing process.
Candidates often volunteer for departmental activities. These activities include departmental BBQ’s, CPR training events for the community and any other opportunities that may arise to give a candidate a chance to be visible to the members of the department. As you are flipping burgers, it is entirely possible that a captain, battalion chief or even the fire chief will stop you and introduce him or herself. This is your opportunity to meet influential people on the department. Once the introductions are made, the conversation often steers toward what you are doing. This is your opportunity to explain that it is your goal to become a member of the department.
It is important to note that you are establishing your reputation the minute you walk into the fire station. If you make a favorable impression, the firefighters will help you and maybe even pass positive information to the oral board. The same thing can be said if you make a poor showing.
The FireLink Career Center is one of the Internet’s greatest resources for finding a firefighting job. Thousands of fire departments throughout the country use FireLink to post their job openings, giving you an opportunity to learn about an opening before the next guy.
The Career Center also has many great firefighting career related articles and industry career news available for free to all members.
Chief Paul Lepore has written three books to help candidates master the hiring process. The Aspiring Firefighter’s Two Year Plan provides candidates with a complete road map of what to do to make themselves the candidate all fire departments are looking for. Smoke Your Firefighter Written Exam prepares candidates for every phase of the written examination including: math, reading comprehension, mechanical aptitude, map reading, language, grammar and spelling. Smoke Your Firefighter Interview provides the candidate with 85 of the most commonly asked fire department interview questions, recommendations for answering the questions, and most importantly the reason WHY the answer is correct.
There are many other study guides and reference books available for firefighter advancement in the FireLink Bookstore.
Visiting fire stations is a critical part of the hiring process. You will get to know the details of the job, station life, and that particular department’s unique culture. Even more importantly, the firefighters will get to know you.
If you visit the stations early enough, before the department announces the recruitment exam, this can be a reality for you. If you show up with the testing crowd (all of the other candidates who show up once the department announces they are giving an entry-level exam), which often numbers in the thousands, your chances of getting to know the station crew, and vice versa, are greatly diminished.
It is important to understand that, good or bad, you are establishing your reputation the minute you walk in the door on your first visit. A positive opinion of you may make its way to the interview board. On the other hand, a poor first impression may also make it to the hiring panel.
The busier stations are the ones you want to visit. Since these stations run calls all day and all night long, the younger firefighters are sent there to get experience. These are the ones who are the most current on the testing process since they went through it most recently.
Whenever you visit a fire station it is customary to dress nicely. Some candidates may elect to wear a suit and tie, while others prefer business professional (nice pants and shirt). Is a suit and tie overdressing for the occasion? Probably. How would you rather be remembered: as the candidate who showed up in a suit and tie, or one who showed up in a tank top and flip-flops? Believe me, the firefighters will remember you.
The same can be said for someone who comes by dressed in a less than professional manner. It is a poor choice to show up looking like you just came from the beach or the gym. It is important to remember that you are visiting our house. We are professional when we are called to your house. We ask that you show the same respect.
Chances are you won’t pass the first exam, or even the second one. It’s up to you to identify where your own challenges are. If you struggle with the written examination, you should identify what areas present the greatest challenge. For example, if math is your challenge enroll in a math course. If reading comprehension causes you difficulty, increase your reading. Have your significant other create questions from an article in the news paper to quiz you.
If the physical agility exams are hard for you, increase your physical fitness regimen. You will find that most fire department exams are relatively simple. As you identify and correct your known weaknesses you will find your scores will improve. Getting hired on the fire department is a very difficult challenge for most. Build upon the experience of taking exams. Learn from each one and you will find that you are scoring hire on the eligibility list.