Your Job Application Was Not Accepted?

The process of submitting an application varies from city to city as much as the hiring policies.


In December 2007, a big-city fire department on the west coast was accepting 1,000 applications for the position of entry-level firefighter, over a one-day period, after having given out well over 1,000 applications earlier in the week. The job announcement stated only 1,000 applications would be...


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In December 2007, a big-city fire department on the west coast was accepting 1,000 applications for the position of entry-level firefighter, over a one-day period, after having given out well over 1,000 applications earlier in the week. The job announcement stated only 1,000 applications would be accepted, and to specifically not line up prior to 5:00 a.m. that morning the applications were being accepted.

This was the first time in a number of years the city had reduced the entry-level requirements of either an EMT certificate or a paramedic license to just 18 years of age and a high school diploma or G.E.D. The department was very up front in stating they needed to fill a little over 20 positions and they needed to get more "home grown" people to apply and hopefully get hired. The city, like many other big cities, was trying their best to increase the diversity of their fire department, to mirror the community demographics.

What seemed like a good plan from the administrative side easily turned ugly once people started lining up in advance, long before the 5:00 a.m. time they were asked to do so. Candidates from around the state and I would imagine across the United States planned on camping out, for the sole purpose of trying to ensure their application was one of the first 1,000 applications accepted. Camping out is nothing new for submitting fire service applications.

I remember when I started testing for the position of firefighter in the early 1990's; it was very common to camp out in line just to get an application or to submit an application. In those lines, you would typically find the "die-hard" candidates, the ones who were willing to do what it took to get a job as a firefighter. These were typically your candidates who were either working for other fire departments or were either current or former fire technology students from community colleges.

Well, what should have been a relatively problem-free process immediately turned into a chaotic scene for a variety of reasons, resulting in a large number of unhappy candidates who had not been able to submit an application. Local television news cameras were on scene filming the people camped out in line and even caught the fire chief and city staff members personally selecting people to submit their applications, and not in a first-come, first-serve manner. Allegations were flying that these people being hand selected were not "randomly selected," and were actually relatives of current fire personnel and city staffers, including one of the fire chief's sons.

Apparently the process of randomly (or hand-picking as it appeared to be) selecting candidates did not bode well with virtually everyone involved, except of course to the 1,000 or so who were selected to continue. In the following days, the Mayor agreed to have another day to allow those candidates who were not selected, to submit their applications. They would not give out additional applications; just accept any applications from candidates who had not made the cut that first day. For the most part, this appeared to appease those involved who had not been able to be one of the lucky first 1,000 applications.

I had the chance to talk to a group of my students a few days after this situation; some who had been fortunate to submit an application, some who had not. It was interesting to hear the comments from the students who were all aspiring to become firefighters. Many of them were obviously angry and showing some disdain towards the city and the fire department because of what happened; however, they still wanted to work there. Comments from the students mimicked those comments found on various chat and discussion boards: "the fire chief needs to be terminated," "we need to sue the city," "they passed over numerous candidates who were experienced, and already working for other fire departments," "they were only selecting 'unqualified' candidates," "that they did not take the first 1,000 applications," "that they had lowered their standards," to simply "this is just B.S."

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