For those of you that have been thinking about taking a volunteer/reserve/auxiliary firefighter test with the hopes of getting experience and exposure to help get you a full-time firefighter position, please read this information carefully - you just might benefit from it. A while ago, I had the...
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Sixth, not following directions. Our letter said to not park on the training tower grounds and to park on the city streets. Imagine the look on my face when I see a candidate parking his car on the back apron of the station, right where the engine would have to drive through to get back into the station. I walked up to him and asked him if I could help him. He said yes, he's here for his test. I asked him what time his test was. He said 10 minutes ago (strike one). I then asked if he had read the letter. No (strike two). I then asked him why he parked his car where he did. He said "what's the big deal." (strike three - thank you for playing, Johnny tell him what he could have won...).
While I didn't have the opportunity to sit on the oral boards this time, I did sit on them the last time we did them and I bet the candidates were not much different this time around. While I'm on the subject, let me comment on the ones last time that shined:
- Treated it like a real full-time firefighter interview (wore a suit - many did not).
- Had actually researched the position they were aspiring to (you'd be surprised how many did not know what the duties or expectations of the position were). Remember that you will probably be asked questions that can expand (or contract) on that knowledge.
- Had actually researched the department they aspired to work for (paid or volunteer).
- Had arrived on time, well in advance.
- Had treated everyone, including the secretaries that checked them in, with respect, warmth, sincerity, and enthusiasm.
- Had actually prepared for the questions they might receive (volunteer questions are typically not any different than paid questions).
- Had actually taken tests before (this was probably not their first test). How do you find out your weaknesses relating to testing unless you start testing? Don't hold back until your dream department tests to start testing and expect to do good enough to get hired. Think of it this way - how many high school ball players go straight to the major leagues? Very few. And of those very few, how many are success stories or hall of famers? Even fewer. The best ball players have taken the time to hone their craft, practice their part, and learned how to "play the game." Yes, it is a game - whether you believe it or not. Those that learn how to play the game might not be the best firefighters in the eyes of their competition, but they were the best in the eyes of the oral panel or the department they were testing for.
That's about all I can think of. The moral of the story? Treat every interview and phase of the volunteer/reserve/auxiliary/cadet hiring process as you would a full-time paid position. Also, remember that good, bad or indifferent - this is a weeding out process. This is not "t-ball" where everybody gets to play. Just because you want to be a firefighter doesn't mean you'll ever be able to pass all phases of the process or ever be successful. The more you set yourself up for success in advance, the better you will be in the future.
Learn from Battalion Chief Prziborowski Live: Battalion Chief Prziborowski will be presenting "How to Smoke the Emergency Simulation Portion of the Promotional Assessment Center!" and "What's Keeping you From Getting Promoted?" at Firehouse Central in Las Vegas, Oct. 13 - 17, 2008.
STEVE PRZIBOROWSKI, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a battalion chief for the Santa Clara County, CA, Fire Department. Steve is an instructor with the Chabot College Fire Technology Program in Hayward, CA, where he publishes a free monthly newsletter, "The Chabot College Fire & EMS News", that is geared toward better preparing the future firefighter for a career in the fire service and the current firefighter for promotion. He is an Executive Board member for the Northern California Training Officers Association, where he is a past president. To read Steve's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Steve by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.