Now, we're assuming you were arrested and/or convicted for any of those offenses prior to wanting to get hired as a firefighter. However, get arrested and/or convicted during the time you have made the decision to become a firefighter and have actually entered the hiring process, and you've probably shot yourself in the foot in regards to your chances at a job with that department you're testing with, or even any department in the near future.
All of us have made at least one mistake, choice or decision in life we are probably not proud of, especially if it involved something illegal, unethical, immoral, or just plain stupid. Typically though, if we made a mistake, poor choice or decision in our past life, we have three things we can do to assist us in showing a prospective employer we are worth taking a chance on.
Number one: time from the mistake, poor choice or decision. The longer we get from our mistake, poor choice or decision, the better we will look. Time usually heals things.
Number two: what we have done since that poor choice or decision. Have we made the same mistake, poor choice or decision over and over again, demonstrating we are a creature of habit and not able to change our past ways? Even more importantly, if we did make a mistake, poor choice or decision, how much have we done to show our prospective employer we are better than the majority of the candidates, and that we have definitely learned from our poor choice or decision?
Number three: most importantly, have we taken responsibility for our mistake, poor choice or decision and demonstrated accountability for our actions or non-actions? To me, that is the most important outcome of any mistake, poor choice or decision anybody makes. Are they able to admit they made a mistake, and are they able to hold themselves accountable to do what it takes to ensure such a mistake, poor choice or decision never happens again?
Do people deserve second chances? For the most part, yes they do. However, depending on the mistake, poor choice or decision, would you want someone who raped your daughter to have a second choice? Would you like someone who drove drunk and killed your loved one to have a second choice? I'll let you make the call. Depending on the mistake, poor choice or decision, people deserve a second chance. But do they deserve a third chance? Do they deserve a fourth chance? Look at history and make the call yourself.
Now put yourself in the shoes of an employer, a fire chief, or someone else on an oral board or a fire department hiring process evaluating candidates to determine who will be the "best fit" for their department. When the majority of candidates are demonstrating no arrest record, and a relatively clean background, why would a fire department want to take a chance on hiring someone who has a "questionable background," especially if the person had made a mistake, poor choice or decision during the hiring process or at least the time they had made the decision to become a firefighter? If someone has made the decision to become a firefighter, you would think they would also make a decision to stay away from drugs, stay away from stupidity, stay away from trouble, and be on their best behavior. Unfortunately, history tells a different story and that is not always the case.
The good news is that most future firefighters, after having made the decision to become a firefighter and give it their all to get hired, stay on the straight and narrow and on their best behavior, knowing they are being watched and evaluated, and that one mistake, poor choice or decision can cost them a firefighter job.
None of us are perfect; if you think you are, please take a walk on your nearest body of water to see how far you can walk. By being human, we will make mistakes, poor choices or poor decisions in our lifetime. However, if you remember that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, you'll hopefully keep those mistakes, poor choices or poor decisions to a minimum, knowing that one mistake can keep you from getting a job in the fire service!
Steve Prziborowski is a 15-year veteran and student of the fire service and is currently serving as a battalion chief for the Santa Clara County, CA, Fire Department.Other positions Steve has held at the Santa Clara County Fire Department include: firefighter/engineer, firefighter/engineer-paramedic, fire captain, training captain, and operations captain. Additional responsibilities include serving or having served as an on-call safety officer, an on-call public information officer, and an on-call fire investigator.