Candidate: Unique or Clone?

It's not the interview questions that are the problem, it's the answers! Unfortunately many candidates become clones of one another and give clone answers.


It wouldn't take you long sitting on an oral board panel to discover even with all their qualifications how many candidates are not prepared to take a firefighter interview. It's not the interview questions that are the problem, it's the answers! Unfortunately many candidates become clones...


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It wouldn't take you long sitting on an oral board panel to discover even with all their qualifications how many candidates are not prepared to take a firefighter interview.

It's not the interview questions that are the problem, it's the answers! Unfortunately many candidates become clones of one another and give clone answers. And the bigger problem is they don't know it. I hate to say, but often they are cloned in fire colleges and academies. Clone answers can doom your oral board.

One of our officers was on an oral board for a big city. Several boards interviewed 965 candidates. His board interviewed candidates over a period of 10 days. Imagine you were this officer and it is the fifth day of interviewing. You have just come back from lunch where the city has wined and dined you. You're tired and you know you have another five days of interviews ahead of you.

The next candidate is called in. The first question you ask is, "What sparked your interest and why do you want to be a firefighter?" He proceeds to give you the same clone answers you have heard from almost every candidate for five days. Public service, helping people, giving back to the community, not the same thing every day, blah blah blah. The magic that you needed to hook up with the oral board has passed and you didn't hook them into listening to your stuff. You have just scored yourself. Trust me. You can see the glaze come over the raters' eyes. It's like a deer caught in the headlights. They're gone and they won't come back.

It's not that you can't use clone answers. You can. But first you need to deliver a signature story about you. Not a clone answer of anyone else. I haven't met a candidate yet that couldn't come up with signature stories. How do you find your story? There was a point in your pursuit during a class, ride along or a life experience where your mind went click; that's it. This is what I want to do in life. My life is not going to be the same until I get that badge. When did this happen? Who else can tell this story but you? That's your story that you can marry off with you other information. Yes, once you have the signature story buried you can use your clone stuff.

Signature stories demonstrate experience. They also tell that you not only know the answer to a question, you've lived it. Firefighters love firefighter stories. If you open up with a signature story, you instantly separate yourself from the other clone candidates. Stories show the oral board who you really are. You capture the board and take them on a journey with a story they have never heard. Is this making sense?

The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is being themselves on purpose. When you are yourself telling your stories, you become conversational because you are on your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies.

"Everyone has butterflies. The trick is to get them to all fly in the same formation." ---Dottie Walters

An oral board member told me they had a candidate who didn't answer all the questions the way they wanted him to do, but he had such great personal life experience in his answers (stories), they hired him anyway. This is human nature. Stories help bridge that gap. Clone answers and clone candidates don't have a chance here.

So the point here is not the question, but the answer. Start establishing your personalized stories.

Instant "Clones"

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in mock orals with one of my instructors who happens to be really great when it comes interviewing. In our class that comprises mostly of people starting fire tech classes, nobody did very well. It was a great lesson about how we need to start preparing and getting to familiarize ourselves with the testing process.

However, 2 guys who were friends with our instructor participated in our mock orals, and put the rest of us to shame. They obviously have spent countless hours practicing orals with our instructor.

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