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The Best Fire Department Oral Board Secret

I'll tell you in advance the secret oral board tool is in the fifth paragraph. Many applicants tell me they want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. Many are not using a simple tool that could tilt things in their favor.

A recent candidate had such a monotone voice I asked if he knew. He said yea, but that's just my voice. I told him I didn't believe that for a second. What can I do about it? I've been testing where I can for four years, going to school and work as a federal firefighter.

Trying to get on his turf, I asked him during his coaching session what do you do with your time off? What is your interest, hobbies? What really rings your bell? Nothing seemed to work to break his monotone voice. That was until a few days later I get a call from an energized candidate. I didn't recognize the voice. Yes, it was Mr. Monotone. He told me he didn't realize how bad it was until he listened to the tape recording of his coaching session. He said, "Man I sounded retarded. I can't believe how much stuff I left out. How many times I said "What Ever" and other stupid pause fillers I didn't know I was using." The mystery of why this super qualified candidate could not get hired was solved by listening to a tape of what the panel had been hearing for four years. So, what tools can you use to practice and rehearse your oral board answers? A video camera? Sure. You need to see how you look in action. But you are trapped with a video camera. A Mirror? Sure standing in front of a mirror is good. But you are missing the most valuable tool of all. A hand-held tape recorder? The closest distance between you and the badge is picking up a tape recorder and hearing what's coming out of your mouth like Mr. Monotone!

I received a call from another one of our candidates. He has made it to a few oral boards and one Chief's Oral without success. He has been invited to the LA City oral board and wanted to set up a private coaching session. In just a few moments I was aware of something critical. Then I asked him if he was using a tape recorder to practice? He hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Well, no. But, I'm thinking about it."

Even though he had our Gold Package Program that hammers and hammers the point home that you have to use a tape recorder and hear how you sound, he still didn't get the message. His answers were garbage. It doesn't surprise me. Ninety-nine percent of the candidates I talk to aren't using a tape recorder either. Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a tape recorder. They are catapulting past you if you're not using one too.

Many applicants want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. I guess that doesn't include using a tape recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material, get rid of the uh's and other pause fillers, or to find out if you really sound like Donald Duck. You need to get married to your hand-held tape recorder. You need to hear what the oral board is going to hear out of your mouth. It's narrows the distance between you and the badge you're looking for!

What is the first thing a candidate says when he hears his voice on a tape recorder? Yep. That's not me. Yes, it is McFly. You need to get married to a hand held tape recorder and practice everywhere you go.

This is usually a guy thing. Guys think about their answers in their head and write them down. Then they think their answers are going to come out of their mouths like magic in the oral. Trust me, they don't! The brain and mouth don't work that way.

Try this. Take 3X5 cards and write down your oral board questions. Practice your answers with the tape recorder. If you hear something you do not like when you play it back, turn over the 3X5 card and write it down. The next time you go after that question, turn over the card first and see what you don't want to say.

Let me tell you how critical this really is. If you're not using a tape recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and over learn your material until it becomes second nature to you, you might as well not show up for the interview. You are wasting your time as well as the oral board's time! Seek out another career. Understand you still have to interview there too. The above candidates have already lost some great opportunities. Had they been faithfully using a tape recorder to prepare for his oral boards, he probably could have had a badge already.

Some will say, "Well, if I practice it too much it will sound canned." NO it won't! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent. "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity." One practice session with a tape recorder is worth 10 speaking out louds. After practicing, you will get to a point where your answers will get into your subconscious. That's where the magic begins. You can't be fooled.

Here's a candidate who learned the value of using a tape recorder:
You have helped me change my family's life forever. After getting your program and doing a coaching session I went home and practiced for the remaining week I had until my oral interview. Every day I watched the video over and over and came up a format for the interview questions using your suggestions, then practiced them with a tape recorder and in front of a mirror. I went into that interview with CONFIDENCE that I didn't know I ever had. I walked out of the interview and I was doing cartwheels in the parking lot. I knew in my heart that I smoked that interview, a feeling I have never had before. I received a letter a few weeks later stating that I was in the top 12. I went on to the background; psych tests, and medical exams. Yesterday I got a call from Human Resources saying I was offered a position and the academy starts in two weeks. I HIT THE LOTTO! Thank you so much for your help. You have helped me change my family's life forever.
Shawn Jordan and Family

If you want to be one of the last of America's heroes, instead of posting messages on bulletin boards asking others where they're at in the testing process for this city and I'm in the top 40 on this list or whatever, start asking your self this question: What am I doing that can best prepare me for the most important part of the hiring process? . . . The oral board. Because if you can't pass the oral board, or score high enough on the list, you don't get the job. Never! Ever! Ever! Now, where's your tape recorder?


Fire "Captain Bob" Smith has helped countless entry level and promotional candidates gain their badges. He is a retired 28-year Hayward, California Captain, speaker/author of the CD/DVD programs "Conquer the Job Interview," "It's Your Turn in the Hot Seat!," the books, "Becoming a Firefighter-The Complete Guide to Your Badge," "Fire Up Your Communication Skills" and "Eat Stress For Breakfast". Captain Bob has gained experience from more than 175 oral boards. To date over 2,300 candidates have received their badges from his program. To learn more about his dynamic programs, services, newsletter and more than 250 pages of proven tips and free information visit his website.

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