Firefighter Preparation Tip - Perception is Reality!

People are continuously forming opinions about you, based on their perception of you.

6. You walk into a fire station or fire-related facility (headquarters, fire museum, city hall, etc.) and you do not acknowledge every person you come in contact with in a positive way. For example, you want to talk to a firefighter and the secretary at the front counter is rude to you. It is very natural for a person to be rude back in this situation. Remember where you are! Just because the secretary is not a firefighter, it does not mean they cannot provide negative feedback or suggestions about you to the fire chief or other administrative staff. Also, if you see someone that is not in a fire department uniform, don't dismiss them as being unimportant or not realize who they actually are (you may be surprised at who they actually are!).


  • Perception: you are rude and do not treat everyone with respect and dignity.


  • Suggestion to not be in the same situation:always treat everyone (I repeat EVERYONE) you meet with respect and dignity. Take the time to say hello, good morning, etc. You never know who a person might be or what influence they might have on you, on the chief, or on the hiring process! If I were a fire chief, I would definitely ask my secretaries what they thought of candidates as they came through the office for a chief's interview. Were they nice? Were they respectful? Did they act mature? Did they act professional? Would you have a problem working with them?

    Remember the movie Tin Cup with Kevin Costner? He is trying to win-over Rene Russo and get her to leave Don Johnson, another golfer Kevin is competing with. She stays loyal to Don, while Kevin continues to try and convince her that Don treats women, old people, and children poorly and disrespectfully. Rene doesn't see this side of Don (which is very typical) and only sees the loving, caring side. Well, she finally has the chance to witness Don being rude to a little kid asking for an autograph, and that is one of the things that led to her breaking up with him. Think of this when you are interacting with people, especially relating to the fire service.


  • Case Study:I remember testing with the City of Roseville, CA about 13 years ago. I was still pretty na?ve about the whole testing process and had only been testing for a few months. I went to human resources at city hall to pick up my application, and then decided to stop by the headquarters fire station to talk with some firefighters about becoming a firefighter and about their department. Well, I go up to the front counter of the fire station headquarters, and who do you think walks up to me (in a suit)? The fire chief! The problem is that I didn't realize he was the fire chief. I probably assumed he was just some guy in a suit that couldn't be important (boy, was I wrong; I guess I assumed all chiefs wore fire department uniforms).

    He asks if there is anything he can do for me and I tell him "probably not." I tell him I wanted to speak with a firefighter. He then informs me he is a firefighter (which chiefs technically still are) and also the fire chief, and he then says the crews are out on a call, but that I can step in his office and he would be happy to talk with me. How do you think that made me feel? Let me see?I just insulted the chief, and I had assumed something (remember the old saying; if you assume something, you make an ass out of you and me. Additionally, stupid I was in shorts, a t-shirt, and some old running shoes. Do you think I made a positive first impression? Doubt it! Well, he took the time to answer my questions and then took the time to ask me some questions, most of which I was unprepared for.

    Some of these questions included:


    • Why do you want to work for the Roseville Fire Department?
    • What do you know about the Roseville Fire Department?
    • What can I tell you about the Roseville Fire Department?
    • What have you done to prepare for the position of firefighter?
    • Why should we hire you over the other candidates that are testing?

    Needless to say (especially since I never got a job offer), I didn't make a great first impression. Did I learn a valuable lesson from this? You bet I did! Always be prepared, and always treat all people you come in contact with, with respect. Also, do a little homework on the department prior to stopping by the stations. And last, but not least, always dress appropriately in all phases of the hiring process!

7. You wear your sunglasses into a building (classroom, fire station, location of the written test or oral interview, etc.).


  • Perception: you think you are cool!


Suggestion to not be in the same situation: don't wear them into a building!

8. You have your arms covered in tattoos (or you have other visible tattoos) and you are participating in any phase of the hiring process.