NOTE: This is not the original article that I submitted. In the original article, I made a mistake by including that discrimination based on sexual preference was also covered by Federal Law. That was an incorrect statement and I sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused. I also should be held fully accountable and responsible for not catching that when I finalized the article. In my attempt at creating a monthly article, I tend to type very quickly, getting my ideas on paper, and then go back to review and check for errors, omissions, etc. Obviously I did not take the time to review this article.
I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I did not catch this error, as I should have known better based on all of the training and education I have received on this subject. My goal is to assist the future firefighter with obtaining the career of their dreams, and not to provide false or misleading information. The last thing I want to do is discredit Firehouse magazine or my name, and I hope that you accept this apology and allow me to earn your trust and respect again as time goes on. Thank you.
Many people ask me, am I too old to become a firefighter? Or, how old is too old to become a firefighter? Those are two questions that do not have easy answers. Years ago, it was not uncommon to see on a job flyer that the maximum age to apply for a firefighter position was 30 or 35 years old. However, it is presently against Federal Law to discriminate against someone for the reasons of sex, religion, disabilities, ethnicity, or age. What does that mean for you, the future firefighter? It means that you still stand a chance to obtain the career of your dreams!
Do not get discouraged because you perceive yourself to be too young or too old. When I was hired, there was someone in their early 20's and people in their late 30's. In other past hiring processes, it wasn't uncommon for us to hire folks in their early 20's and folks in their mid 40's. Age is what you, the candidate make of it. Because of the Federal Law I mentioned above, many departments do not even ask for your birthdate on the initial application. Some departments do not even want to know your date of birth until you are either offered a job or are participating in the background investigation. That way, they cannot discriminate against you based on your age.
As a candidate, I would not mention my age at any point during the hiring process, unless I was specifically asked about it on an application or during the background investigation paperwork process. Some candidates want to mention their age during their opening statement when they are attempting to sell themselves to the oral panel. For example, "good morning everyone, my name is Joe Smith and I am 20 years of age, let me show you how my qualifications have prepared me to become a firefighter."
While this may sound good do you, don't do it! It may work to your advantage, but there is a great chance that it will work against you. But wait you're thinking, I thought they couldn't discriminate against a candidate based on age? They are not supposed to; however, if you state something such as your age (when you were not asked to), then you run the risk of it going against you. Don't take that chance, it isn't worth it.
Remember, even if an oral board or fire department is required to be objective during a hiring process, it doesn't mean that the process will be 100% objective. Why? Because of the human factor - we are all biased in some form or fashion, and it is virtually impossible to remain 100% objective in anything we do (even with laws and training sessions meant to keep us on track). Most oral board panel members are trained to be objective prior to the oral board by some human resources person. However, this doesn't always occur and even if it does occur, it doesn't mean that the preconceived biases, prejudices, and discriminations of the oral board members will be completely eliminated.