In most fire departments, the oral interview score usually accounts for 100% of your overall score and ranking on the hiring list. Therefore, it is extremely important and critical that you properly prepare yourself for the oral interview. Many people can just "wing-it" on a written examination or...
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4. Do as much homework / research on the position as you can, well in advance of the interview.
If it is worth your time and effort to drive to the test and participate in the hiring process, than it is worth your time and effort to actually spend some time doing your homework on the agency you are testing for. The last oral interview I proctored was when my Department was hiring Volunteer / Reserve Firefighters. When they were asked questions relating to how they would be utilized as a Volunteer / Reserve Firefighter, the majority of candidates answered the questions without any knowledge of how we would be utilizing them.
Many of them answered that when their pager went off, that they would respond to the fire station and then go out to the call to go do some firefighting. Well, our Department does not operate that way. They would be expected to respond to the incident scene and would then be utilized more often than not in a support fashion, not in a primary offensive firefighting fashion. Had they done their homework by researching the fire department and how the rank they were applying for operated, they would have been able to answer the questions better and increase their chances of getting a better score on the interview.
How can you research the department? Almost every fire department has a website that has some information relating to the department on it. Every fire department has firefighters that are usually very willing to assist the candidate that is attempting to work for them. Those are probably the two most important ways to find out more about not just the agency you are applying to, but the position you are applying for as well.
5. Get plenty of sleep the night before the interview.
It has been proven time and time again that we all should strive for eight hours of sleep per night. Some of you are able to survive on less; some are able to survive on more. You know yourself better than anyone else does. Don't go out partying the night before an interview (or any phase of the testing process for that matter) and expect to perform at 100%. If nothing else, you are probably still going to be off-gassing any of the alcohol you might have consumed (assuming you had your two beers) and it will probably be very noticeable to the department representatives. Showering, throwing on perfume or cologne (whatever your poison might be), and putting on clean clothes can only do so much improvement to you.
6. Practice answering questions with your tape-recorder / video-recorder.
This is something that many candidates don't take advantage of, and I don't know why. Recording devices are a relatively cheap investment into your future that you can use for the rest of your life, and in areas besides firefighting. Most of us probably think we are excellent at oral communications. You will continue thinking that until you hear yourself speaking. The first time I heard myself, I didn't think it sounded like me at all. Then I heard myself answer some questions and it really humbled me and pointed out some obvious communication issues I needed to improve. Video-recorders are even better because they bring out your body language and mannerisms that you present. You might be able to find out that you have many bad or nervous habits that you were not even aware of by watching yourself through a video-recorder.
7. Know yourself inside and out, and be able to talk about yourself inside and out.
The oral interview panel is grading you based on your answers to the questions. If you do not completely answer the question, you do not get the most possible number of points. The oral has no clue who you are or what you have done to prepare for the position. Be able to bring out all of your strengths and positive attributes, as well as your past accomplishments and contributions. Be able to talk about your weaknesses (yes, we all have them) and what you are doing to improve them. I hear many candidates say they are uncomfortable talking about themselves. Well, if that is your case, either get over it and find a way to be comfortable, or do not expect to ever score high enough to get hired. Remember, there is a fine line between being overconfident and being cocky or arrogant. Learn to find a happy medium. You're there to market and sell your most important product - you!