This is the second installment of a series of articles intended to prepare the aspiring firefighter to be the best they can be.
Getting hired as a firefighter is not a simple process. It is not as easy as going down to your local fire station, filling out an application, and getting told to report to duty the next day. While that may have occurred in some departments many years ago, it doesn’t quite work that way today. It actually can take a great deal of research to find out which fire departments are accepting applications, and what their testing process entails. Becoming a firefighter is not easy, but if you spend some quality time researching the position and the entire testing process, your chances should increase greatly at obtaining that badge you have been coveting.
When I started taking firefighter tests, I figured all I had to do was keep my eyes on the Sunday newspaper and subscribe to one of the services that send you postcards when departments are testing. That was a good start; however, I soon learned there was more to it than that. While there are many people that just do those two things (which are actually good things to be doing, don’t get me wrong), I think you can greatly increase your chances by searching or investigating as many (if not all) of the following things as you can:
1. Newspapers: Over the last ten years, I bet I have seen less than 100 fire departments actually listing their job openings in the local newspapers. Because of that reason, don’t spend all of your time just waiting for a position to appear in the paper. If a fire department is going to advertise, it will usually be in the Sunday paper of a major city. If you go to the local public library on Monday morning, you can usually find many of the major nationwide newspapers there to view, free of charge. Another place to check for major city newspapers is large newsstands and major bookstore chains, which carry a large variety of newspapers and magazines.
2. Internet subscription services: There are numerous subscription services available on the internet that will provide nationwide testing information for under $100.00 per year. Not a bad investment when you think of it. I suggest not relying on just one service, but to subscribe to multiple services. I used to subscribe to two different services and found out the true value to having not one service, but two. Some services find out testing information before the others do, and vice-versa. Originally I had only subscribed to just one service. After talking with friends that subscribed to different services, I discovered that each service had their own benefits to offer, and that they complemented each other.
3. Firehouse.com website Jobs section: In addition to the above internet subscription services, here is another valuable service that promises to advertise positions nationwide while also giving valuable information in the way of articles from various fire service professionals around the country.
4. Networking: By having a network of friends that are all taking firefighter tests, you will hopefully hear of a testing opportunity and then pass it on to the others. If you know of a testing opportunity, share it with your friends. You will then hope they do the same for you at some point. Remember, you’re competing against the other candidates in some capacity, but you only truly compete against yourself. You are the one that has to perform throughout all phases of the hiring process.
When I was testing, there was a group of about four of us that were doing as much as we could to better prepare ourselves for becoming firefighters. We would share information, trade off commuting to tests, commuting to visit fire stations, commuting to classes, etc. Besides gaining quality friends that will hopefully last a life time, we were all benefiting by learning something from each of us, based on our successes and failures.