What Are 'They' Looking For During an Oral Interview

Some of the key points that fire departments are looking for in an oral interview candidate.


Have you ever wondered what "they" were looking for in an oral interview candidate when you were testing for a fire department? This could be any entry-level, lateral level or even promotional level candidate.

Before we go any further, we need to answer the question: "who are they?" Well, depending on the jurisdiction, "they" are all or any one of the following: the fire chief, the fire department, the fire department personnel, the city (or other governing board), the elected/appointed officials, the community, and the oral interview raters, all combined into one.

In no specific order, and understanding that each fire department is slightly different from another, here are some of the things "they" are looking for in an oral interview candidate, regardless of rank:

Passion. Do you really want the position or are you just testing the waters or even worse, throwing out applications everywhere in the hopes of a job? Departments want candidates who are passionate about their department, about their community, about their personnel, and about the position they are applying for. Unfortunately most oral interview candidates cannot demonstrate this quality during an oral interview.

Dedication. We are looking for candidates who are dedicated to serving others, including their co-workers, their supervisors, their subordinates, and the community they are serving. We are also looking for candidates who are dedicated to the fire service in general. How will you leave the fire service better than how you found it upon your separation from the fire service? Will you be the one who just came to work and did their time (bare minimum) thirty years from now when you retire or will you have left your positive mark on the fire service in one of many ways, such as through mentoring, training, writing, caring for others, etc.?

Integrity. It is very common to see firefighters rank very high on public opinion polls for their honesty, for being a trustworthy profession, etc. Unfortunately some firefighters do those not-so-positive things that risk wrecking our credibility and trust with the public - the ones who are their to support us financially and politically. If we lose that public trust, we're going to be in a world of hurt. How many professions do you know that are entrusted to go into someone's house at 3 in the morning and be able to touch someone's child, such as we are able to do during a medical emergency?

Loyalty and commitment. One of the last things a fire department wants to do is hire someone and then have them leave for another department, a department they've always wanted to work for. Prove to the oral board and the department you will be loyal and committed to the department and to the community that is willing to give you the shot at winning the lottery by getting a job as a firefighter.

Someone that is trainable. Give me someone who is trainable and we have something to work with. Now this does not mean everyone that wants to be a firefighter, wants to be an officer, etc., is ever going to succeed if given the opportunity. It just means that.

Positive attitude. We cannot teach you to have a positive attitude; only you can decide when you wake up each day whether it will be a great day or a not-so-great day. Positive (like negative) attitudes are contagious. Be the one that always thinks the glass is half full as opposed to half empty and you'll be the one most people will like to be around, especially when times are tough and it seems like everyone is out to get you as we are seeing in tough economic times.

Return on investment. Like it or not, this is a business to a certain degree. Just like a fire department does not want to spend all the money to hire you, to train you, to clothe you, etc., just to have you leave for another fire department, a fire department does not want to have to also terminate you for whatever reason. In your first year alone, the fire department (taxpayers) will be spending thousands and thousands of dollars just to outfit you with gear and train you to be a safe beginner. Demonstrate you will be a positive return on investment and your chances for getting hired will improve.

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