About a week ago I did a phone interview with a BLM office out of Wyoming and the questions weren't at all what I expected. They didn't ask me anything about fighting wildland fire, but asked me questions related to my soft-skills dealing with people. I'm pretty sure I failed miserably because I was not at all prepared for these kind of questions.
I have 5 interviews coming up in the next two weeks with BLM, USFS, and two different states. What kind of questions should I be prepared for? In the past when I was hired on I don't recall being asked much about my people skills until I was going before an oral board for a promotion.
I think the trend recently is that agencies are asking more of these behavioral type questions since they probably realize from a physical standpoint most candidates would perform satisfactorily, and if not they can always be trained. However, being able to get along with others and work as a team is not something you can just teach someone.
I had a phone interview with a BLM station in Arizona, and they just asked me some basic stuff like what I like to do in my free time, my hobbies, my weaknesses, etc. My suggestion would be to prepare ahead by thinking of examples of where you had to get along with an unruly teammate, solve a problem with limited resources, etc. When I interviewed with a local fire district for their wildland crew, they asked me stuff like "explain a time when you demonstrated loyalty", and stuff. My guess is that each hiring official asks different questions. When I got my offer with the USFS, the captain didn't even really ask me any questions. I had called to get my name out there so I kind of had to pitch myself to him. Ended up getting an offer.
Yes, you are correct. After having several interviews almost everyone is asking these types of questions.
Station Visits/Ride Alongs
Ride alongs can help or destroy you! Candidates want the opportunity to do ride alongs as a way of showing interest, gain information for their oral, and can say in their oral they had been to the stations. Often they don’t know the culture and etiquette. If you’re bent on doing a ride along, first make an appointment. During test time things get crazy. Be patient. Act like you would if you were the new rookie in the station.
Dummy Up! You don’t have enough time or experience to have an opinion! In this situation you have to be humble, have your questions already written down i.e. what do you expect of a new firefighter, what is the work schedule, what is the daily routing of a firefighter, etc.. Don’t go endless on your questions. Realize you are a snott nose rookie. Too many candidates come in wanting the badge so bad they act like they already have time and want to impress the guys with all of their knowledge. BIG ERROR!
This information will spread like wildfire and destroy you with those who will be making the decisions. Too many candidates tank themselves here and they never know what happened. This applies even if you’re already a firefighter applying for another department.
If you’re lucky enough to do a station visit or a ride along, show up on time with a desert. Home made is best. Gourmet coffee would be well received. If it’s ice cream, make sure it’s the round stuff; not the square stuff. We had so much square stuff during one of test we had a contest in the back yard to see who could throw the square stuff the furthest.
Understand this is our home. We spend more time at the firehouse than with our own family. So here you come waltzing into our home not knowing what to do.
If you’re fortunate to get a station visit or ride along, stay for lunch if offered. Offer to pay your share and do the dishes. Leave before dinner (unless asked to stay) and never spend the night. You might interfere with the kick back time during and after dinner.
Should you go to as many or all the stations in a department? Please spare us this part. Don’t turn yourself inside out trying to cover all of the stations hoping the word will get back that you did. It will make you look anal and compulsive. This will raise its ugly head in the psychological test if you get that far. One or two stations are fine. If you try to do them all, it only increases the chances of saying or doing the wrong thing or catching a shift of malcontents that will badmouth you.