Asking the Panel Questions
When a traditional interview is about to finish, I'm usually asked by the interviewer if I have any questions. What can you ask at the close of a Chief's Interview with a fire department to end it on a positive note? I'm really stumped on this one and need some advice because I want to have some excellent questions. Also, how many questions should I ask?
Reply: How about none.
This can either be questions you want to ask the panel or an opportunity for a closing statement.
Asking the Panel Questions?
Candidates have been told by others that you always have to ask a question, if you're given the opportunity at the end of an interview, or you will lose points. Not true in a fire oral! In a regular or corporate interview that might be true. But not here. You never, ever, ever, have a question. We don't expect you to have any questions. I had a guy one day ask, "Since I live so far away, can I start at second step pay to help pay for my gas?"
If that question is asked (here's the "Nugget") you can pause as if your gathering your thoughts and then say, "No, I think we covered everything." We had another candidate say, "You have probably heard about the charges against me for stealing over at the college?" No, we haven't, why don't you tell us about it. Here was another candidate who had done an outstanding job in his oral and he had to bring this up. His score dropped like a wounded seagull. This is not the time to bring up anything like this. You never bring up a negative item unless the panel does. They probably won't. It they do, have a simple, short (I said simple and short) answer to the situation.
I asked a class of fire candidates, "What do you want to say if you're given the opportunity to give a closing statement at the end of your oral?" On candidate said, "I would ask them if they saw any reason why I wouldn't get the job." I asked why would you say that? Because that's what you would ask in a corporate interview. Good point. But, understand this is not, repeat is not a corporate or regular interview. This is a semi-military organization. I told the class I would never, ever ask this question. Hum, do I see any reason why this candidate wouldn't get this job? I do now with that question.
IMO, if a panel asks a candidate if they have any questions, they expect questions to be asked!![/QUOTE]
No they're not. That question has usually been brought in by the PC HR department. We're actually surprised when someone doesn't understand the culture enough that they start firing off questions when we are trying to wrap up the interview. Often the panel members are from different departments and probably won't have the answers you're asking anyway.
BTW there is usually no score for this question.
You're looking for a seamless no surprises interview. Throwing out questions when we really don't expect them, they will not be scored only increases your chances on not ending on a good foot. A simple brief pause, then, no I think we've covered everything is all that is needed here.
Luck is Given to the Prepared!
From Captain Rob:
In the weeks before Christmas there are two types of people, those who are happy and enjoying the season, and those of us that want to hurt the happy ones. The difference is the first group prepared, their shopping done, cards written they relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Meanwhile the second group is trying to find that last minute gift before their car was done filling up at the pump and they have to pay.
I was outside a building where oral interviews where taking place. I saw a guy sitting in his car writing like mad on a piece of binder paper. Another guy walking by looked in the car and acted like he was thinking if maybe he had written some stuff down he might not feel like throwing up right then. These guys have never shopped early for Christmas.
Right after Christmas, you are probably saying, as most of us do, I will have all my Christmas shopping done by October next year. That same attitude should apply to your preparation for your oral interview.
Please allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment. If you have put in an app., taken the written, or physical ability, you have an oral coming up...If you are in a fire academy, working as a volunteer, in high school, or are twelve years old and are going to be a firefighter some day YOU HAVE AN ORAL INTERVIEW IN YOUR FUTURE; YOU JUST DONíT KNOW THE DATE YET.
The choice is up to you. How do you think you can present yourself in the best light? If you have spent weeks or even months preparing or you are sitting in your car an hour before the interview still trying to figure out what you have done to prepare and hoping it looks something like what you put on you application.
My suggestion is you kill two birds with one stone. Prepare for your interview like you know you should, and next year you can give everyone a picture of you with your new badge for Christmas.
My testimony about Capt. Bob.
Hello Captain Bob,
Below is my testimony:
Three years ago I decided I was going to do it; I was going to stop settling. I was working a job I despised selling shoes at a high-end department store. I had been there nearly 8 years and not a day went by I didn't have the thought "When am I going to go for it? When am I going to start taking the steps necessary in accomplishing my dream of becoming a career firefighter?". On paper I had no business trying to land the most coveted career in the country. First off, I didn't have a four year degree. In fact I was one class credit short from having just a 2-year degree. Having not been in a classroom for almost 10 years, I probably wasn't going to be seeing those remaining credits anytime soon. Second, I had zero experience. My entire professional life centered on selling things. Things like luxury cars, mortgages, shoes.....A far cry from the fire service that's for sure. However, I was determined. I sat down with my pregnant wife in our tiny little apartment and told her this, "Honey, I'm going to become a firefighter. It's going to take a long time, the odds are against us, but I need your support. I need to do this before it's too late." That's when it started, August 2008.
"Now what?" I thought. Well, I need to go take a test, so I did. I got online and found a local testing company that worked with over a dozen fire departments in establishing their hiring lists. $125 bucks later I and 300 other bright-eyed candidates were in a high-school gymnasium testing to see who of the 300 would be amongst the 12 that would interview for 4 open positions between the 3 different departments that were hiring that year.....this was going to be harder than I thought. After a respectable 89%, I waiting for my phone to ring, I'm still waiting. It was clear 89% wasn't going to get it done, so I hit the books.
6 months later I was at the University of Washington campus with 2000 more bright-eyed candidates. Turns out Seattle F.D. was going to need 30 new firefighters, here's hoping. This time I got a 96% and my phone did ring. Well not really, but I got a letter! I was in; I was going to the oral boards, yes! This was it, I was in sales, "I'll ace this, piece of cake" I thought. Knowing I was already on the "short list", I put on my best suit and off I went. I pulled into the parking lot an hour early to find 400 others like me, waiting in their cars ...an hour early....crap. Turns out the test was pass/fail. My 96% was out the window and anyone with over an 80% was invited to the oral board interviews.
2 hours later I found myself in front of 3 Battalion Chiefs and a piece of paper with 10 questions in front of me. 20 minutes later I was covered in sweat, the panel had scowls on their faces and I awkwardly left the room. This was going to be harder than I thought. My written scores were becoming respectable, but it was clear my oral board skills needed work. It wasn't enough to be well spoken or well dressed; the panel was obviously looking for something. Whatever it was I wasn't giving it to them and I had no idea where to find it. The oral board was "for all the marbles" and I was clueless.
That night I was online researching how to ace these darn interviews when I cam upon Captain Bob's site (www.eatsstress.com). I sent an email detailing my catastrophic failure not expecting a reply.
2 days later my phone rang...yes my phone, it was Capt. Bob! I needed help; he knew it and he claimed to have the solution. I reluctantly ordered his CD set. After all, what did I have to lose, my phone still wasn't ringing.
I got the CDs and I listened. I listened, I learned, I listened. Yep, I had it all wrong, my approach wasn't working, I wasn't giving the "nugget" answers while pulling from MY personal experiences.
Fast forward 2 years. My dream department was hiring, the town I not only lived in but grew up in was hiring for the first time in 3 years. This was my shot and I was ready.
After a respectable 89% on what was the most difficult written test I had ever taken, my phone FINALLY rang. I and several others were going to the oral boards to interview for 4 positions. I wasn't ever going to see these kinds of odds again and I knew it. Having had Captain Bob's materials for 2 years, I knew it, I breathed it. I got in my best suit and off I went again.
One month later I was in the department store shoe stockroom getting ready to finish another day doing something other that what I loved when I got the call; it was the department's head training officer....he had my full attention. He was calling to inform me that I was #1 on the hiring list and that I needed to schedule my appointments for my psych and medical exams. He went on to tell me that I had an overall oral board score of 98.5% and when combined with my written score, second place wasn't even close. He went on to say that written in the notes section of my score sheets was this, "If you don't hire this guy, we will." That came from a BC of a very large department. To date itís the single happiest moment of my life. Want to know how I did that? Call Captain Bob, he'll call you back.
- Career B Shifter
Hand Shakes. Master the First Impression
I spoke to a group of volunteers who were mostly aspiring firefighters. As I was greeting several members before I started, I shook hands with a big strapping lad who had firefighter written all over him. He had that kind of firm handshake, smiles and focused eye contact that can cause an oral board panel to want to hand him a badge.
A few moments later I turned to shake hands with another big guy. His handshake didnít carry the same message. The big problem was he didnít know. No one had told him. I had him go over and shake hands with the first guy. They worked on it for a few minutes and he returned with a more confident handshake.
The following is from Work Your Network, by Joe ďMr. NetworkĒ Pelayo:
A UCLA study found that when 2 people meet for the first time they make 20 distinctions about each other in the first 20 seconds, then spend the next 20 minutes finding out whether or not they were right! The same study found that a handshake is worth an
hourís conversation between two people, because handshakes are thought to be a judge of your character.
When shaking hands with a female rater donít wait for the high beams to come on in her eyes because of too much pressure. Just match the pressure in her handshake. At the end of the interview they will usually stand and shake hands again. Same eye contact while thanking (by name or rank if you know) them for the opportunity. Use that handshake to make the right first impression.