Interview Questions HELP!
A quick check in this forum and you will see that agencies are hiring again. You certainly don’t want to waste any opportunities if you’re selected to participate in a testing and hiring process.
The Number One Problem in Getting Hired!
If you turn in an application for firefighter job there is an oral board interview in your future — it’s unavoidable. You just don’t know when.
Yet despite this certainty, when the interview invitation letter arrives, panic almost always follows. You’re caught flat-footed.
I frequently hear from panicked candidates who say they were blindsided by an unexpected interview. But we know this isn’t true. They just didn’t prepare in advance for what was likely the difference-maker in whether they made the cut or missed out on an opportunity.
Improving poor oral board skills
Your scores in the oral board portion are crucial in landing a position. Usually 100% of your score to get hired. So what are you doing incorrectly that is keeping you from getting hired?
Bottom line most candidates don't do enough interviewing to get good at it. This is also true for any job interview. You've got around 20 minutes for a 25+ year career. How are you going to stun the oral board panel to convince them to give you the badge over the other candidates?
Here’s some insight:
“You’ve said the oral board is the most important step in the hiring process and the step that is least prepared for. Well I can support your statement. As I watched the recording of my oral interview score for a really large city (reading upside down) I noticed 60's and 70's on the scores of those that interviewed before me. I would assume there were about 25 names on the sheet prior to mine. Rich
If you’re succeeding at the written and agility portions of the test, which are usually pass-fail, and you’re not placing high enough on the oral board, then that’s where the problem lies. Most candidates who score low on the oral attempt to go back and pack on more credentials thinking that will get them over the hump. They think that they have to finish their degree, certificates or get through academy training first before reapplying. While these are sound strategies to improving your résumé, they do little to improve the skills needed for the oral board.
“Stop looking in the magnifying glass at others . . . and start looking in the mirror at yourself. That’s where the problem is.”
From Firehouse contributing author Steve Prziborowski, Battalion Chief, Santa Clara County Fire Department:.
“Do what you have to do be more marketable so you can take more tests and have something more to offer a department, but remember that it all comes down to that 15 to 30 minute oral interview. I’ve seen some awesome candidates with resumes packed full of accomplishments that couldn’t sell themselves in an interview to even make the top 50%.”
Thirty-Plus Basic Oral Board Questions
I believe there are only about 30 oral board questions. Plus or minus a couple. But these 30 can be disguised into hundreds of different questions.
Here is a simple way to break a disguised question down. Dissect the question down to its simplest term, one word, of what the question is really about. Once you have removed the disguise, you can place it in one of the 30 plus oral board questions you already have answers for. This is one of the simple tools to uncomplicate the oral board process.
Here is the list of the "Thirty Plus Oral Board Questions":
1. Tell us about yourself.
2. Why do you want to be a firefighter? When did you decide on this career?
3. What is the job of a firefighter? Are you qualified?
4. What have you done to prepare for this position?
5. What are you bringing to the job?
6. Why do you want to work for this city or agency?
7. What do you know about his city or agency?
8. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?
9. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
10. What would your employer say about you?
11. What are the attributes of a firefighter? What is the most important one to you?
How Would You Handle the Following Scenarios?
12. Drinking or drugs on the job? 13. Stealing on the job? 14. Conflict with another employee?
15. Irate citizen? 16. An employee crisis at an emergency? 17. Sexual harassment?
18. Racial situation? 19. Conflicting orders at an emergency? 20. An order that could place you in great danger or be morally wrong?
21. What do you say when you don't know an answer to a question?
22. Are you on any other hiring lists? What would you do if another city called you?
23. When can you start if we offered you the job?
24. How far do you want to go in the fire service? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
25. What are the quality traits of a firefighter? Which one is the most important to you?
26. Have you ever been in an emergency situation? Tell us what you did?
27. What word would best describes you in a positive way? A negative way?
28. How do you handle conflict?
29. Why would we select you over the other candidates?
30. Do you have anything to add?
These questions can be disguised in hundreds of different ways. It's your job to take off the disguise and find the real question and have a "Nugget" answer to satisfy the oral board, get your best score on the answer and cause the board to go onto the next question.
This "Nugget" tool is one of several that can separate you from number 40 and below on a list to between 1 and 10 where you get a shot at the badge. You'll know the difference when the call comes in to go to the Chief's oral. It can happen quicker than you can imagine.
Voice Recorder — The Miracle Oral Board Tool
“Everyone has butterflies. The trick is to get the butterflies to all fly in the same formation.” Dottie Walters, Author: Speak and Grow Rich
It’s all about building confidence for your oral boards.
I can’t believe how many candidates I talk to in person and on the phone that don’t know how they sound to others. They’re soft spoken, monotone like they’re giving a patient assessment, with no enthusiasm or inflection with a lot of pause fillers. Many are not using a simple tool that could tilt things in their favor.
A recent candidate had such a monotone voice that I asked if he knew. He said, “Yea, but that's just my voice”. I told him I didn't believe that for a second. What can I do about it? I've been testing where I can for four years, going to school and work as a federal firefighter.
Trying to get on his turf, I asked him what do you do with your time off? What is your interest, hobbies? What really rings your bell? Nothing seemed to work to break his monotone voice.
That was until a few days later I get a call from an energized candidate. I didn't recognize the voice. Yes, it was Mr. Monotone. He told me he didn't realize how bad it was until he listened to the recording of his coaching session. He said, "Man I sounded retarded. I can't believe how much stuff I left out. How many times I said "What Ever" and other stupid pause fillers I didn't know I was using."
The mystery of why this super qualified candidate could not get hired was solved by listening to a voice recording of what the panel had been hearing for four years.
So, what tools can you use to practice and rehearse your oral board answers? A video camera? Sure. You need to see how you look in action. But you are trapped with a video camera. A Mirror? Sure standing in front of a mirror is good. But you are missing the most valuable tool of all. A hand-held voice recorder that goes everywhere your car keys go. The closest distance between you and the badge is picking up a recorder and hearing what's coming out of your mouth like Mr. Monotone!
Few candidates have a script that they have been religiously practicing with a voice recorder. Ninety-nine percent of the candidates I ask aren’t. I asked a college program recently how many had been practicing with a voice recorder daily? No hands. How about weekly then? Nope. None. O.K. how about monthly? Finally three hands went up out of a total of 40. Then, like Mr. Monotone don’t be confused by why you’re not getting high enough on the list to get a call back to play the part of a firefighter. The mystery has been solved.
Many applicants want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. I guess that doesn’t include using a voice recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material, get rid of the uh’s and other pause fillers, or to find out if you really sound like Donald Duck. You need to get married to your hand-held voice recorder. You need to hear what the oral board is going to hear out of your mouth. It’s narrows the distance between you and the badge you’re looking for!
This is usually a guy thing. Guys think about their answers in their head and write them down. Then they think their answers are going to come out of their mouths like magic in the oral. Trust me, they don’t! The brain and mouth don’t work that way.
Try this. Take 3X5 cards and write down your oral board questions. See a sample list on the previous posting. Practice your answers with a hand-held recorder that goes everywhere your car keys go. If you hear something you do not like when you play it back, turn over the 3X5 card and write it down. The next time you go after that question, turn over the card first and see what you don't want to say.
Let me tell you how critical this really is. If you’re not using a voice recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and over learn your material until it becomes second nature to you, you might as well not show up for the interview. You are wasting the oral board’s time and your time! Seek out another career. Understand you still have to interview there too. The above candidate has already lost some great opportunities. Had he been faithfully using a voice recorder to prepare for his oral boards, he probably could have had a badge already.
Some will say, “Well, if I practice it too much it will sound canned.” NO it won’t! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent. “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” One practice session with a recorder is worth 10 speaking outlouds. After practicing, you will get to a point where your answers will get into your subconscious. That’s where the magic begins. You can’t be fooled.
Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a voice recorder. They are catapulting past you if you’re not using one too.