A small disclaimer. Not every dept. is the same. They each have their own set of standards, policies, and procedures to follow. Now this is only meant to give a slight insight to what the process is like but, don't take it to heart without doing your own research first. I had a lot of question as I was going through the process and hopefully this will help answer questions that you might have as I did.
They are all different some short some long. One thing to remember is be neat, clean, and don't use a pencil. Use a nice black pen. Fill it out fully. Don't leave blanks. If you have a question call the number they provided. The dept would rather you call about the app and put the right information on it rather than you not calling and getting disqualified for an incomplete app. Turn it in early. Don't wait get it finished. But before you do all that proof it more than once page by page. Have someone else proof it too. Double check info you put make sure it is correct. The dept may come back to you later in the process and ask you question about your history you provided on the app.
Don't be late. Take a paper and pencil. Take notes. A lot of information (dates, times) are given out. Also, this is usually the only time they will take questions about the process. The dept. just can't field phone calls from 1,000 applicants. Also, an interesting question came up at one of my orientations. What if I have drills that week or weekend for the CPAT test(if the dept host it) or for the written test? The chief stated by law he has to make certain accommodations for that person, but he only has to do it to an extent. So, I am proud of you for serving the country and honor you for doing it. But, have your papers ready. The Dept will ask for prove.
3. AGILITY TEST
I have noticed a lot of depts. out there are off loading the cost of a CPAT on to the applicant. The first CPAT I ever did was put on the by the dept. I didn't have to pay. But, the next time the dept did a CPAT they made the applicant go get their own CPAT card ( a card saying I passed a CPAT.) This cost me around $120. With the way budgets are going you might have to forfeit the money and do it yourself. If you really want the job you will do both the follow. Pay for it and TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN for it. There is plenty of forum topics on here that discuss about CPAT. Be prepared and not the one walking out with your head down in shame if you don't pass. The test has been passed many times before so it is possible with your own will power. This card is usually good for about 12 months. It all depends on the dept and how old of a card they will take.
It may vary from dept to dept when they will require it to be done by. One dept I applied to required it to be presented at the written test date. But, another required it to be photo copied and attached to the application. Just make sure you find out when it needs to be done. Also, not everyone uses CPAT. Find out what they use and TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN for it.
4. WRITTEN TEST
Most depts., if you fill out the application right, will tell you when the written test date will take place. Don't be late. Be early. I have seen the door shut in people's face before cause they were 2 seconds passed the start time. Don't be the stupid guy left outside. All written test vary widely. Two depts. I applied for had the same written test (a third party company that both depts. used) so not much had changed from test to test. Don't count on this if you try out for more then one. I just got real lucky and I am sure a few others did too. If you have any brains whatsoever you will do fine. Just follow the directions and answer the question. Usually a multi-choice answer questions so if your not sure guess. A 1 in 4 chance of getting it correct is better than a blank answer. I am not going to go into detail about the test and what was on it. This would be distasteful and dishonest to myself and others. Also, if they offer a study session that is optional. Take that as required. Go to it. If you think you don't need it, well, you probably do. Don't be cocky. It is a tool available to you use it to your advantage. Study like your life depended on it. It is not a random study test they came up with just to make you think. The study session is geared towards the test and sometimes they will give board descriptions on what to expect on the test. Like X amount of math question, or whether or not there will be a spelling test on it. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Oh, don't forget your ID. I think every test I have been to required an official ID.
5. ORAL INTERVIEW
Most of the time there is a cut off with the written test. Example I have is one dept took the top 50 scores on the written and they got to have an interview. This was out of 175 applicants. This is another forum topic to research, if you are lucky enough to get to this point. Dress nice. Suit and tie is a good idea. All the people I have seen wear one. Be proper. Look at the people talking to you. If you want to know the proper ways of doing an interview read about it on the internet. There is a lot of advice out there on interviewing. A lot of body language is read during this process. Just cause you have an interview doesn’t mean you make the list.
6. THE LIST
Now remember every dept. is different. The places I have tried out for have been real similar in their processes. The list is developed from the scores of the application, written, agility CPAT, and oral interview. The dept will start with person one then two then three… as the dept determines the need for a person off the list. Usually you get a letter in the mail saying that you are number X on the list and if you have any questions call this number and if you have an address change or telephone number change tell this person at this number when it happens. The number is where you rank at. You WILL be passed up if you don’t update your info. Its fine that it changes but you have to let the dept know. The list is usually good from 12-24 months. All depends some longer some shorter. Now all the work you have done has came to a halt. You have to wait and wait and wait for the phone call, if you ever get one, to go the next step.
7. CONDITIONAL OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT
Now when you read this first word take that word to heart. CONDITIONAL. Now if you made it to this point consider yourself special. The dept. has determined there is a need for you and your number is up on the list. Now here comes the fun stuff. First off they will probably make you sign a paper saying you understand that it is conditional offer and it can be pulled from you at any time. Also, it says that if you fail any of the next steps the offer will be withdrawn. Also, they will probably give you some more paper work to feel out. Red tape begins here.
8. BACKGROUND CHECKS
I had to pay for mine. Wasn’t much money at all. The dept. did a driver records check with the BMV. Did a credit check with a local bank. Lastly, did a criminal history check with the State police or FBI. I can’t remember, I just know it checked a lot of stuff. Now, don’t be worried if you have some stuff in your past. I just hope it was long ago in your past and not like 6 months ago or 6 days ago. Now a felony record is not allowed at least in my state. So if you lied about it on your application thank you for your time but your conditional offer is revoked. Now once that was complete with me on the next step.
Now there is a lot of info out there about this read what you want and believe what you want. I am not going to lie to you it’s not fun, it’s long, no one likes it, I felt like I failed, and just be honest. Answer the questions and most of all just relax. It can get you tense so just take a breath relax and do as the tester says. Your dept might not do this test. If that is true be glad.
10. MEDICAL PYSCHOLOGICAL
If you pass your polygraph congrats to you. I hated mine. The next step for me was to take a medical and psychological test.
Hope your healthy. Each dept, state, and pension boards, have their own standards. Stay in shape, get regular checkups with your doctor and stay healthy. Now if you do have a condition don’t think you are disqualified right away. The dept has to use ADA. Also, your condition might not hinder you from performing your job. All this will be worked out between you, your dept, and the doctors(dept’s docs, and your docs.) So be prepared for paper work and releasing your information. Believe me it gets personal. Now they have to follow HIPPA so read the names on the paper that you are releasing your info too. Not saying you will have much of a say in who gets it but its always wise to now who will now you medical records. My medical consisted of the following: physical exam (ears, nose, throat, breath sounds, felt me all over, joint movements, turn your head and cough, etc) very similar to a physical for school sports, eye exam, hearing exam, sporgometer test (blowing in a tube for like 20 seconds), EKG, blood pressure, blood and urine samples, chest x-rays, and I think that was all. Now that was mine yours might be different. I got a booklet with all the papers for the doc in it. So I got to see what they would check and I had a mountain of papers to fill out too. If you want to know just ask you dept. I am sure they will help you.
This is like the polygraph is the sense that no one likes doing it but you have too. All these are different to but, most of the time you will do the MMPI 2 test. Mine was about 600 true false questions. You will find forums about this test too. Just remember relax take a breath and complete all papers. Don’t get tunnel vision looking at that paper. Look up ever take an eye break and mind break for 20 seconds and get back to business.
9. PUBLIC WORKS BOARD/ STATE PENSION BOARD
This is how my dept works. All papers are back in. The dept reviewed it and wants to proceed to hire you. Now my dept has to get the go ahead from two boards. First is a local board. They look over all the paper work from step 1-8. They decide if they want you are not. If they say yes then your papers go to the state pension board. They have to rubber stamp it too. They do this because they are investing a lot of money in you for retirement/disability. Their job is to make sure they have a good candidate for the job. But good chances are if you did good through all the steps then you shouldn't have any issues.
Now this is my disclaimer again. This is how my experiences has been. A lot of the depts. In my area work on the same process. Just if you are lucky enough to get a conditional offer of employment don’t be afraid of calling your dept. and asking questions. I had questions during the process and every time they were very helpful. They have a lot invested(I can't imagine the cost of the medical/pysch test) in you when they give you a conditional offer so they want you to succeed and by that they will help you with questions on the way.
I hope this was helpful. I didn't prove this so I hope not alot of errors.
Great post! I am sure that I will be the first of many to add my .02.
DO NOT EVER HAND WRITE YOUR APPLICATION - find a typewriter. First impressions are very important. A handwritten application makes for a terrible first impression.
I agree DO NOT BE LATE. Wear a suit and tie. I guarantee that influential people from the department will be there. Be aware that you are always being watched.
Yes, they are often pass or fail. Remember that we (the fire department) does not set the minimum passing score. This is done by the liberals at HR or civil service. These times are always exceedingly high. You can bet that you will be asked what your passing score was by the panel. Those with better scores are much more prepared for the academy than those who barely squeeked through.
You are nuts if you fail one. You know what is on them. If you turn the page and groan when you see long division, fractions, map reading, spatial relations get off your ***** and take a math, english etc. class and improve upon your weaknesses. If you struggle with this, it's a safe bet that others do too. The test is simply designed to thin down the competition. In these poor economic times, fire departments are very scarce. You are nuts if you do not take complete advantage of EVERY one.
The panel should not be able to ask you ANY question that you have not heard before. If you are thinking about a question for the first time during the interview, you are already behind the top candidates. They have already heard, and developed answers, for every question in the book.
The rough truth is that not everyone will pass. Some people have done things that will preclude them from ever getting hired. Having said that, we have ALL made mistakes (myself included).
The best advice I can give you is to keep good records of where you have lived and the names and addresses of your employers.
Be honest! Withholding information is the same thing as lying. If we catch you in a lie you will be eliminated from the process.
I expect there to be more firefighter openings in the near future. Many of the older guys have decided to hang on and wait to see what the economy is going to do. It's been a couple of years now and they are slowly beginning to retire.
Do not stop taking classes and building your resume. Opportunities are on the horizon. You must capitalize on them!
Thanks for the extra info Paul. I just wish when I was was going through all this someone would have wrote up a quick write up on what might happen and when. Most of the time its self explanitatory but its always nice to have a quick guide.
Also, PM sent.
Wow, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing, guys. Hopefully someday soon I too can say I've been through the entire process.