05-26-2011, 05:50 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
what to know about a dept/city in an interview
I have two interviews coming up with some fire dept in the midwest in one there interviewing about 80 in the other its about 120 I would really love a job with either but my questions are what kind of stuff should i know about a dept or a city for an interview? and anything else i should know or what to practice on i am practicing with a few chiefs from the area im from what else should i do? this will be the second time I've interviewed with a full time fire dept my first one went fairly well but I didnt have a suit and a few questions i think i should have answered better but i got the suit and am going to do better this time... thanks in advance
05-26-2011, 06:24 PM #2
- Join Date
- Oct 2010
When I interview, I try to have a really good idea of:
Their mission, vision and goals AND HOW THEY ALIGN WITH YOUR VALUES
Number of firefighters, other sworn personnel, civilian personnel
Number of calls per year, and the distribution (e.g., fire, ALS, BLS), as well as the trends of all
If you can, try to get an idea of what new recruits face...for instance, does the department have a 1 year probation and a 3 year journeyman program? Does FFII come in year 2 or year 3?
Pending territory changes (e.g., taking over an adjacent area)
Contracts with other cities/towns/districts
Census information - will your customers be 40% Spanish speaking?
Know their website inside and out - if they give you facts and figures, try to memorize them (e.g., the number of fire stations, apparatus, response area size)
Of course, it's not enough to just know the numbers, you need to make them mean something in your answers. I haven't been on many oral boards (so take this with a grain of salt) but none of them have asked me anything like "how many ladder trucks do we have?" Could they? Sure. But it's more likely that you'll be able to work that knowledge into another response (e.g., "I know I'd start off responding to a portion of the 20,000 medical calls the Department receives every year, but eventually I'd like to work in one of the Department's eight ladder companies.").
That gives the panel so much more information *and* shows that you did your homework.
05-26-2011, 11:26 PM #3
- Join Date
- Aug 2010
Keith! stop beating around the bush! If you want someone to go to the interview for you just say something! I'll do it for the right price!
05-26-2011, 11:39 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2011
If you have time, try to arrange a ride-a-long or a station visit as soon as possible. You will be able to ask questions and talk with the newest members of the department, who will offer insight as to what to expect during recruit academy, probation, etc... Bring a notebook, and take as many notes as possible. By asking the employees about the city and department they will most likely give you the most relevant information in their responses, which you can then bring up in your interview. Good luck!
05-27-2011, 09:16 AM #5
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
I completely agree with visiting the fire stations. Realize there are expectations when you do this. The following is a chapter from my book, The Aspiring Firefighter's Two Year Plan. It describes the conduct when visiting a fire station and what questions you should ask to prepare for your interview.
Visiting fire stations is a critical part of the hiring process. You will get to
know the details of the job, station life and that particular department’s unique
culture. Even more importantly, the firefighters will get to know you.
If you visit the stations early enough, before the department announces
the recruitment exam, this can be a reality for you. If you show up with the
testing crowd (all of the other candidates who show up once the department
announces they are giving an entry-level exam), which often numbers in the
thousands, your chances of getting to know the station crew and vice versa,
are greatly diminished.
The actual testing may be done by the civil service or personnel department,
with input from the fire department, but you can be sure the firefighters in
the station houses have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on. As
you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for firefighters on an interview panel
to determine in a 20-minute interview if they want you as a member of the
department for the next 30 years. Why not have firefighters who have gotten
to know you, pitch you to the oral board?
It is important to understand that, good or bad, you are establishing your
reputation the minute you walk in the door on your first visit. A positive opinion
of you may make its way to the interview board. On the other hand, a poor
first impression may also make it to the board.
It is hard to predict the best time to visit a fire station. In most agencies the
phone numbers to the fire stations are not public record. It is up to you to go
to the station and make contact. Since the firefighters are not sitting around
waiting for you to knock on the door, there is a good chance you will miss them
when you show up. This is especially true in high impact areas where the fire
department experiences a high call volume. Ironically, the busier stations are
the ones you want to visit. Since these stations run calls all day and night long,
the younger firefighters are sent there to get experience. These are the ones
who are the most current on the testing process since they went through it most
Whenever you visit a fire station it is customary to dress nicely. Some candidates may elect to wear a suit and tie, while others prefer business professional (nice pants and shirt). Is a suit and tie overdressing for the occasion? Probably. How would you rather be remembered: as the candidate who showed up in a suit and tie, or one who showed up in a tank top and flipflops? Believe me, the firefighters will remember you.
I know a candidate who showed up to a fire station wearing a suit and tie
to inquire about the testing process. When asked if he was on his way home
from work, he said that he was off today. When asked about his suit and tie,
he told the firefighters that the job was very important to him and he wanted
to make a good first impression. The firefighters were speechless. Imagine the
help they gave him. (Remember, we want to hire people we like and who will
cherish the job.) This candidate certainly made a strong first impression.
The same can be said for someone who comes by dressed in a less than
professional manner. It is a poor choice to show up looking like you just came
from the beach or the gym. It is important to remember that you are visiting
our house. We are professional when we are called to your house. We ask
that you show the same respect.
The firefighters appreciate (and expect) that you will bring an edible gift
when you visit. An apple pie is my personal favorite. It keeps well as you are
parked in front of the station waiting for the crew to return. Ice cream will melt
and a banana cream pie (which is also a firehouse favorite) will get warm
and spoil. A warm apple pie, however, appears to have just come out of the
It is important to knock on the door or ring the bell, even if the apparatus
doors are up. It is an invasion of privacy to walk in unannounced to a fire
station and yell, “Is anyone here?” This would be similar to someone walking
into your open garage and calling your name. It’s just not good firehouse
etiquette and is certainly not the positive first impression you were hoping
Once you have knocked on the door and a firefighter opens it, you should
introduce yourself and ask if it is convenient for you to have a moment of their
time. A pie in your hands will naturally increase the likelihood of them having
some time for you. If it is not a good time for them, ask if you can make an
appointment to come back later.
If you are turned down at the first fire station, go back to your car and
open the map book and find the next closest station. In an urban area the next
station may only be a mile or two away. In a rural setting you will have a further
distance to travel. Once you have found the next station, repeat the process.
The best time to visit a fire station is between 3 and 5 pm. The firefighters
have probably finished their inspections and are either working out or preparing
dinner. The mornings are usually reserved for fire prevention activities or other
fire department-related tasks. The late afternoon is usually less structured.
Once you have been invited in, it is important to explain that you are there
because you are interested in getting hired by their department. Ask them if
they know what to expect from the testing process. Generally speaking, the
agency will give an exam on a fairly regular basis. Many departments have it
in their city charter to have an “active” hiring list even if they don’t have any
It is important to have researched the department before going to the fire
station. You can do this by visiting the fire department administrative office
or by looking up the department’s website. However you choose to do your
homework, do not ask the firefighters how many stations the department has
and how many calls they go on each year. This is a waste of THEIR time. You
will quickly lose their interest and be politely escorted from the station at the
The best way to reinforce a positive first impression is to show that you
have done your research. You can confirm your information by asking them
if you can review it with them: “I understand that you have 23 fire stations
and that your department runs 50,000 calls per year.” The difference is that
the firefighters see that you have taken the time to do your research and you
don’t expect them to do it for you. Again, it’s a sign of respect. Their time is
Some of the questions you should ask include but are not limited to the
1. How long is the probationary period?
2. What can I expect from the academy?
3. How is the relationship between the fire department and the
4. How many firefighters are going to be hired and how long is the eligibility
5. What desirable qualifications is the department looking for? (You will
have already read the job description flyer, but you are looking for the
6. What are the strengths of the department?
7. What are the opportunities for advancement down the road?
8. What can I do to make a good impression on the oral board?
9. Is the fire department active in the community? (e.g. teaching first aid
and CPR courses, public service day, CERT Training, etc.)
10. What do you like about the department?
11. What additional projects or assignments are firefighters able to get
involved in? (e.g. fire prevention bureau, hazardous materials team,
confined space or technical rescue and paramedic program)
12. What are the different areas of the community that the fire department
services? (e.g. airport, marine, wildland interface, freeway, commercial,
high-rise industrial, residential and beaches)
13. What special community projects is the fire chief planning to implement?
(e.g. CERT Program, train a certain percentage of the community in
first aid, CPR and AED, immunizations for the community)
14. What is important to the fire chief? (e.g. experience, education,
mechanical aptitude, living in the community)
15. Is the city or county planning to add or eliminate fire stations?
16. For the new firefighters who have done well on probation, what qualities
do they possess that have made them successful?Preparation
17. Where is the department headed in the future? (e.g. hazardous materials
teams, weapons of mass destruction task force, immunizations for the
community, add a BLS ambulance transport system)
18. What are some of the biggest morale boosters for the firefighters that
have occurred in the last couple of years?
19. What projects has the department completed in the last few years?
What projects are still in the works?
20. If you were in my position and you wanted to work for this department,
what would be your next step?
21. Is there anyone else that you would recommend I speak to?
Most firefighters are very proud to be a member of their department. They
want to be sure that the ones who follow feel the same way. A wise fire chief
once told me, “The fire department ran well for 100 years before you became
a member. You can bet it will run for another 100 years after you’re gone. It’s
up to us to make sure we leave it in the hands of competent people.”
As you can see, when you show up to the stations the firefighters are
unofficially deciding if you are worthy of being a member of the department.
It is imperative that you leave them with a positive first impression.Paul Lepore
05-27-2011, 12:40 PM #6A wise fire chief once told me, “The fire department ran well for 100 years before you became a member. You can bet it will run for another 100 years after you’re gone. It’s up to us to make sure we leave it in the hands of competent people.”
05-27-2011, 06:32 PM #7
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
I am in a pretty unique situation in that I live in a fire station as a dorm firefighter I was wondering how I could utilize this in my interview or if its even worth going into. I am well aware that fire dept hire the PERSON not the certs and but ive done a great job of keeping out of trouble and maximizing my chances of being a full time paid firefighter.... so agian any help with this would be great
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