1. #1
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    Mar 2011

    Default 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


  2. #2
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    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.

  3. #3
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    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!

  4. #4
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    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!

  5. #5
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    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.

    Station Visits
    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
    projected openings.

    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
    first opportunity.

    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
    too valuable.

    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
    “inside information.”)
    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
    Division Chief

  6. #6
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    Mar 2010
    Soon the be Chandler AZ


    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.”
    This is a great quote and gives a person great insight to how to view the process from the side of the ones hiring you... A great dept is great for a reason and it's not because they're letting slackers in. Thanks for posting.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by KHawke View Post
    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!
    thanks for the ideas and advice. I wish I could go for a visit or ride a long but since I'm in the process for three fire dept now all of them being over 4 hours away from home and gas being the price it is I simply cant afford to go. I scheduled 2 practice interviews with a chief of a full time dept and a full time chief at a paid on call dept. Is there anything i should work on spicificly? I want this job more than Ive wanted anything in my life and this dept is one of my dream departments.

    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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