07-08-2011, 10:49 PM #1
Does anyone have any history or advice for background/polygraph? Thanks
07-08-2011, 11:03 PM #2
- Join Date
- Feb 2011
- Poconos, Pa
Yes, Be HONEST like im talking 100% honest. If it asks you have you done drugs, list EVERYTHING nyquil, tylenol PM that you may or may not have used illegal drugs, driving intoxicated do you drink 2-3 times a week etc. Depending on where you are going, you might have to fill out a personal history packet that covers everything from sex with animals, public masturbation, to gambling and the nazi party, others based from second hand knowledge you may not. my packet was 31 pages, I got to circle questions that I wanted to discuss, she asked me about my childhood, things I regret so on and so forth. The actually poly was only 8 questions. i spiked on 1 because I wasn't 100% honest and by saying that...I omitted things that I felt weren't important, and sugconciously they were important and the machine picked that up. You can't cheat it..you'd have to control your blood preasure, your chest rising and falling, and your abdomin expanding/contracting..just be honest..HONEST!!
07-09-2011, 06:05 PM #3
I understand. I am just finishing my packet and it is 35 pages
07-09-2011, 09:02 PM #4
- Join Date
- Nov 2009
Make a copy so you remember / refresh your mind what was submitted
Go through a few times to make sure you did not forget something that happened ten years ago
07-09-2011, 11:10 PM #5
- Join Date
- Feb 2011
- Poconos, Pa
07-10-2011, 10:30 AM #6
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
Here is a chapter out of my book titled The Aspiring Firefighter's Two Year Plan. It will answer all of your questions about background investigations.
Fire departments traditionally spend thousands of dollars to advertise,
recruit and hire firefighters. The departments sift through applicants using
written examinations, physical ability tests and comprehensive oral interviews,
but only do a cursory check on their backgrounds. They eventually produce
a list of top candidates. It is now up to the organization to ferret out those
candidates who were less than truthful on their application or during their
Background investigations are an important component of the hiring
process. They are completed by most fire departments across the country.
Historically, fire departments have not placed as much emphasis on a thorough
background check as their counterparts on the police department. A criminal
check with the local police agency and a DMV check was the extent of what
we used to look at.
The local police departments often complete today’s background checks.
Many fire departments hold their firefighter candidates to the same high
standards expected of a police officer. These standards include criminal history,
drug usage, credit history, employment record, encounters with the law and
a candidate’s overall persona.
The reasoning is that if a person has demonstrated an inability to manage
his or her personal finances, is unable to get along with co-workers, or has
simply made poor life decisions, these will be magnified as their responsibilities
increase. If, on the other hand, a candidate has demonstrated a strong history
of being able to manage his or her personal and professional life, there is no
reason to expect that he or she would not continue to do so after being hired
by the agency.
Gordon Graham, an attorney and well-known expert on issues pertaining
to police and fire departments, believes that “The best predictor of future
behavior is past behavior.” He feels that if a candidate has had problems in
the past, he or she will have problems in the future. His advice to police and
fire chiefs across the country is, “Why take the chance and incur the liability,
especially when you have so many candidates to choose from.” A thorough
background check can help an agency reduce its future incidents of personnel
problems and minimize the risk of negative publicity for the agency. Patterns of
past performance issues and problems with co-workers are a strong indicator
of future behavior and should not be overlooked.
A thorough background investigation is important because of the role of
the fire department in the community. The firefighter candidate will eventually
hold a position of authority and responsibility. Firefighters are welcomed
into people’s homes and businesses without fear for their personal safety or
their prized possessions. If the candidate is of questionable ethical or moral
character, he or she may ultimately become a liability for the hiring agency.
This could erode public trust and compromise the department.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that dishonesty by employees
costs a business 1-2% of its gross sales. Surveys reveal that 33% of employees
admit to stealing product or money from their jobs in the last three years. It is
estimated that 30% of businesses fail because of employee theft. Statistics
also reveal that roughly 40% of applicants have false information on their
Negligent hiring litigation is on the rise. Employers lose 72% of all negligent
hiring suits, with the average award to the plaintiff exceeding one million
dollars. Most of these are due to the employer failing to take the proper steps
to avoid hiring an unfit employee. Courts have ruled that an employer has a
general duty to check criminal records for employees who will interface with
Once a candidate has been selected to move on in the hiring process, he
or she is assigned a background investigator. Before meeting the background
investigator, the candidate is given a background packet. These vary slightly
from agency to agency and are often 25-30 pages long. A candidate is usually
given 14-21 days to complete the packet prior to the first meeting with the
investigator. Candidates are advised to photocopy the packet and fill out the
copy in pencil. Once the rough draft is complete, the original is completed in
pen or, even better, typed.
Neatness is a characteristic that is important to a background investigator.
If he or she is unable to decipher an applicant’s chicken scratch, it makes a
poor first impression. A typed background packet, on the other hand, gives
the impression of being thorough and complete.
The background packet will seek information relating to all jobs held
(including names of supervisors and dates employed), military record
including DD214, sealed high school and college transcripts and a thorough
questionnaire regarding drug and criminal history. Applicants will be expected
to complete a section that outlines any and all encounters with illegal drugs,
including persons involved, dates and times, as well as the number of times
he or she has experimented with each substance.
Any omission of information is considered to be covering up and will
be viewed as deceitful, which is grounds for automatic disqualification. If a
candidate legitimately forgets information, it can certainly cost him or her a
job. To avoid making these costly mistakes, a candidate should keep a log of
information that would be helpful to a background investigator, including names
and addresses of landlords, employers, friends and co-workers. Any blanks
left in the packet raises the question of whether the applicant is attempting to
cover something up.
Once the applicant has completed the background packet, he or she will
be scheduled to meet with the assigned investigator. The investigator may
be a firefighter on the department, a police officer for the city or county, or a
private contractor. Whoever it is, the applicant’s future employment relies on
successfully completing the process.
The investigator will take several photos of the candidate that will be shown
to friends, neighbors and co-workers during the investigation. The applicant
will be asked for a list of friends and close associates, including their names,
addresses and phone numbers. The prospective firefighter must sign a
stack of release waivers that will be used by the investigator for each person
The investigator will review the background packet with the applicant,
seeking to identify any discrepancies and delve deeper into them. This is the
applicant’s opportunity to explain his or her side of what transpired. It is akin to
going to confession. After this stage, anything uncovered by the investigator
that was not previously disclosed is considered to be intentionally “forgotten”
and could be used as a foundation for dismissal from the hiring process. Once
an investigator gets a feel about a candidate from the interview, he or she will
begin some cursory checks of driving and criminal records, as well as a credit
Driving records are important, since having a current driver’s license
is required for most firefighter positions. A candidate who has a history
of speeding or ignoring traffic laws may be disqualified since we operate
emergency vehicles. Driving lights and siren through the city is a huge liability
for the agency. Imagine if a firefighter was driving lights and siren at an
excessive rate of speed and plowed into a bus bench full of school children. The
subsequent investigation revealed that the firefighter had a series of speeding
and moving violations. The agency would probably lose any lawsuit. Even if it
didn’t, it would certainly be a black eye for the department.
Numerous parking tickets make a statement of how a candidate reacts to
authority. If a candidate has a series of infractions (paid or not), it could indicate
that he or she feels that it is unnecessary to abide by society’s rules.
I was asked in a seminar recently if a candidate would be held liable for
the parking tickets he was given while driving the company delivery vehicle.
He tried to reason that they weren’t his fault because, as a delivery driver,
his boss gave him permission to park in the red zone. I asked him who gave
his boss the authority to tell him it was OK to ignore the law. He continued to
tell me that since his boss told him it was OK and the company paid for the
tickets, he felt he was off the hook. I told him that even if he were off the hook
for the parking tickets, he would probably fail the background because he has
a pattern of exercising poor judgment.
Another candidate asked if it would look badly if he was always the one
to bail his friends out of jail. He rationalized that it showed he was a loyal
and dedicated friend. He stated that he knew the fire service valued strong
friendships and looking out for each other. I assured him that he was correct
on both counts. We do value strong friendships and we certainly take care
of each other. I would question why he is associating with people who are
constantly being thrown in jail. I reminded him of the old saying, “Birds of a
feather flock together.” In other words, if your friends and associates are guilty,
then so too are you. Whether this is the case or not is irrelevant; you define
yourself by the company you keep.
Obviously, criminal records are important to the hiring agency. Firefighters
routinely find themselves unsupervised in people’s homes and businesses.
Imagine for a moment the headlines in the local newspaper: “Firefighter
arrested for stealing from elderly lady’s bedroom while she was having a heart
attack.” Of course, this would be picked up by the national media and would
be a black eye for all firefighters.
Credit history is also important, as it too makes a statement of how an
individual handles responsibilities. If a person is not able to live within his or
her means, this person is a potential liability to the agency. A blemished credit
history may indicate an inability to handle responsibility.
Bankruptcy is a big red flag to an agency. Simply because a credit card
company considers an individual untouchable and relieved of financial
responsibility once he or she declares bankruptcy, fire departments do not
view this in the same way. In reality, although an individual has declared
financial bankruptcy, he or she is morally obligated to repay the money that
was borrowed. In the eyes of the law the obligation has been “forgotten,” but
somebody is still out money. Is it an automatic disqualification? No, not if
there has been progress made toward repaying the debt after bankruptcy
was declared. According to a former background investigator for LAPD, “If an
individual is making an honest effort to repay the money, we can look past
a bankruptcy. We cannot overlook someone who does not attempt to right
Candidates often wonder if they should report things that occurred
when they were younger. They feel that if a record was sealed, they are not
accountable for anything until they reached 18 years of age. Nothing is further
from the truth. Remember the forms you signed when you sat down with the
background investigator? These give permission to look into every aspect of
your life. There is no such thing as a sealed record to a background investigator.
Even if there were, whatever a candidate did to get a police record sealed
would be cause for alarm and would raise the issue of liability for the agency.
For the record, there is no such thing as a sealed file, regardless of what your
attorney tells you.
Many people believe that they can give the background investigator only
the names of their responsible friends, the ones who will say positive things
about them. They will make sure to brief their friends on what to say and what
not to say. In effect, they will coach them on how to answer the questions.
Certainly, the investigator will interview the people listed by the candidate, but
they will also ask the individual for the name of five friends. They will interview
the five new people and when completed, will ask for five more friends and so
on. It doesn’t take long for a trained investigator to get to someone who has
not been coached.
The investigator will knock on the door of your neighbors and show them
a Polaroid picture (the same one taken on the day of your initial background
interview). If your neighbor tells the investigator that it looks like you, but the
nose ring and bandana that you always wear are missing, the cat is out of
the bag. In other words, the investigator has learned a lot about you. Will this
disqualify you? Probably not, but it now gives the investigator cause to look
deeper into your profile.
This scenario is the number one reason that when I speak to a group of
fire science students, I encourage them to look the part. You don’t see many
firefighters with nose rings and bandanas. The students constantly assure me
that when they start testing, they will shave off the goatee and get a haircut.
It is important to note that we are not looking to hire the person who can do
a complete makeover in 30 days or less. If you changed that quickly to get
the job, it stands to reason that you will change back after you get it. We are
looking to hire people who authentically live their lives in a positive fashion.
Are there automatic disqualifications for the background process? Yes and
no. What does this mean? It depends on the agency and on the feelings of the
fire chief. Some fire chiefs don’t care what you have done (within reason), but
will automatically disqualify a candidate who is not completely honest during
the process, while others have certain actions that are immediate cause for
Some common causes for automatic disqualification include the following:
any injectible drug use (i.e. any controlled substance or steroid put into the
body via a needle); any selling, intent to sell or transporting of narcotics; use
of hallucinogens such as LSD and acid; multiple uses of marijuana that is
considered more than experimental; any type of assault or domestic battery;
stealing and arson.
Of course, these are generic, but most agencies will have a policy dealing
with any of the above cases. For some it may be an automatic disqualification,
while other agencies may be more lenient and receptive to a reasonable
If a candidate has a blemish on his or her record that is not considered an
automatic disqualification, the investigator will look further into the background.
The intent is to determine if the infraction is a one-time incident or a pattern
of poor choices. Oftentimes a driving under the influence arrest was the
proverbial accident waiting to happen. In other words, a candidate tells the
investigator that after the annual company picnic, he or she had too much
to drink. The designated driver was nowhere to be found and the candidate
had to get home to feed his or her cats. It was a matter of life and death. The
candidate got behind the wheel and drove when he or she shouldn’t have. As
luck would have it, the candidate rear-ended a police car and was arrested
for driving under the influence. It was just an isolated incident that could have
happened to anybody, right?
This would naturally trigger the investigator to look further into the
candidate’s alcohol consumption. In fact, one of the questions is, “How
often do you drink?” Nobody wants to look like an alcoholic, so they grossly
underestimate the number of times alcohol is consumed each week. This is
easily uncovered by interviewing your friends, who vouch for the fact that you
are able to hold your liquor.
When it is revealed that you play softball in a beer league every Tuesday
night with the guys from the shop, the investigator will easily identify that you
drink every Tuesday night. Of course, the next question will be, “How does
the candidate get to and from the game?” Your helpful friend raves about the
pickup truck that you completely restored and drive to each and every game.
The connection is now made complete that after drinking during the weekly
softball game, the candidate hops into his restored pickup and drives home.
Now, the driving under the influence conviction is no longer an isolated event,
but rather part of a pattern of poor choices that finally caught up with a careless
If, on the other hand, it does appear to be an isolated event, the investigator
will want to know what you have learned from the event. A candidate who was
arrested for driving under the influence four years ago, has since quit drinking
and is now a designated driver on the major holidays and a spokesperson for
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), will certainly be considered above
the previous candidate. In this scenario, it’s not the mistake that draws the
attention, it’s the recovery.
A person who has smoked marijuana is usually not eliminated unless
it was done in recent history. Some departments will eliminate a candidate
if it was done after the candidate decided he or she wanted to become a
firefighter. Again, an example of poor decision making. In today’s day and
age, it is understood that most people will at least try marijuana. In fact, a
recent news study revealed that 66% of high school seniors have at least
tried it. Unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise. If smoking marijuana were
an automatic disqualification, the fire and police agencies across the country
would not be able to hire most new employees. The applicant pool would
simply be too small.
The background investigation is the time to be accountable for all of your
life’s actions. Most people have some past indiscretions that, if given the choice,
they would change. That is what we call life experience. If the individual is
honest and forthcoming with information and has not made any life-altering
decisions, as mentioned above, he or she should have no problem passing a
comprehensive background check. It is important to note that if a candidate
believes he or she may have difficulty with a background investigation, he or
she probably will.
My advice is to be honest and forthright with information. Everyone makes
mistakes. If a candidate is caught in a lie, he or she is automatically eliminated
from the process, even if the issue was not a big infraction. The fact that the
candidate lied says a lot about his or her character.
Once a candidate fails a background investigation, the next agency has
a right to know about it. In other words, when a candidate goes through a
background investigation for a different agency, they have a right to know why
you failed. If a candidate failed a background for lying, chances are they will
not make it through the next process.
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