From a candidate:

The 2nd question had to do with "teamwork". I completed my first sentence...and went completely blank!! I mean BLANK!! I actually felt a tumbleweed roll through my head!

I stammered a little, chuckled once and had nothing to offer! I looked into each of their eyes kind of laughing to myself and received a couple chuckles in return, then one of the panel members threw me a bone and offered to move on to the next question in which I offered a heartfelt "Thank you, that would be excellent".

I was then offered to revisit my "blank out" question, and somehow the flood gates opened and this time answered that question like it was the only source of knowledge I posessed in my head.

I completed my first sentence...and went completely blank!! I mean BLANK!! I actually felt a tumbleweed roll through my head!
This made me laugh with you. The panel gave you a gift of going back and revisiting the question.

A fire oral board is not like a regular or corporate interview. It would be difficult to know how you did without being there. Often candidates feel theyíre doing a great job in their interviews until they get the results. As this candidate found out:

Just received my oral board score for the City of Glendale. The score did not represent how I felt I did during the interview. This is a big problem for me because I now realize that I DON'T KNOW what the board was looking for. I make presentations for a living, so I felt confident in what I did to prepare. I was sure that I just about nailed it. I've always been competitive about what I set out to accomplish, using every tool that I can utilize to reach my goal. I've been preparing for these orals for months and felt extremely prepared. I don't want to waste another oral board
without knowing that I've done all that I can to be the best candidate possible. Jeff

Preparation is key here. The best way I know of to prevent this from happening is by practicing with a tape recorder. What totally amazes me is how many candidates refuse, yea flat out refuse, to pick up a tape recorder and hear what the oral board panel is going to hear out of their mouths. Nothing is going to change in your oral board scores until you learn how to take an interview! Nothing! A big huge part of that learning curve is to hear whatís coming out of your mouth. Too many candidates I hear answers from are garbage. And, the big problem is they donít know it because they have never hear their answers from a tape recorder.

Miracle Tool?

I received a call from a candidate. He has made it to a few oral boards and one Chiefís Oral without success. He has been invited to the San Diego oral board and wanted to set up a private coaching session. In just a few moments I was aware of something critical. Then I asked him if he was using a tape recorder to practice? Like most people (99.7%), he hemmed and hawed and finally said, ďWell, no. But, Iím thinking about it.Ē

Continually I hear from candidates like the above and the following that they are not doing well in their interviews:

I received my results today....but I didn't do so well.

Reply: Were you practicing with a tape recorder before your interview?

I have to admit that I have not used a tape recorder prior to that (or any other interview). I knew the practice was key, but I never got around to doing it. Yesterday, I finally broke down and used the tape recorder method in order to study for my interview today. I must say that there were some things that I found very helpful. I will continue to use the tape recorder method in order to endlessly improve my interview skills. Bottom line...I feel that I did better on my interview today than I have ever done in the past. Thanks for inquiring.

Help!! I have my oral interview and background check with Montgomery County, MD on Monday. Any advise and/or suggestions needed.

This from a loved one (yes, your love ones call me because youíre driving them crazy and they donít think youíre doing everything possible to be in a position to get that badge):

He says most of the time he "freezes" up. We do have a tape recorder and he did practice once with it for the Long Beach interview.....I think it is a "guy thing" and he is embarrassed to admit he is bad at something.

Reply: As I suspected, this is one of the big problems. They're interconnected. If he doesn't hear what's coming out of his mouth with a tape recorder, nothing will change.

You said he drives 120 miles round trip to work 4-5 days and week, drives all over hell and gone to tests, interviews, and station visits. This is a perfect time to use the tape recorder.

. . . thought that I answered them well, but later the chiefs tell me I needed to give more information.

Reply: The big problem I see in your answers is their just too short. Where are the stories you can use in these answers that can personalize them? Are you practicing with a tape recorder?

Well.... in a word, no. I have been using my wife as my sounding board, but I now have a micro cassette recorder right in front of me and will be using it before the end of the night. Thanks for all of your help.

Still more:
I get a call from a candidate who has a few questions. Shoot. As he started asking me his looong list of questions, I asked him a question. Have you started practicing with a tape recorder? He said, I havenít bought a tape recorder yet.

What is the first thing a candidate says when he hears his voice on a tape recorder? Yep. Thatís not me. Yes, it is McFly.

Some will say, ďWell, if I practice it too much it will sound canned.Ē NO it wonít! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent. ďLuck is preparation meeting opportunity.Ē One practice session with a tape recorder is worth 10 speaking out louds. After practicing, you will get to a point where your answers will get into your subconscious. Thatís where the magic begins. You canít be fooled.

Many applicants want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. I guess that doesnít include using a tape recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material, get rid of the uhís and other pause fillers, or to find out if you really sound like Donald Duck. You need to get married to your hand-held tape recorder. You need to hear what the oral board is going to hear out of your mouth. Itís narrows the distance between you and the badge youíre 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 donít! The brain and mouth donít work that way.

Try this. Take 3X5 cards and write down your oral board questions. Practice your answers with the tape recorder. 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 donít want to say.

Let me tell you how critical this really is. If youíre not using a tape 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 boards time and your time! Seek out another career. Understand you still have to interview there too. The above candidates have already lost some great opportunities. Had they been faithfully using a tape recorder to prepare for their oral boards, he probably could have had a badge already.

We think practicing with a tape recorder is so important; we will not do private coaching with a candidate if they arenít using one. It is a waste of our time and their money and like pulling teeth for us. Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a tape recorder. They are catapulting past you if youíre not using one too.

Instead of posting messages on bulletin boards asking others where theyíre at in the testing process for this city and Iím in the top 40 on this list or whatever, start asking your self this question: What am I doing that can best prepare me for the most important part of the hiring process? . . . The oral board. Because if you canít pass the oral board, or score high enough on the list, you donít get the job. Never! Ever! Ever! Now, whereís your tape recorder?

You can find more on testing secrets in the Career Article section from the Jobs drop down menu just above this posting.

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter and
Conquer Fire Department Oral Boards