Question: I Just completed my oral interview with a big dept. I feel that everything went great. It seems that they asked questions that I specifically studied for. Although I do have to say that I was still very nervous.

I do have one question for you though. I was asked the question of, "What do you know about the City of -------?" I responded with the type of city they are, the location, major freeways, target hazards, square mileage everything imaginable that someone would need to know about the the city.

As I was giving my answer the panel member looked up at me and gave a look like he did not even want to hear anything more that I had to say. This concerned me. Should I continue with my answer or somehow try and cut it a little short.

Reply: You give your answer as planned. Although you can't tell what the board is thinking, if the panel looks puzzled ask them if they want more. They will tell if they have heard enough and
they can go onto the next question.

I believe the best way to handle this type of question about the city is to use the shotgun effect. Give them a smattering of areas like square miles, population, type of city government, number of stations, engines, trucks, number of personnel, target hazards and anything unique you have found out about the city in your research. One candidate discovered that a city in a mild climate had dry drum hydrants because years ago the hydrants froze in a cold snap.

What would you think if you were on an oral panel and the candidate gave you a sample smattering answer? Right, you would think he had done their homework. If they look puzzled, ask them if they want more. They probably won't.

You don't want to go endless here. Just a sample smattering. I had a candidate one day tell us so much he got down to the grid water system the city used. Definitely overkill.

Another candidate during coaching had a good answer for city information. In the next two weeks before his oral he piled more information onto his answer. He ended up making a long answer endless, finally telling them the number of convention hotel rooms that were available. He committed suicide in his efforts to over impress the panel. Oh, yea, this is the guy we want to put in a station that would drive EVERYONE NUTS!

I’m talking about answers that are too long, not too short here. I believe these mindless, endless, rambling, trailing off, salvo drop answers until the panel stops you not only hurts your score, it robs valuable time that you could be using to let the panel know the important stuff that could improve your chances to make the final cut.

Practice and time your answers using a tape recorder. Some answers will be longer than others like what have you done to prepare for the position. Remember you have around 5-6 possible questions in up to a 20-minute interview.