1. #1
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    Oct 2005

    Question Too young for a Full Time department?

    I graduated paramedic school in July and went straight in the Fire Academy. I graduated academy in late September with my 240 certificate. I took my first civil service test last month for an EXCELLENT department that is hiring 4-6 people in the next 3 months. Since it was my first civil service test, I expected to do poorly on it considering everything I had heard about them. I just found that I placed in the top 30 and now will go on to take the psychology exam and the interview with civil service commision and then an interview with the fire chief. I just turned 21, and I have very little experience. I'm extremely nervous because I feel I don't have much to offer them. I am very dedicated, did very well in paramedic and fire academy, but I don't have much in the way of fire/ems experience. Does any one have advice for the oral boards that are coming up so soon? Is it rare that candidates my age are hired by full-time departments? I am very excited about this and I don't want to screw this opportunity up. Thanks for any advice! thunderemr14@yahoo.com

  2. #2
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    Mar 2003
    Tokyo, Japan


    The best advise I can give you is be mature and be respectful. I've never been through an oral board but I have been an Air Force ff for over 5 years. Being able to show you can handle yourself professionally goes a long way. Also with a lack of experience you need to make it known that you are willing to learn and dedicated to learning the job. And last, don't be afraid to ask them questions. Ask them about the department, ask how they the department is improving? Hope this helps.

  3. #3
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    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Younger candidates have credentials too!

    Ask them about the department, ask how they the department is improving?

    Sorry, I wouldn't encourage candidates to ask the panel questions in their oral board interviews. This is not a regular corporate job interview.

    Younger candidates have credentials too!


    Capt. Bob,

    Just recently, I began testing for fire departments in California (Predominantly Southern California ). I am a fire academy graduate and I have two years of experience on a basic life support ambulance.

    I am also currently testing for auxiliary and volunteer positions for added experience and my firefighter 1 cert. In January, I'm planning on going to paramedic school. My question is this... I'm only 20-year old- I won't be 21 until August. Does being this young hurt me whether or not I shine on my written and oral tests?

    I don't see too many rookies this young with departments and I don't hear about people being hired this young. Just curious.



    As long as you can present your package at the oral board, age should not be an issue. The problem is many younger candidates don't think they have the life experience needed. First you never tell the board your age. They won't know until the day you're hired. That's the law.

    LMC, I would continue your pursuit for a volunteer position and definitely get into medic school ASAP.

    I gave a presentation at Shasta Fire College. Many students didn't feel they had any experience that would apply to the position. That was until I asked several candidates to tell me about their first and succeeding jobs in life; no matter how menial it seemed. Many had paper routes, mowing lawns and working at Burger King. O.K., what did you learn? Once the answers started flowing, we heard how they learned to work hard, have responsibility, learn customer service and how to work as a team. Did you participate in sports in school? Isn't that working as a team. Do any of these areas apply to the fire service? You bet! So any time you can relate your personal life experience in answering an oral board question, you are telling the oral board that you not only know the answer the question, you have already lived it!

    When the board asks what you have done to prepare for the position, don't forget to rewind the video tape of your life and create an early trail of how you learned how to work hard, have responsibility, and work as a team.

    The biggest part of getting a high enough oral board score that will get you the badge is convincing the oral board you can do the job before you get it. Stories are convincing evidence that you are the match for the badge!

    I knew several fire explorers who were too young to test. I attended a large department badge ceremony. One of the fire scouts got a badge on the first test he was old enough to take. You have never seen a happier rookie firefighter.

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

    More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

    Fire "Captain Bob"


  4. #4
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    Nov 2005


    While 21 years ols may be young in some people's eyes, the panel is not allowed to legally ask your age.

    The good news is that you are going to do nothing but get older. Soon you will even quit counting birthdays. Control what you can control. Get qualified and take calsses. Stay physically fit and make mature decisions. We are all looking to hire squared away candidates.

    Here are some thoughts on age:

    Everyone has an opinion of age when it comes to hiring new firefighters. Some people feel that a younger candidate has a better chance of getting hired because, after all, the fire departments are looking to hire a candidate for the next 30 years.
    If a fire department hires a 21 or 22 year old, the department can train the recruit before he or she has a chance to develop “bad” habits. Furthermore, since the agency wants to get the most money for its training dollars, hiring a firefighter at a young age ensures that it will get at least 30 years of service out of him or her.
    Younger candidates generally have fewer personal and financial obligations, and are more likely to have the free time to pursue relevant education and training prior to being hired. This is highly prized by many departments, as they do not have to pay for it.
    Younger firefighters are generally in better physical condition. They will do well in high impact areas of the community where the job is very physically demanding. In addition, they will usually work out in the station, which can be contagious to the other firefighters. Ultimately they may be the cause of the entire shift working out together.
    Younger firefighters are often very concerned about eating properly and are more educated about nutrition. Quite commonly, older firefighters pay little attention to healthy eating in the fire station. A younger firefighter may educate the crew about eating turkey burgers instead of ground beef, or on the importance of taking vitamins.
    Additionally, hiring younger firefighters minimizes the chances of hiring an employee with a pre-existing injury. It is true that a pre-employment medical exam will identify many of these injuries; however, with the implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, agencies are not failing nearly as many candidates as in years past. Since many candidates have successfully litigated and won a job, medical disqualifications have become less frequent.
    The converse to these potential benefits is the fact that a younger candidate has spent the majority of his or her life at home with minimal responsibilities. Predictably, this will not be well received in a fire station. This is especially true since it is expected that the rookie is the one who makes sure all of the little things are done around the station. These are the same things that mom did at home for him or her.
    Another factor when dealing with “younger” candidates is the fact that they are going to be living and working with mature (relatively speaking) adults. It can be difficult for a younger person to fit in with a group of older adults, especially firefighters.
    Fitting in is difficult to begin with, especially when you consider that a respected member of the crew may have been moved to another station to make room for the new firefighter. The displaced crewmember probably contributed to the chemistry and cohesiveness of the crew, and now an “outsider” has been assigned.
    Maturity is an important quality for a young firefighter. Since he or she has usually led a sheltered life while in college or living at mom and dad’s, it is likely that the rookie simply does not have extensive life experience. Imagine what you were like 5 years ago. How about 10 years ago? How much have your values and work ethic changed? I guarantee you are a different person. You have matured by virtue of your life experiences.
    An older applicant, on the other hand, will usually fit in much better than a younger one. He or she has spent years in the work force learning what it takes to get along, and has learned acceptable social behavior through “life experience.”
    Many departments prefer “older” candidates to younger ones. Since these departments are looking to hire firefighters with life experience, older candidates fit the bill. An older candidate will do whatever it takes to earn (and keep) the job. A candidate with more work experience may have a greater appreciation of his or her new job on the fire department.
    Many older candidates have worked in a variety of difficult jobs. These range from roofing, carpentry, plastering or working behind a desk in corporate America. All of these jobs may include long hours, inadequate pay, little or no medical benefits, minimal flexibility, poor job security and, oftentimes, minimal job satisfaction.
    A career in the fire service offers good pay and benefits, job security and retirement as well as job satisfaction. Hiring a more mature firefighter gives you a rookie who feels like he or she got a new lease on his or her employment life.
    Older firefighters usually bring a lot to the job. If they have spent their lives working in the trades, they bring knowledge of plumbing, electrical and carpentry, as well as the skills of using various hand and power tools.
    Most importantly, older firefighters generally fit in with the crew more easily than younger firefighters. Their life experience gives them a strong platform on which to base their career.
    A candidate who is considering leaving an established job has a lot to lose. Add a mortgage payment, a spouse, and a couple of children to the equation, and this candidate has a lot on the line. The candidate is taking a pay cut, losing benefits and most importantly, losing job security. It is not likely that an employer will give an employee back his or her job after leaving it.
    People who have a lot at stake make terrific employees. It doesn’t matter how hard things get, he or she is going to have the drive to succeed. There is just too much to lose.
    As you can see, there are benefits to hiring both younger and older candidates in the fire service. My personal belief is that most fire departments prefer to hire rookie firefighters who are in their late twenties to early thirties. Being married and owning a home strengthens their profile. Having a couple of children completes the equation.
    This is not to say that candidates in their early 20’s or early 40’s will not be considered; they will simply have to demonstrate that they are the exception to the rule. It’s up to the candidates to demonstrate that their personality traits, maturity and experience make them the best choice for the job. A fire department will consider much more than age when making a hiring decision.

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    Author of:
    Smoke Your Firefighter Interview
    The Aspiring Firefighter’s Two-year Plan
    Smoke Your Firefighter Written Exam (Coming soon)

  5. #5
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    Oct 2005


    thanks to everyone who responded. I took the psychology exam friday, they said I should hear back from them sometime this week. It seemed to go well, but it was difficult to tell what they were thinking. Oral interviews are next week. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  6. #6
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    Aug 2004


    Just be yourself but also remember that if you get hired you need to be a very mature 21 year old because if you do something off duty it represents the department even if your off duty. Also when you're working you need to be mature because this is a very serious job and it may hurt your evaluations if they don't feel you are mature enough to handle the position. Not trying to burst your bubble but I've seen it before and sadly it cost that person his job.

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