Thread: Need tips to ace my oral board
01-28-2006, 05:00 PM #1
- Join Date
- Jan 2006
Need tips to ace my oral board
I need some helpful hints to ace my oral board. I have 2 oral board interviews in the next month and would appreciate some help. I have never taken an oral board and would love to know what are the basic questions and the best way to answer it. Better yet, the best way not to answer it. I kno i need to relate the questions to life experience and stories from my personal life but what esle???
01-28-2006, 05:19 PM #2
- Join Date
- Oct 2003
- north of San Francisco
My advice to you is to look through this and other related sites and search for the questions you think they will ask being discussed. It would be impossible to go through every question and the direction you should take with them. First of all if you are going to use life experience and personalize your answers, it would be hard because I donít know you. Second most of those questions have been discussed at length here already. Use the search function. Here is a list of thirty most common questions.
Good Luck, Capt Rob
707 869 1330
01-28-2006, 10:55 PM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Predicting the questions may help you in some sense but you need to visit the fire stations and speak to the firefighters.
You need to understand the culture and get some insight to the department. Be advised that the firefighters are kicking your tires to determine if you will fit in with them. It's important to note that you are being graded on what you wear, what you say and how you interact with the firefighters during your visit.
Here are some thoughts on 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 departmentís 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 whatís 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 recently.
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 flip-flops? 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 oven.
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, ďIs anyone here?Ē This would be similar to someone walking into your open garage and calling your name. Itís just not good firehouse etiquette, and is certainly not the positive first impression you were hoping for.
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 activities. 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 ďactiveĒ hiring list even if they donít 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 departmentís 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: ďI understand that you have 23 fire stations and that your department runs 50,000 calls per year.Ē The difference is that the firefighters see that you have taken the time to do your research, and you donít expect them to do it for you. Again, itís a sign of respect. Their time is too valuable.
Some of the questions you should ask include but are not limited to the following:
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 community?
4. How many firefighters are going to be hired and how long is the eligibility list?
5. What desirable qualifications is the department looking for? (You will have
already read the job description flyer, but you are looking for the ďinside information.Ē)
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, wild land 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 delete fire stations?
16. For the new firefighters who have done well on probation, what qualities do they possess that have made them successful?
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, ďThe fire department ran well for 100 years before you became a member. You can bet it will run for another 100 years after youíre gone. Itís up to us to make sure we leave it in the hands of competent people.Ē
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.
01-29-2006, 01:03 AM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2005
Great info, Paul! In my opinion, the best way to do well in the oral board is to show them that you are the right person for the job because you understand the fire service, and (to a certain degree) the specific dept. you are testing for.
The more comfortable you are with the attitudes and expectations of the fire service, the more comfortable you will be in your interview, because you know what they are looking for.
Keep coming back and seeking advice. We're here to help!
01-29-2006, 01:04 AM #5
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
The Miracle Oral Board Tool
Tape Recorder ó
In the next two weeks, 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!
Using a tape recorder will help you 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.
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. You need to practice everywhere you go.
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.
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.
01-29-2006, 09:06 AM #6
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Bob gives great advice about using a tape recorder and getting comfortable with your answers. There are plenty of resources available to learn about the process. If you walk in the door and they ask you a question you haven't heard you didn't do your homework well enough.
If you are thinking about a scenario or a question for the first time in your interview, you are behind the curve. The prepared candidates have already thought about and formulated an answer. Formulating an answer is different than having a premade script, often referred to as a canned answer.
When you memorize an answer it comes across as being rehearsed. Work on concepts and bullet points. During the interview all you have to do is remember the bullet points and connect the dots.
Good luck and remember that preparation is the key.
01-29-2006, 11:00 AM #7
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
Paul is right. Preparation is the key to having a seamless no surprises interview. When youíre prepared for most if not all the possible questions including scenarios you wonít waste any oral board opportunities by being caught flatfooted on one or more questions that could make a difference on your score to go further in the hiring process.
As one candidate expressed being caught flatfooted, ďWhen they asked the question I went totally blank. I didnít know what to say. The silence was scary. I could even hear a tumble weed roll through my head.Ē
One way to get to this point of being prepared is to take every test you can to experience the hot seat, and gather more possible questions to practice with your tape recorder. The more tests you take, the better you get at taking tests. Then, when the department you really want to work for comes along you wonít be stumped by a question you havenít heard before.
I asked candidates Iíve talked to the over the past two weeks if they were practicing with a tape recorder? How many do you think were using a tape recorder? NONE!
The raters know when a candidate is prepared as soon as they walk into the room. Iíve seen candidates as soon as the first question was asked were on their game, answered the questions appropriately, had the necessary timing inflection, the all important enthusiasm, graciously left the room before the allotted time and received top scores. Others struggled and twisted in the wind right up to the wire without hitting any high notes.
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