Next Monday, I'm taking the CPAT exam with an interview to follow, if I pass. This will be my first opportunity to interview for a Firefighting job. I'm 34 and have interviewed for many jobs in the past, but I'm expecting fire service questions to be much different from your standard interviews. Anybody have any advice for me while I prepare this week, or common questions that I may encounter?
Thanks in advance.
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Thread: Interview Advice???
02-21-2007, 10:05 PM #1
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- Oct 2006
02-21-2007, 10:35 PM #2
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- Nov 2005
I have 85 of the most commonly asked interview questions on my website. I believe you will find them very helpful. Virtually every question you will hear will be very similar, if not identical to what I have posted.
Best of luck to you.
Last edited by BCLepore; 02-22-2007 at 01:28 AM.
02-22-2007, 01:30 AM #3
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- Nov 2005
This ought to help you even more:
Situational questions are designed to see how a candidate will respond if faced with adversity. The following are common areas of potential conflict:
1. Moral issues
2. Ethical dilemmas
3. Legal issues
4. Societal obligations
5. Violations of established policies and procedures
6. Interpersonal conflicts
Most candidates focus too hard on what they think the board wants to hear rather than saying whatís really on their mind. Here is a typical example:
Moral issue: As you watch the engineer back up the rig, you see him accidentally strike a car. As you approach, you observe him trying to rub out a deep scratch on the vehicle that he hit. When he notices you watching, he tries to make light of it, and tells you not to worry. You tell him that you feel itís important that he bring it to the captainís attention. He explains that itís an ďold, junkyĒ car. He adds that in the fire service, everyone sticks together, and asks you to ďcoverĒ his back on this one.
Most candidates misinterpret the point of this question. They are confused by the ďbrotherhoodĒ of the fire service, and believe that firefighters are willing to lie for the good of a co-worker. Nothing can be further from the truth, since a true firefighter doesnít lie, and will refuse to cover anything up.
The best way to answer a situational question like this is to determine how you would handle it in your everyday life. Letís say you and a friend are leaving the parking lot of a restaurant, when he accidentally backs into another car. He leaves a dent, but tells you he doesnít plan on doing anything about it. What would you do and why?
No matter how loyal a friend you are, I donít believe youíd be willing to turn your back on the fact that he just damaged someoneís vehicle. You will most likely persuade him to try to locate the owner of the vehicle or call the police. If he refuses to do either of these things, you will probably encourage him to at least leave a note for the owner of the vehicle. You might remind your friend that leaving the scene of an accident, no matter how minor, is illegal and would be considered a hit and run.
For some reason, many candidates believe that firefighters can get away with doing something immoral, unethical and/or illegal.
There are some common rules of thumb when dealing with moral issues. In every situation, itís imperative to do the right thing. In this situation, the right thing would be to step up and take a stand against the action. Remember, even though an action may be legal, it can still be immoral. Itís a firefighterís duty to make a moral decision whether it is for himself or a co-worker. A candidate would be expected to know this and respond accordingly.
Firefighters do not operate in ďgrayĒ areas. If something is wrong, it is wrong. Even if thereís only a perception that it may be wrong, it is usually wrong. Perception often ends up being reality. It is important to maintain the dignity of the fire service. Firefighters are a rare minority of people who the public allows into their homes without a second thought. It is incumbent on all firefighters to protect and honor this privilege.
Ethical questions deal with something that may not be illegal, but either go against societyís rules or the cultural rules of the fire department. Ethical dilemmas are often related to violations of departmental policies and procedures. Policies and procedures are often written as a result of either personal injury to a firefighter or civilian or damage to equipment. In almost all cases, they stem from a monetary loss that the fire agency has suffered in the past.
An astute rater will ask a candidate if organizational policies are important. A savvy candidate will undoubtedly nod his or her head yes, and assure him that a firefighter should not, under any circumstances, violate the rules.
If, on the other hand, a candidate believes itís acceptable for a firefighter to violate a policy because it seemed insignificant, it stands to reason that he will violate similar policies once he or she becomes a firefighter.
Departmental policies and procedures are meant to be followed. Letís say a rookie firefighter decides that a policy is insignificant and elects to ignore it. Now letís say an injury or accident occurs as a result of the broken policy. The probationary firefighter will be expected to outline a memo to the chief about the circumstances surrounding the incident. Predictably, the fire chief will want to know why a departmental policy was violated. He will be expected to provide the city manager or board of fire commissioners with an explanation. Imagine the frustration of the fire chief having to explain why a new firefighter violated a policy, and what the consequence of his action will be. Since a probationary employee has no civil service protection and no union representation, a serious infraction could result in his termination.
From an organizational standpoint, you cannot have members follow only the policies and procedures that they feel are important. This would result in an organization that lacks discipline and would eventually collapse. The fire service has adopted many of the militaryís policies and procedures. This is why the fire department is considered a paramilitary organization. If itís assumed that a soldier would never violate a policy or procedure, why not assume the same with a firefighter?
In most situations, the moral or ethical dilemma wouldnít personally involve you. The dilemma would be for the firefighter who is either asking or implying that you should look the other way. You know what you would do if you were in your fellow firefighterís shoes. You would take the high road and do the right thing. Your challenge will be to convince your comrade to do the right thing. Doing the right thing isnít always easy, but itís the only way to go.
Legal issues are usually pretty clear-cut. Most candidates understand the importance of taking action when a situation is illegal. Candidates who donít understand this will not usually fare well during the interview.
Societal obligations, however, are usually in the ďgray area.Ē It can be much more difficult to decide between right and wrong when it involves an action that comes close to crossing the line of good judgment.
In this situation itís important to investigate and gather the facts. If it appears that there has been some type of wrongdoing, you need to make it clear that you would step in and address the situation. The panel does not expect you to suggest there be an in-depth investigation. Your response could simply be that you would address the fact that something was wrong, and would refer the situation to your captain.
Interpersonal conflicts not only create an uncomfortable working environment, but also erode crew unity. There are numerous situational questions that are designed to determine how a candidate deals with these conflicts. While people deal with interpersonal conflicts every day, conflicts in a fire station can be magnified because firefighters live, eat and sleep in close quarters for extended periods of time.
The purpose of these questions is to determine which candidates will get along with others. Candidates who grew up in large families and those who played team sports have an advantage in this area since they are used to dealing with many types of personalities.
When confronted with an interpersonal conflict, it is important to approach the individual and attempt to clear the air. A savvy candidate will suggest asking the other firefighter if he or she is doing something that needs to be changed. Instead of assuming that the other firefighter is off base, it is important to ask (and listen) and then do what you can to improve the situation.
Whatever the cause of the irritation, it is important for the candidate to be humble. As you root your way down to the source of the conflict, it may be that you are not meeting the standard. It may also be that you are not perceived as being a team player.
You see a senior FF put what looks like a department handheld radio in his car. Later the captain reports that a radio is missing. What do you do?
If you fundamentally believe that firefighters donít steal, this is an easy question. Let me paint a picture for you. I leave my wallet, day runner and all of my valuables on my desk. I donít even have a key to my locker. In any other work environment people would think I was crazy, but in a fire station it is commonplace.
In 20 years of living in a fire station I have never had anything disappear. I have left things in another station and had them arrive in departmental mail (shampoo, toiletry kit and towel). Why would someone take the time to send the shampoo that I left in the shower? Itís because the men and women of the fire department are extremely honest.
I trust my life to my co-workers. Everyone who is a firefighter shares the same code of honor. FIREFIGHTERS DONĒT STEAL.
The question states that I saw (at least I think I saw) the senior firefighter put a portable radio in his car. It is imperative to gather the facts. The ďradioĒ may have been his or her childís walkie-talkie or a hand held VHF radio that he was charging for an upcoming fishing trip. You just cannot be certain without gathering more information.
I would approach the senior firefighter, already knowing there is a reasonable explanation, because FIREFIGHTERS DONíT STEAL). I would expect him or her to provide me with a legitimate reason. When I get that answer, I would do nothing further. If I can trust him or her with my life, I can certainly trust that same person to tell me the truth about a radio.
If you accuse the firefighter, you are done for. This is the same firefighter who is going to take time out of his or her busy life to make sure that you pass probation, to mentor you and to show you the ropes. You donít want to alienate him or her.
There are a lot of reasons that the crewís portable radio could be missing. These things break on a regular basis. Remember, radios are electronic devices that are carried into harsh environments. They are exposed to heat and water, which are both instant death for a radio. They get dropped on a regular basis. There is a good chance that the engineer tagged the radio and sent it to the shop, and simply forgot to tell the captain. Ironically, you saw the firefighter putting his or her personal VHF radio into the car. OUCH. Imagine how strained your relationship would be after accusing your senior firefighter.
I keep stating that firefighters donít steal. I truly believe this to be true. Is there a one in a million chance that the firefighter stole the radio? Yes, there is. Thatís why I gathered the facts. I approached (not confronted, as this implies a fight) and asked the senior firefighter about the radio. When he or she gave me a reasonable explanation, I was done with the matter.
If the firefighter had told me to mind my own business, take a hike or keep my mouth shut, we would now have a problem. I am not saying the firefighter is stealing, but I am suspicious.
I would explain that I was not sure what was going on here (you still donít want to accuse him or her of stealing) but I was really uncomfortable with the situation. I would state that we need to take this matter to the captain.
The firefighter tells you to mind your own business.
I would explain to him or her that I have an obligation to the department, the citizens and myself to bring this to the captain.
The firefighter tells you that if you bring this to the captainís attention, everyone will think you are a snitch.
Unfortunately that is a chance I will have to take. Again, I have an obligation.
I would then explain to the firefighter that he or she would look better in the eyes of the captain by coming forward on his or her own. If the firefighter is unwilling to go to the captain, I will offer to accompany him or her, or go to the captain on my own if necessary.
02-22-2007, 10:55 AM #4
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- Oct 2006
Thanks for the help.
I appreciate the information. I checked out your website last night. This will certainly help. Gives me a lot to think about. It would be tough to answer some of the questions off the top of your head. Best to be ready.
02-23-2007, 08:54 AM #5
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- Nov 2005
That's the reason I posted the questions. It's all about being prepared. You shouldn't be answering any question off the top of your head. You should have an idea of what you would do in every situation. Being a firefighter is all about being prepared. Those who put the time in get rewarded. Those who don't also reap the rewards. The information is there. The smart ones capitalize on it.
Ever wonder why some of your competition get hired quickly while other struggle? It's not luck..............
02-23-2007, 01:06 PM #6
Busywaters.....if you haven't already done so, I would highly recommend picking up Chief Lepore's book "Smoke Your Firefighter Interview." I picked it up a couple months ago and it's been a tremendous help in preparing me for my interview.
My first oral board is next week and I'm feeling prepared....a little nervous & apprehensive as well....but mostly I feel prepared to discuss anything they throw at me.
The fact that he's posted in the this thread several times should tell you something.
02-24-2007, 03:12 PM #7
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- Oct 2006
Thanks for the advice.
I'll go ahead and order the book today. Seems really helpful.
02-24-2007, 10:53 PM #8
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- Mar 2006
I would also reccomend checking out the department and the city/town's website. Do your research, are there any particular hot spots you can pick up such as budget problems over the past few years, you could certainly expand upon your past ability in managing budgets accuratley. (assuming you have said exp). you may also see certain community services that the department offers which you may be interested in, such as car seat check points, or fire safety day. These are the types of things some departments look for, and it shows your interest in the community, and your desire to not just fight fire, but to become part of the department and community as they both grow over the years.
PS. The MOST IMPORTANT thing anyone can tell you is DO NOT LIE, and if they ask you a situational type question and want to know what you would do...then STICK TO YOUR ANSWER. They may try and reason with you and get you to change your answer, you should defend your answer to the best of your ability, they want to make sure you are confident in your decisions. One that we used to use in the Law Enforcement side would be to say you are not allowed to sleep on duty, and you notice your partner on one shift curled up in the front seat of his cruiser what do you do??? some people would say they would report him to a supervisor right off the bat. They may get you to waiver on yoru decision. others may say they would wake him up and explain to him it is not right and not to do it again. They would then try and peg you on why you did not report it, since it IS THE RULES. As long as you stick with youir original answer and can defend yourself well, than that is what they are looking for.
02-28-2007, 09:15 AM #9
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- Nov 2006
3 years of Firefighter job hunting experience...
1. Why do you want to work for this department?
2. Tell me how you would be a great firefighter on this department?
3. How have you prepared for this position?
9 out of the 10 departments I interviewed for asked these... BE PREPARED.
02-28-2007, 02:46 PM #10
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- Mar 2006
I am sorry, I gotta throw this in there, if you have been job hunting for 3 years, there must be something you are doing wrong LOLJon
03-02-2007, 04:41 PM #11
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- Aug 2005
Don't try to BS the interviewers. They can see right through it!
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