1. #1
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    Jul 2006

    Default Oral interview coming up

    I have a panel interview coming up with Montgomery County MD. I understand that most of the questions are situational questions. I would like to know if anyone has any insight or what I can expect. How does one go about giving the best answers for situational questions?
    P.S. I've been using a tape recorder. I just want to know a little more
    Last edited by smokejmper05; 03-06-2007 at 06:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Scenarios

    Do you think you have what it takes to answer situation questions correctly?....answer these following questions.(in less that an hour).

    What would you do as a rookie FF? Your Captain asks you to come inside his office to review your final evaluation of probation. When you notice a smell of alcohol on his breath?


    This is a perfect example how you can be fooled on a scenario question. I believe there are only 30 oral board questions. They can be disguised in hundreds of different ways. This is one of the disguises for drinking on the job, which is number 12 on our 30 plus list below.

    Here is a simple way to break a disguised question down. Dissect the question down to its simplest term, one word, of what the question is really about (i.e. stealing, drugs, drinking, etc.). Once you have removed the disguise, you can place it in one of the 30 plus oral board questions you already have answers for.

    This is one of the simple tools we have to uncomplicate the oral board process.

    One way to help you do this is picture a piece of paper with a line drawn down the center. On the left of the line are issues dealing with ethics, such as stealing, drugs, or drinking. With ethical issues, you ask appropriate questions to determine what you suspect.

    If true, you don't deviate . . you go straight up to a supervisor. On the right side of the line is anything to do with getting along with others; you will go to great lengths to work it out before going to a supervisor. If you can decide what side of the line the question belongs, you have a better chance of knowing how to answer the question.

    So take off the disguise of that this is your captain. Dissect the question down to its simplest form; one word. What is this about? Right, drinking. What side of the line is this on? Right or left. If it's on the left side of the line what do we do? Drinking is not tolerated. Right again, ask questions to determine if your suspicions are correct (are you drinking?). If so, you go straight up (why don't we go to our supervisor) no matter who or what rank is on the other side of the table; and stick to your answer no matter what. YOU WILL NEVER BE WRONG! TRUST ME!

    Fantasy land:

    The oral interview is like fantasy land. It is not like the real world. Your answers in the oral board might not be what you would do in real life. Don't fall into the trap. The board understands the rules. You can't fool them. If you try, the board will crank up the music and let you dance your fool head off. Don't try to intellectualize and bring heavy logic to this process. If you do, someone, who understands the rules in fantasy land better will get the badge. So, please follow the yellow brick road rules in fantasy land and don't look behind the curtain.

    Here's another way this question can be disguised:

    You go in the locker room and see a fellow firefighter drinking something that looks like alcohol. What do you do? The clone, soap opera answer would be: I would try to get him into the day room, play cards and try to smell his breath; or I would have him go home sick, or have another firefighter come into relieve him.

    These are all soap opera answers. Unfortunately they are taught in fire academies and fire technology programs. They will make you a "Clone" candidate. Don't go on this journey. They are insulting to the oral board. You will loose valuable points here. We are intelligent beings on the other side of the table. Give us credit for that. Don't start a soap opera.

    Ask a question that would verify your suspicions and give a direct answer; not a soap opera.

    Understand that if the oral board fires up a question that sounds like drinking on the job, it's going to be about drinking on the job. If it's a question that sounds like taking drugs on the job, it's going to be about taking drugs on the job; It's not going to be aspirin. If the question sounds like it's about stealing on the job, it's going to be about stealing on the job. If they fire up a question that sounds like sexual harassment, that's what it's going to be about, or they wouldn't bring it up.

    If they fire up these questions, take off the disguise ask questions to verify what you suspect decide what side of the line it belongs and then take action in fantasy land. Don't be like so many candidates by starting a soap opera.

    Here is the list of the "Thirty Plus Oral Board Questions":

    Thirty-Plus Basic Oral Board Questions

    1. Tell us about yourself.
    2. Why do you want to be a firefighter? When did you decide on this career?
    3. What is the job of a firefighter? Are you qualified?
    4. What have you done to prepare for this position?
    5. What are you bringing to the job?
    6. Why do you want to work for this city or agency?
    7. What do you know about his city or agency?
    8. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?
    9. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
    10. What would your employer say about you?
    11. What are the attributes of a firefighter? What is the most important one to you?

    How Would You Handle the Following Scenarios?

    12. Drinking or drugs on the job?
    13. Stealing on the job?
    14. Conflict with another employee?
    15. Irate citizen?
    16. An employee crisis at an emergency?
    17. Sexual harassment?
    18. Racial situation?
    19. Conflicting orders at an emergency?
    20. An order that could place you in great danger or be morally wrong?
    21. What do you say when you don't know an answer to a question?
    22. Are you on any other hiring lists? What would you do if another city called you?
    23. When can you start if we offered you the job?
    24. How far do you want to go in the fire service? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    25. What are the quality traits of a firefighter? Which one is the most important to you?
    26. Have you ever been in an emergency situation? Tell us what you did?
    27. What word would best describes you in a positive way? A negative way?
    28. How do you handle conflict?
    29. Why would we select you over the other candidates?
    30. Do you have anything to add?

    It's your job to take off the disguise and find the real question and have a "Nugget" answer to satisfy the oral board, get your best score on the answer and cause the board to go onto the next question.

    This "Nugget" tool is one of several that can separate you from number 40 and below on a list to between 1 and 10 where you get a shot at the badge. You'll know the difference when the call comes in to go to the Chief's oral. It can happen quicker than you can imagine.

    "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"


  3. #3
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    Dec 2002
    Arl. Hts., IL, USA

    Default What worked for me

    Everyone has seen Capt Bobs stuff. Sorry if I'm too late for you. What I have been told and I used for my interviews is to always help the person first. This works for your drug use, family problems, and stealing questions. You think you see someone stealing something at a store?... "Hi, my name's ... and it looked like you may have stolen ...,(BECAUSE MAYBE THEY DIDN'T) if you need help, I might be able to help you pay for it or there's programs out there that can help you." If that doesn't work you'd go up the chain whether its a store employee or your officer. If you think to always help the person first, I believe that will get you thru alot of the questions.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2006


    Another thing that helps out is to put put a disclaimer on whatever the situation is, before you even answer the question figure out what the root is (ie stealing, drugs, drinking, sexual harassment) and say,

    "well first I would just like to say stealing is worng and shouldn't be tolerated."

    "First I would like to say that drinking is wrong and I know this department has a strict policy against it"

    and so forth and so on.
    Hope that helps

  5. #5
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    Nov 2005


    Situational Questions
    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 what’s 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 it’s
    important that he bring it to the captain’s attention. He explains that it’s an “old,
    junky” car. He adds that in the fire service, everyone sticks together, and asks
    you to “cover” his back on this one.

    Most candidates misinterpret the point of this question. They are confused
    by the “brotherhood” 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 doesn’t 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. Let’s 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 doesn’t plan on doing anything about it.
    What would you do and why?

    No matter how loyal a friend you are, I don’t believe you’d be willing to turn
    your back on the fact that he just damaged someone’s 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, it’s 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. It’s a firefighter’s
    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 “gray” areas. If something is wrong, it is wrong.
    Even if there’s 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 whom 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 society’s 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

    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 it’s 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. Let’s say
    a rookie firefighter decides that a policy is insignificant and elects to ignore it.
    Now let’s 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 military’s policies and procedures. This is
    why the fire department is considered a paramilitary organization. If it’s 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 wouldn’t 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 firefighter’s 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 isn’t always easy, but it’s 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 don’t
    understand this will not usually fare well during the interview.

    Societal obligations, however, are usually in the “gray area.” 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 it’s 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 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...

    If you are interested in downloading 85 of the most commonly asked fire department interview questions check out the link below

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief

  6. #6
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    Oct 2003
    north of San Francisco



    Usually the situational questions in an interview have one of your co-workers being the one who committed the violation. I really have never heard of a panel asking what you would do if you saw someone from the public take something. Obviously if you saw a civilian take something you would tell a store employee.

    If you are talking about a co-worker, then that is a very typical scenario question. In most interviews they will ask you a legal question. These have nothing to do with “helping people”; they have to do with following rules. They are legal questions.

    You could separate situational questions in an interview into two categories, getting along with others, and legal questions. With a getting along question you want to go to any great length to solve the problem without involving a superior officer.

    The legal questions are also pretty easy, because they always get reported. If you are told that someone has lied, cheated, stolen, been drinking or doing drug on the job, it must always end up with the captain or supervisor being informed. The path you take to get there is were the points are.

    I would always start off a response to a legal question with a statement like, “I am the new guy here and wouldn’t ever want to falsely accuse anyone of anything, but if this person truly has been: laying, cheating, stealing, drinking or doing drugs, I could never ignore it. Because if he is doing now he has probably done it before, and if I found out something bad happened because of this or another incident, I would be just as guilty as him if I knew and didn’t do anything to solve the problem”. I would just walk up to him and say, “Is that yours?” or if you don’t want to sound too accusing, “I was going to get a soda can I pay for what you have there”.

    In these questions the person always has committed the offence, you just have to get the facts and handle the problem. They are never going to ask you a question where the correct answer is to do nothing. Simply answer the question without making a soap opera, be clear and to the point, and know where you are going before you start. Any legal issue will end with you and the other employee standing in front of the captain, or just you if he refuses to go.

    Some other things you could mention in a response about these legal issues are:
    1. The employee assistance program for a person with a drug or alcohol problem.
    2. The violation of the public trust.
    3. The damage this could do to the reputation of the department and every employee that works here, if it got into the press.

    Hope this helps.

    Good Luck, Capt Rob

  7. #7
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    Nov 2006


    If you hear the words... drugs, or alcohol, you MUST report it immediately.

    Question: "Your on shift one day and you are talking to your Captain, who appears to be unsteady and smells like alcohol.. what do you do?"

    Answer: "While I would not be implying he was drunk.. the fact he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady would concern me and I would take it to a higher rank and explain the situation. I would not want to take a chance in case he had been drinking. There is a chance he could be and thus could put the crew and the citizens in danger."

    When I was testing, and go to the orals, there was always some sort of variation of who was drinking.. usually a higher rank, sometimes a fellow Firefighter.

    good luck.
    Last edited by mattc05; 03-20-2007 at 12:42 PM.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2002


    I dont know if this will help out or not. But when I was testing an asked a situational question, I will trying to instantly flashback in my mind to a time where this might of really happened to me. (ie- the apparatus floor in a fire station) The "mind model" really helped put me in the position to answer the question from the heart vs. rambling off some answer.

    Perfect example- "Please tell us the first time you were offered an illegal drug?"

    Well instantly, your mind would flashback to a party or friend's house, etc. And since you may have lived the part, you can give a solid answer in a confident voice. Because its your "signature story".

    Please understand I am not saying you did drugs. But most people were offered them sometime in their lives.

    Hope this helps.

  9. #9
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    Dec 2002
    Arl. Hts., IL, USA


    Obviously every dept is looking for thier canidate for thier dept. But as I was told by an interviewer for a dept that recieves 300-400 aps and what got me hired full time was the following.

    I guess instead of saying helping them I should say assisting them in abiding by the law or acting in a way that is considered the norm. For the stealing on the job situation you helped him by offering to pay. Drug use would be to confront him and say i've noticed ...., and this program is available thru the dept or if theres anything I can do to help you, if you noticed it continued to be an issue bring it up the chain or follow the Dept policy.

    I'm not claiming to be an interview expert. I went thru my fair share and manage to make every list for every test i took.

  10. #10
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    Mar 2007

    Default Firefighter Exam

    I purchased Captain Bob's "Conquer Job Interviews" DVD at www.eatstress.com I received a 100% on my next interview. The DVD was worth every penny. I've also created a website on the tricks, tips, links books etc. that I used to help me get a job as a firefighter. Check out http://www.thefirefighterexam.com

    Good Luck



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