1. #1

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    Jun 2007

    Default Tips on interviews

    I have to take a oral board interview in a few weeks, I was hoping someone could give me some advice to prepare for the interview, also i was told to dress "nice" I plan to at least wear a nice shirt and pants and didn't know if a tie was a good idea, any suggestions would help, thanks.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default The Best Oral Board Secret!

    I'll Tell You in Advance The Secret Oral Board Tool Is in The Fifth Paragraph.

    Firehouse.com Contributor

    Many applicants tell me they want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. Many are not using a simple tool that could tilt things in their favor.

    A recent candidate had such a monotone voice I asked if he knew? He said yea, but that's just my voice. I told him I didn't believe that for a second. What can I do about it? I've been testing where I can for four years, going to school and work as a federal firefighter.

    Trying to get on his turf, I asked him during his coaching session what do you do with your time off? What are your interest, hobbies? What really rings your bell? Nothing seemed to work to break his monotone voice.

    That was until a few days later I get a call from an energized candidate. I didn't recognize the voice. Yes, it was Mr. Monotone. He told me he didn't realize how bad it was until he listened to the tape recording of his coaching session. He said, "Man I sounded retarded. I can't believe how much stuff I left out. How many times I said "What Ever" and other stupid pause fillers I didn't know I was using." The mystery of why this super qualified candidate could not get hired was solved by listening to a tape of what the panel had been hearing for four years.

    So, what tools can you use to practice and rehearse your oral board answers? A video camera? Sure. You need to see how you look in action. But you are trapped with a video camera. Mirror? Sure standing in front of a mirror is good. But you are missing the most valuable tool of all. A hand-held tape recorder. The closest distance between you and the badge is picking up a tape recorder and hearing what's coming out of your mouth like Mr. Monotone! The recorder goes everywhere your keys go.

    I received a call from another one of our candidates. He has made it to a few oral boards and one Chief's Oral without success. He has been invited to the LA City oral board. In just a few moments I was aware of something critical.

    Then I asked him if he was using a tape recorder to practice? He hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Well, no. But, I'm thinking about it." Even though he had our Program that hammers and hammers the point home that you have to use a tape recorder and hear how you sound, he still didn't get the message.

    His answers were garbage. It doesn't surprise me. Ninety-nine percent of the candidates I talk to aren't using a tape recorder either. Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a tape recorder. They are catapulting past you if you're not using one too.

    Many applicants want this job so bad they will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. I guess that doesn't include using a tape recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material, get rid of the uh's and other pause fillers, or to find out if you really sound like Donald Duck.

    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. It's narrows the distance between you and the badge you're looking for! What is the first thing a candidate says when he hears his voice on a tape recorder? Yep. That's not me. Yes, it is McFly. You need to get married to a hand held tape recorder and 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 don't! The brain and mouth don't work that way. Try this. Take 3X5 cards and write down your oral board questions. You can find our 30 Sample Oral Board Questions here:

    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 don't want to say. Let me tell you how critical this really is. If you're not using a tape recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and over learn your material until it becomes second nature to you, you might as well not show up for the interview. You are wasting the oral boards time and your time! Seek out another career. Understand you still have to interview there too.

    The above candidates have already lost some great opportunities. Had they been faithfully using a tape recorder to prepare for his oral boards, he probably could have had a badge already. Some will say, "Well, if I practice it too much it will sound canned." NO it won't! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent. "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity." 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. That's where the magic begins. You can't be fooled.

    As far as attire. Dress for success. The strongest non-verbal statement you can make is what you wear. You don't want to show up in the holding pen and find everyone else dress like they're going to the prom. Wear a suit! More on attire here: http://www.eatstress.com/attire.htm

    "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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    Nov 2005



    The fire department interview is a unique challenge that is a component of the hiring process for most fire departments. As a general rule, the interview is usually weighed more than any other portion of the exam. It is not uncommon to have each of the other phases of the exam weighted “pass or fail,” while the interview is weighted 100% of the candidate’s overall score. Simply stated, the interview is the most important phase of the exam process.
    Many of the questions put a candidate in a “no win” situation. They are designed to see how the individual can think on his or her feet. While there are often no clear-cut right answers, there are usually automatic fail points.
    The best way to learn how to succeed in the interview is to educate yourself on the process. The more you learn about the types of questions that are commonly asked, the more you can do your research, reflect on your own views and attitudes, and present appropriate answers.
    The competition is so stiff to get a job (usually one hundred applicants for each opening) that fire departments only hire the cream of the crop. One wrong answer will often eliminate a candidate from the process.
    Once a candidate understands the interview process and learns what we are looking for, he or she scores well on every future interview. As a result, the candidate will receive multiple job offers.
    Since many fire departments only require that a candidate be at least 18-years of age and possess a high school diploma or GED, a candidate theoretically could get hired without having taken a single fire science or EMT course. However, completing EMT training, taking fire science courses and graduating from a basic fire academy will undoubtedly improve a candidate’s chances of getting hired.
    If a department puts its new recruits through a formal training academy, a candidate who does not possess any of the aforementioned credentials will still have a chance in the hiring process. Other departments require completion of a basic fire academy to even qualify to apply.
    The most important thing in the interview process is for the candidate to present him or herself as a person we want to have as a part of our crew. A candidate can have the most impressive resume, but if he or she is not someone we want to spend a 24-hour shift with, we will not hire him or her to be part of our family. Remember, we have the option of choosing anyone we want. We can train you to be a firefighter; we cannot train you to be a good person.
    The best way to improve your interview scores is with practice, or mock, interviews. Knock on the door of your local firehouse and enlist the help of the firefighters. They undoubtedly took an interview to get their badge. Some crews will be more current than others on the interview and testing process. Since firefighters are usually not short on opinions, they will probably have a lot to share with you. Listen to what they have to say and incorporate it into your delivery.
    Once you have learned the basics of how to take an interview, a private coaching session will certainly enhance your score. I would suggest learning all you can before enlisting the assistance of an interview coach. When you feel you are ready, it is a great investment of your time and money.
    The following is an excerpt from my book, “Smoke Your Firefighter Interview.” Although it may be a review for those who have already the read book, I feel it is important to be exposed to the thought processes behind an interview question.

    Tell us about yourself.
    My name is Paul Lepore. My family and I live in Dana Point, California. My wife, Marian, and I have been married for 12 years and have two daughters, Ashley and Samantha. I grew up in Huntington Beach and spent the majority of my life in northern Orange County before moving south 3 years ago.
    I enjoy sport fishing. My wife and I own a boat on which we spend a lot of time fishing and exploring the waters around Catalina Island. My love of fishing has taken me on some extensive travels through Baja, California. I have even written a book about my passion, called “Sport Fishing in Baja.” In addition to the outdoors, I also like playing racquetball and basketball and enjoy riding my bicycle.
    I currently work as an electrician. Two years ago I set myself a goal to become a firefighter. Since then I have pursued an education in fire science and have learned all I could about becoming a good firefighter.

    The purpose of this question is to provide you, the candidate, with an opportunity to discuss your personal life. As you may have noticed, I did not mention much about my qualifications. I used this opportunity to talk about my personal life and my hobbies. This kind of question is designed to encourage you to bring out information about your life experiences and personal interests.
    Sharing personal information about yourself gives the rater an opportunity to learn what kind of person you are. It also gives the rater a chance to discover something about you that he or she can relate to. That may create a positive feeling, which may result in him/her giving you a higher score. Let me give you an analogy to illustrate my point.
    Imagine that our wives work together and have dragged us to their annual office Christmas party. We are sitting at a circular table dressed in our suits and ties. Our wives disappear to mingle with their co-workers. You and I have never met but sense we are in the same boat. Rather than ignore one another, we start talking about such things as where we’re from, how many kids we have, where we live, etc. If we have a lot of time to talk, we might even discuss the kind of work we do, how we met our wives, how long we’ve been married and where we grew up.
    Usually when you find a common interest with another person, you tend to want to explore that. For example, if the other person mentions that he likes fishing, I would ask him more about it since I also enjoy fishing. I would mention my interest in both fresh and salt water fishing, and encourage him to talk about his fishing adventures.
    This example illustrates how common ground can promote conversation, which may then lead into discovering other common areas of interest.
    Many candidates mistake this question as an opportunity to outline their resume. This is a serious mistake. The question is designed to encourage answers about your personal interests. This is your opportunity to show the board who you are. Don’t waste time going over your qualifications; rather, use the time to enlighten the board.
    By using this opportunity to provide information about where you are from, what you do for fun, and any special accomplishments that you are proud of, hopefully someone on the board will identify with something you have said and will feel a connection.
    You never know what that connection could be. It may be that they too played high school or college football. Maybe they are from the same part of the country. Perhaps a board member who plays basketball is looking for players for the basketball team. They may have an interest in auto mechanics. It may be possible that you speak a foreign language and your skills may be needed in certain areas of the community. Another benefit of providing personal information about yourself is that once a rater feels a bond with you, he or she is more likely to give you a higher score. It stands to reason that if no connection has been established, you will have to work that much harder for a good score.
    Let’s say the department has an opening for a seat on the fire engine. They have decided to hire a firefighter to fill the vacancy. Since fire departments are always inundated with prospective candidates when they give an exam, they have the luxury of hiring whomever they want. This wide range of choice makes it more likely that they will hire someone they like.
    If you are going to be put straight onto a fire engine, our choices are more limited since prior training is a must. In other words, the department may be looking for someone who has already put him or herself through a basic fire academy at the local junior college.
    If we are going to put the new hire through a fire academy, we can hire someone with minimal experience. Firefighters would much rather hire someone who has similar interests, values, goals and morals. I’m not saying they’re looking for clones. What they are looking for is someone who fits the profile of a firefighter. They have a much better chance of choosing someone compatible by learning about them personally as well as professionally.

    Why do you want to be a firefighter?
    Years ago, when I was researching potential career choices, I learned that the father of one of my friends was a firefighter. As I quizzed him about his job, I was struck by how much he loved what he was doing. It was rare to find someone who truly enjoys what he does.
    The more I researched the fire service, the more convinced I became that it was the right choice for me. Since then I have visited many fire stations and have gone on several ride-alongs. The reasons I want to become a firefighter are numerous. They include the following:
    I enjoy helping people. It gives me great pleasure and it would be very fulfilling to have a profession in which I was able to help people every day.
    I would like to be part of a team that solves problems in the community. Whether it is a fire, flood, hazardous material spill, or medical emergency, it feels good to know that citizens can rely on the fire department to help solve their problems.
    Being a role model in the community is also important to me. I know children look up to firefighters and I feel we have an obligation to be there for them. I realize the importance of having a smile on my face and being respectful at all times. I also know that firefighters volunteer their time to promote good will within the community. I feel this is a vital part of a firefighter’s job. What also appeals to me is the camaraderie that develops in the fire station. Living and working together for 24-hours at a time allows firefighters to develop some incredibly strong bonds.
    I like the challenges that a day at the fire station can bring. Even though our on-duty days are planned out, plans can be interrupted at a moment’s notice for an emergency response.
    Since I am a problem solver, I would thrive on contributing my problem-solving skills to the team. But I know if I’m having difficulty solving a problem, I would be able to rely on the other crewmembers to come up with a solution. The amount of shared knowledge among firefighters is tremendous.
    I know being a firefighter will provide many opportunities for learning. There is a tremendous amount of information that a firefighter must learn in order to become competent in his or her job. It would be up to me to set a goal and study hard to achieve that goal. Once I have mastered the roles and responsibilities of a firefighter, I know that I will have many opportunities to test for more challenging roles such as paramedic, engineer, lieutenant or captain.
    I like working with my hands. I know the fire service uses a myriad of specialized power, hydraulic and hand tools.
    I know the community will always need firefighters. It is comforting to know that firefighters rarely get laid off.
    I like the benefits package offered by the fire department. I currently have to pay for healthcare benefits out of my own pocket. I know that healthcare and retirement benefits are part of the fire department’s employment benefits package.
    The fire department pays good salaries, which will help me provide for my family.
    The fire department’s flexible schedule would allow me to continue my education and also frees up more time for family activities such as coaching my daughter’s soccer team.
    I like fighting fire. It is exciting and challenging to arrive on scene and perform hose lays, throw ladders, and rescue people. What a great sense of accomplishment that would be.
    Since I am interested in medical calls, I would enjoy being an EMT. If the opportunity ever came up, I would like to consider being a paramedic.

    It always amazes me how unprepared candidates are for this basic question. Invariably, when faced with this question, they are usually stumped for an answer. This is the easiest question of all since there is really no right or wrong answer. The panel is trying to determine what your motivation is for wanting to become a firefighter.
    Do you believe firefighters have a lot of free time and make good money? If this is your primary motivation, you are in for a rude awakening. If those are your first two answers you are unlikely to get a job in the fire service. If you do manage to get a job with that perception in mind, you will probably have difficulty during your initial training.
    These are just a few examples of why candidates want to become firefighters. I suggest you write the reasons that motivate YOU to become a firefighter. When asked the question in an interview, it is important that you not try to remember what you have written down, but rather speak from the heart. If you truly have thought about it, the answer will come naturally. It is discouraging to listen to someone try to figure out the answer to the question during the course of the interview. On the other hand, it is refreshing to listen to a candidate who has given a great deal of thought as to why he or she wants to be a firefighter. Also, try to avoid using “canned” (rehearsed) answers. As a rater, it is discouraging to hear a candidate try to repeat what someone has instructed him or her to say. It is important to speak from the heart, rather than try to parrot some catchy phrase that you learned in an interview class.
    Raters usually volunteer to be on the oral boards. As a general rule, most firefighters really enjoy their job. A candidate who demonstrates enthusiasm for the fire service will most likely strike a chord with the raters. If the raters love their job, you can bet they will be looking for firefighters who will also appreciate the job.
    Remember, evaluators want to give you a good score. It is up to you to give them a reason to do so.

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief

  4. #4
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    Mar 2007


    so, should you or should you not use a personal story? i have an interview in a few days and i have been practicing using a real life story and then using some "clone" answers, which really is why i want to be a firefighter. thanks guys

  5. #5
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    Aug 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Stories Get Badges!

    Quote Originally Posted by tennisblazer2 View Post
    so, should you or should you not use a personal story? i have an interview in a few days and i have been practicing using a real life story and then using some "clone" answers, which really is why i want to be a firefighter. thanks guys
    The choice is yours. Consider this:

    Firehouse.Com Contributor

    Stories Get Badges!

    We encourage candidates to lace their answers with personal life experiences. Since no one else can tell a candidate’s life experience stories they can’t be placed in the mold of a profile. They become unique, fresh and convincing. In a recent fire academy half the recruits were candidates who went through our program. You couldn’t tell one from the other in the oral board because they were using their own stuff. Not a profile robot “clone” of everyone else.

    If you have all the education, experience and the burning desire to get that badge, you’re not getting hired, having to cool your heels in another position waiting for that next opportunity (not a bad ideal), you have be asking yourself why?

    You can talk all you want about what we do here, how you want it or think it should be, but the candidates you are reading about in our material are a lot like you. They simply got positive results by putting simple techniques into action. The big difference is they figured out how to take a firefighter interview, maximize the points in their oral boards, are now riding big red and taking home a pay check.

    Here’s how they did it. Since oral board scores are calculated in hundredths of points (82.15, 87.63, 90.87, etc), the goal is to keep building on a few hundredths of points here on this question, a few hundredths there on that answer, gaining a few more hundredths with their signature personalized life experience stories at the appropriate time, delivering the all powerful “Nugget” answers that no one else can tell, and pulling away from the parrot salvo dropping clones.

    Before the clone candidates realize what has happened, these candidates have added on extra points to their score placing them in a position to be invited to the chief’s interview where they get a real shot at the badge. Just being 1 to 2 points out of the running can decide whether you will go forward in the hiring process or not.

    The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is to be themselves on purpose. Your stories establish a natural bridge between you and the panel. When you're yourself, you become conversational because you are on your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies. Every one has butterflies. The trick is to get all the butterflies to all fly in the same formation than can make the difference.

    Stories are more than facts. If you can recreate the excitement, emotion, the color and magic to relive the actual event, you will capture the interest and a top score on that question. A big part of getting this job is convincing the oral board that you can do the job before you get it. Stories are convincing and can demonstrate your experience, even if they’re not fire related.

    One reason stories work effectively is because they go directly to the brain and entertain. They do not require the mental processing of more formal nonfiction writing. Stories have heart and ring true.

    Collect illustrative stories as you are collecting facts, quotations and other information for your signature stories.

    Practice those stories with a tape recorder. Condense them down to a couple of minutes or less. Don’t go on a journey. The oral board is not packed for the trip. You won’t have time and it’s not appropriate to use a signature story for every answer. Tell the story. Make the point. Move on. Once you answer an oral board with a signature story, you can marry the rest of your answer with those clone answers you have been using. Try it and see the amazing difference.

    “Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”—Joseph Pulitzer, (1847-1911) American journalist.

    I was coaching a candidate one day and a candidate was giving me those clone answers why he wanted to be a firefighter. I stopped him and had him rewind the videotape of his life to where he first got the spark to be a firefighter. He said, “Oh, I’m from South America. When I was growing up, we lived with my grandfather who was the fire chief of the city. I got to go with him and be exposed to the who department.”

    I asked if he had ever told that story in any of his oral board interviews? He said, “No”. Why not? I will bet you big money you are a clone candidate right now. But, I bet you also have some personal signature stories that could instantly change your interview scores.

    Another Example:
    I was doing private coaching session with a candidate. He was telling a story about being a federal firefighter in Yellowstone when it burned. The story was not too exciting the way he was telling it. I had to stop and ask, “It sounds like you were trapped?” He was. Now he tells that story and the hairs start standing up on the back of your neck. You’re trapped with him. You can smell the smoke and see the embers dropping around you. Does this story make a difference? Please say yes.

    Case in point. I just talked to a candidate who was dumping only clone answers on the question “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” Then he realized he could begin his answer with a signature story. He remembered a story he could use about a prank being played on him when he did a ride along with his brother. He couldn’t believe the difference when he used this personalized signature story at his next oral board.

    The story brought smiles and laughter from the panel members. Along with the calls they went on by the end of the day he knew this was the job that blended all his needs. He followed this story with his standard landmark clone answers. This was the first question on his oral. His answer made everyone more comfortable and the interview flowed a lot smoother than before.

    Some say, “Captain Bob” how can you help so many candidates without making them into clones?” Good question. Simple answer. The real reason is nobody else can tell your story! Nobody! So the point here is not the question, but the answer. Start establishing your personalized stories. When you start lacing your answers with your personalized experiences is where you start to shorten that gap between you and that infamous badge.

    “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

    The proof is in the badges!

    "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"


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