I have seen all the threads relating to entry and line officer positions...But how about one for the "top spot"?
I am about to go through an assessment center for a Fire Chief's position in a small town that is converting their Fire Department from an autonomous volunteer organization to a Town department. The first position being filled is that of Chief...My guess is to build the department from the top down. The Town has hired an outside consultant to run the assessment center and he is bringing in a half dozen Chief Officers to sit in as raters. e have been advisd that the AC will be three parts....An oral interview, a role play and a presentation.
I am looking for any possible questons, examples and/or advice Firehouse Forum Members have to offer. I have about 2 weeks til the AC
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09-18-2007, 03:38 PM #1
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
Assessment Center for Chief's Position
09-18-2007, 03:42 PM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
The role play could be a pier counseling session.
The following are possible questions you might encounter in your promotional process:
What have you done to prepare for or what do you think qualifies you for the position?
Everything you will do in the promotional process has to do with presentation skills.
What is your five your plan?
What are three of your strengths? What is one of your weaknesses?
What projects can you attach your name to?
How do you resolve conflict?
How do you reduce stress?
How would you handle a disgruntled employee?
What is the job of an officer?
Be prepared for scenarios related to ethical issues; drinking, drugs, stealing, etc.
How would you handle a sexual or racial harassment situation?
Why would we choose you over the other candidates?
Can you deliver a 5-10 oral resume?
Are you up on those issues that are affecting your agency?
Practice handwriting reports.
Work on your personal signature stories than can relate to possible questions.
What does customer service mean to you?
What does cultural diversity mean to you?
Can you take a topic on short notice, develop and deliver a 10-minute speech?
How do you administer discipline?
Do you have a current one-page resume? Make sure to include any acting time.
Practice, practice, practice your answers with a tape recorder!
Don’t go on a journey with your answers. Be concise but brief.
More free information on promotions here: http://www.eatstress.com/promo.htm______________________________ _______________
"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"
Fire "Captain Bob"
09-19-2007, 10:03 AM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Here is a summary of Assessment Centers. I hope you find it useful. My website has tons of FREE downloads to help you prepare for your promotional exam. Best of luck to you!
The term “Assessment Center” often sends promotional candidates into frenzy. It
is unfamiliar to many people and as a result their already increased anxiety over the
promotional process is heightened. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the
process. No department wants to have quality candidates get lost in the testing process,
rather it’s an opportunity for those who have prepared for the position be rewarded for
Assessment Center is a fancy way to refer to a series of examinations. Some
common components of an assessment center are a tactical scenario (often called a job
simulation exercise), an oral interview, an employee counseling session, an oral
presentation, and an in-basket exercise. Of course, your promotional examination may
include all, or some, of the events listed above. Each fire agency has the choice of what
they want to include in their testing process.
Many departments elect to use an outside consultant to administer their exam and
have their candidates evaluated by outside fire department raters. The purpose of external
evaluators is to lessen the chance of favoritism, which in turn lessens the chance the
exam, will be protested by an unhappy candidate. Many agencies do not allow the
candidates to interact with the raters. Some agencies allow the candidates to greet the
evaluators, but require them to introduce only by using their assigned candidate number.
Whichever the case, the consultant’s goal is to reduce the chance of biased rating.
The fire chief usually greets the raters. He or she will provide some background
about the department and answer any department-related questions. He will share any
particular challenges currently being experienced by the department and share his vision
for the future. The fire chief will always make one thing clear to the raters: if the
candidate is not ready to assume the position tomorrow, they are to be scored in a way
that reflects this. I often hear, “I do not want a project. If you don’t want the candidate as
an officer on your department, either do I.”
I have evaluated Battalion Chief, Captain, and Lieutenant’s exam across the
country and have sat with fellow chief officers whom I have never met and scored
candidates from a department I knew very little about. The bottom line is that a primary
search is a primary search, regardless if you are in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Buffalo. A
prepared candidate stands above the crowd, no matter where you are from.
Many candidates spend an inordinate amount of time researching the private
consultant who is administering the exam. While it’s nice to have some background on
your opponent, the consultant is not your biggest hurdle. Performing on game day is your
biggest challenge. I encourage each candidate to take the time he or she would have
invested in researching the exam and put it into studying his or her own department’s
policies and procedures.
I don’t believe in “having a bad day.” I believe that those who have not prepared
for the position are identified during the testing process. It’s not that they had a bad day,
rather it’s that their lack of preparation was apparent on test day. I do not advocate
studying for the exam. I believe in studying for the position. I’ve noticed a strange
phenomenon that occurs when you study for the position. You also perform well on the
day of the exam.
Whether it is a private consultant or an in-house person who is assigned to write
the promotional exam, the process is usually the same. A committee is formed and they
meet with the fire chief. The fire chief will explain what he is looking for in the group to
be promoted. This will include any current events in the fire service as well as political
and/or social events that may be impacting the fire service. For example, if the
department has had a challenge with racial relations a wise candidate would have a plan
on how he or she could improve them. If the department had a fire that did not go as
planned I would expect to see a similar event on the tactical portion of the exam. If the
department has a problem with firefighters following the proper procedures when
returning to work following an injury, I would expect an interview question regarding the
One of the most common scenarios that come to mind is with the Rapid
Intervention Crew (RIC). I understand that in different parts of the country it is called
Rapid Intervention Team. For the purpose of this article I will refer to it as RIC. We will
give you a scenario that requires a lot of resources be committed early in the incident.
The OSHA policy states that anytime firefighters are committed in an environment that is
determined to have immediate danger to life and/or health (IDLH) a RIC team must be
established. Of course, the only exception is with a KNOWN rescue problem. Cars in the
driveway of a home, or the potential of a night watchman do not constitute a known
rescue. Candidates struggle with the idea of not putting enough hose lines into effect
quickly enough. To compensate for this they elect to forego RIC and assign a company to
put in an additional hose line. As a chief officer who has managed a few fires, I
understand the desire to get water on the fire. I also believe that the RIC policy was
written for a reason. Committing firefighters to an IDLH without a rescue problem is a
clear violation of the policy. More importantly, it completely goes against our number
one rule, firefighter safety! This is an automatic failure of the tactical.
The most common complaint I hear when coaching students who are looking to
promote is, “But that’s not the way we do it on our department.” True, it may be common
practice for your department to commit resources in an IDLH well before the IC
establishes a RIC. You are not alone. Many departments do. It’s just a matter of time
before a department has a serious firefighter injury, or death and OSHA hands out a hefty
fine. Worse yet, I would not want to be the IC of a firefighter that had to defend why I
didn’t take care of my firefighter. Lastly, a landmark case in California is now in the
court system. According to court records, the driver of a fire engine failed to remove the
“Jake” brake while driving in the rain. I would reason that many drivers have driven with
the Jake brake on in the rain. He applied the brakes and the rig flipped ejecting and
killing a firefighter. The driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Regardless of
the decision, the driver of the fire engine will never be the same.
Tactical Scene Scenarios
The tactical scene scenario can be one major event, a series of smaller events, or a
combination of all of the above. It can be interactive or non-interactive. In an interactive
scenario a candidate is given a radio and is expected to give on scene report (size up),
assume command, name the location of the command post, request resources, and make
assignments as he or she would on the fire ground. The candidate is expected to react to
information that is provided during the exam. It is common to have “developments” that
occur during the course of the incident. The candidate is expected to take appropriate
actions when a development occurs. An example of his would be:
Development – “IC from Interior Division, we have located a victim”
Expected action – IC, I understand that you have located a victim. Bring him out the
front door and I will have a medical group standing by.
Engine 1, IC, You are Medical Group supervisor. Interior is bringing a victim to the
front door. Your objective is to receive and treat the victim. I am assigning you squad 3.
Squad 3, IC, I am assigning you to Medical Group. Set up in front of the building. You
have a victim coming your way.
Interactive tacticals are becoming less common because of the potential for a lack of
consistency. The person on the other end of the radio has a script he or she is expected to
follow. Since you cannot possibly predict everything that the candidate will say, it is
impossible to maintain consistency.
Non-interactive tactical scenarios are much more common. These enable the raters the
opportunity to see the candidate in greater detail. I believe non-interactive tactical favors
the prepared candidate since there is so much more down time. The prepared candidate
takes this opportunity to showcase his or her knowledge. Here is an example:
Candidate – I would assign engine 1 as division two and give him benchmarks of what I
wanted accomplished. It would sound like this:
Engine 1, IC, lay a supply line. I am assigning you to Division 2. Give me an All Clear on
Primary Search and knock down the fire on the second floor. My expectations are that
the officer on Engine 1 would lay in from a hydrant, stretch a line to the 2nd floor and
begin a primary search. He would extinguish any fire, but again he knows his number
one objective is to give me an “All Clear” on the primary search.
As you can see the non-interactive tactical gives the prepared candidate an opportunity to
express his or her thoughts.
Another component of the tactical scene exercise are the mini-tacticals. While the major
tactical scenario may last from beginning to culmination of an incident, these are a series
of relatively short, quick hitting, job-related exercises. These could be related to
operational issues or a current policy or procedure.
Here is an example:
You are a captain of an engine company who has been dispatched to a structure with
numerous calls and a report of people trapped. It’s in your first due. As your engineer
pulls out of the station he strikes a car. What would you do and why?
Here is a checklist of what the evaluators expect:
• I would immediately notify dispatch that we have been involved in a traffic
accident and have them replace us with another engine. I would ensure that the
Battalion Chief knew we were no longer responding (this is particularly true if
your department dispatches on one channel and has a separate tactical frequency).
• I would check the condition of my firefighters and the condition of the people in
the other vehicle.
• I would request PD for traffic control and fire and EMS units for the injured.
• I would ensure my uninjured firefighters or I were treating any victims.
• I would have my firefighters place out road cones or flares to prevent a second
• After the injured were treated, I would remind my firefighters not to admit fault or
make statements to anyone.
• I would get names and contact information of any witnesses.
• I would make sure the appropriate vehicle accident and injury paperwork was
• I would make sure the fire chief and city attorney were notified.
• I would make sure that the families of any injured firefighters were notified.
• If necessary, I would facilitate critical incident stress debriefing
• I would log it in the station logbook.
The oral presentations are probably the most overlooked part of the promotional exam.
This is ironic because studies show that our greatest fear is to speak in front of a group.
From the department’s perspective it is important to promote people who can speak in
front of a group. The higher the rank, the more public speaking you will be expected to
do. I was recently involved in a Battalion Chiefs exam where five out of 12 candidates
failed the oral presentation. It was very unfortunate because several of them would have
been excellent fire ground commanders. While commanding an incident is a extremely
important, as a chief officer I find myself in front of a group as often as I run a major
Candidates will be expected to follow the rules of speaking in front of a group.
These include introducing yourself, explaining the reason for the meeting, motivating the
audience as to why it is important for them to embrace what you have to say, delivering
the sustenance of your presentation, summarizing your presentation, and leaving time at
the end for questions. Most oral presentation exercises are timed. It is up to the candidate
to manage his or her time. The candidate should note the time the exercise culminates so
he can allow enough time to complete it. Once the time has expired, the candidates will
be asked to stop speaking regardless of where they is in their presentation.
The most common mistake in an oral presentation is trying to write everything in
paragraph form. It’s painful to watch a candidate try to read the entire presentation to the
raters. Candidates who are able to speak to bullet points will fare much better than those
who try to read what they have written. Teachers and people who have previous
experience speaking in public usually excel in this area. The best way to prepare for this
exercise is to practice with a topic, have a set amount of time to prepare a lecture, and
present the topic to an audience. Using a video camera is the best way to critique oneself.
You will be amazed at what you see.
The in-basket exercise has been around forever and is one of my favorites. A
candidate is given a list of items that must be addressed within a certain time frame. He
or she is asked to prioritize the items and justify his reasons to the panel. It’s up to the
candidate to determine what is important, and what is urgent. The exercise gives the
department a snapshot of the candidate’s ability to perform the administrative functions
of the position. While the Operational portion of the Battalion Chief, Captain, or
Lieutenant’s position is very important, so too is the administrative component. This
exercise outlines time management, writing, and setting priorities.
Here is an example of a simple in-basket exercise:
You will have 30 minutes to address the following items and explain your
reasoning to the panel. Please place them in order of importance and be prepared to
discuss your rationale with your raters.
It is 0800. Official shift change occurs at 0745.
1. You have battalion inspection at 11AM today.
2. The firefighter assigned to your crew approaches you and informs you that
he cannot locate his gloves.
3. The Battalion Chief calls you to say there has been a complaint about the
way your paramedics were driving.
4. There is a message from Mr. Robert Jones regarding a recent fire
5. The engineer approaches you and says there is a nail in one of the inside
rear dual tires.
6. A paramedic assigned to your crew approaches you and says he is too
hung over to work and asks to be placed off duty on sick leave.
7. You have a message to call Mrs. Smith about speaking to her group about
8. The paramedics are scheduled to have a ride along from 0800 to 1700.
9. A school tour is scheduled at 1115.
Here is an example of how to prioritize and justify the above list:
1. The engineer approaches you and says there is a nail in one of the inside rear dual
I would prioritize this as number one as it affects our operational readiness. Just
because there is a nail in the tire does not mean that I would take the engine out of
service. It may be a short nail and may not have punctured the tire. I want to know
if the air pressure is low. Is it leaking? I would instruct him to use a soap and
water solution and determine it is leaking. If the tire pressure is low, I will ask
him if he is comfortable driving the rig to the shop. If not, I will instruct him to
call the mobile mechanic. He will provide the correct tire size to ensure the
mechanic brings the proper size tire. I f the tire is low, and the rig is unable to
respond, I will call dispatch and advise them of the situation. I will ask them to
notify the Battalion Chief.
2. A paramedic assigned to your crew approaches you and says he is too hung over
to work and asks to be placed off duty on sick leave.
I would advise the paramedic to stay put and I would attempt to catch one of the
off-going paramedics to temporarily ensure my staffing. Once I have staffed the
rig, I would notify the staffing pool of my need for a paramedic. I would not allow
the off-going paramedic to leave the station, as I am concerned that if he is too
impaired to work, he is too impaired to drive home in his private vehicle. This
would be a liability to the fire department.
I would evaluate the paramedic to see if he is still under the influence. At
minimum he will be counseled for showing up to work unfit for duty. This has
impacted our operational readiness.
3. The firefighter assigned to your crew approaches you and informs you that he
cannot locate his gloves.
I would instruct the firefighter to borrow a pair of gloves from another firefighter.
He is to leave a note on the firefighter’s turnouts so the other firefighter is not
caught without his gloves. In addition, he is to fill out a lost property report and
order a new pair of gloves. Lastly, I will coach and mentor him to take the
initiative to do all of the above before coming to me to solve his problem.
4. The paramedics are scheduled to have a ride along from 0800 to 1700.
I would call the paramedics to the office and notify them of the ride along and
make certain that they have the proper forms filled out.
5. I would call the Battalion Chief and ask permission to reschedule the inspection
for the afternoon informing him that I had a school tour set up for the same time.
While I was no the phone with the BC, I would let him know that I had several
pending issues. First and foremost the engine may have to be put out of service
(pending the answer from the engineer), I would get the information regarding the
citizen complaint about the paramedics driving.
6. I would inform the crew that the station inspection had been rescheduled for the
afternoon and that we had a school tour at 1115.
7. I would call the person who had a complaint about the Paramedic’s driving and
get the facts of when and where the issue had occurred. I would assure him that I
would look into the issue and would call him back after I speak to the paramedic.
I would not give him the results of my investigation, as personnel issues are
confidential. I would then conduct a fact-finding interview with the paramedics.
8. I would review the fire prevention record regarding 1234 Main Street. I would
review the codes relating to the infraction he was given and return Mr. Jones’ call.
9. I would return Mrs. Smith’s call regarding the fire safety lecture and set a time we
could speak to her group.
One of the most challenging parts of any supervisor’s job is dealing with employees. In
the fire service we are particularly poor at imposing discipline on our members. Since we
live, eat, sleep and work together for long periods of time, supervisors are reluctant to
address poor performance. It is important to remember that the fire department is held to
the same city policies as gas, water and police departments. These departments are very
thorough when it comes to addressing an employee who is lacking in his or her
performance. We on the other hand are not.
It is important to know you audience (raters). Regardless where they are from,
chief officers expect aspiring officers to coach, counsel, and document substandard
performance. It is imperative that you use the 8-step process to handle a troubled
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