11-25-2007, 02:25 AM #1
- Join Date
- Jun 2007
can't get past the oral interviews
I just had a group interview with a department and it isn't the first one like that I have had but can't seem to get past that interview. The departments are in another state than where I am a certified firefighter and was wondering if it was that or my age. I am 37 years old with 19 and 3/4 years of experience fighting fires and ems work. I have firefiter 1 and 2 with utah along with hazmat awerness and operations and engineer pumper certification and instructor with utah also. I have been testing with alot of different departments and have made it through the oral interviews on a few and put on a few departments lists but then a year later the test again.
Last edited by bpaceems1; 12-28-2007 at 02:46 PM. Reason: to clarify my post
11-25-2007, 02:57 AM #2
Your use of the words "certified firefighter" are a little vague. Are you now, or were you a career FF elsewhere? If your time is as a volley, you have to realize that it means little to a career oral board. A career FF with 2 years generally outranks a 20 year volley in the career selection process. Argue it in the bar, but just deal with it in the interview.
It is tough to give advice without knowing more. There are just so many ways to sink yourself.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
11-25-2007, 08:34 AM #3
- Join Date
- 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.
11-25-2007, 09:37 AM #4
Age will generally have little or nothing to do with it, bro.
From what you described, it sounds to me (and the chief) that it's your interview itself.
Start preparing yourself to take and pass a fire department interview. These have changed over the last twenty years as well as they are completely different from a corporate world interview.
Get BC Lepore's book "How to Smoke Your Firefighter Interview". His examples above are just a small sampling of the insights his entire book offers. With that you can groom your responses that have been keeping you from moving on.
(not a paid endorsement)
11-25-2007, 09:50 AM #5
I also read Chief Lepore's book and it helped a great deal. I just took my LAFD oral and did very well. It was the first and only oral I've ever taken. That should tell you something about that book.
11-25-2007, 10:30 AM #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
I agree it’s not your age. The oldest candidate we’ve heard from was an EMT at age 47.
The biggest problem I've seen on oral boards with seasoned veterans like yourself taking entry level or lateral tests is they can't place themselves in the position they are applying for; that of being a snotty nose rookie. They try to hammer the oral board with their credentials thinking the board will just hand them the job. Their oral board's skills are rusty and antiquated. It's hard for them to remember how it was to be a rookie.
This is a delicate balance here. Leave your time and rank in your locker. You must be humble, place yourself in the rookie position and build a natural bridge to present your education, experience and integrity to the oral board panel. Without this bridge, you're dead meat. This is not easy for many seasoned candidates. An attitude adjustment is needed. Attitude is a small thing that can make the big difference. Remember the position you're applying.
The seasoned veteran candidate can roar past any of the other candidates if his attitude and game plan is in place.
I think this says it all:
It was five years ago that I first visited this web site. It was how I found and landed my first job at a small career department, and served for four and a half years. The entire time I wanted to make the lateral move to my hometown dept.--a larger city, more opportunities, Paramedic and tech. rescue opportunities...But I was a bone head. I thought because I was already on the job elsewhere, I could waltz through the process, and to some extent I did--all the way to the Chief's interview twice, but never got the call.
My advice to you is this: we are our own worst enemies...you think you are a good judge of your interview skills, trust me you're not. Don't be a bonehead like me and go through the process twice before getting help from professionals. Think this is some baloney sell-out advertisement? Well, all I can say is after five years of trying, my recruit academy starts in two weeks. You be the judge.
11-25-2007, 08:11 PM #7
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Here are my thoughts on age. In a nutshell, I would rather hire a 37 year old guy than a 22 year old. He or she has a myriad of lief experiences. You must, however, be in EXCELLENT physical condition. You do not get a mulligan because you are older. I expect you to be in better shape than the kids you are competing with.
Everyone has an opinion of age when it comes to hiring new firefighters. Some people feel that a younger candidate has a better chance of getting hired because, after all, the fire departments are looking to hire a candidate for the next 30 years.
If a fire department hires a 21 or 22 year old, the department can train the recruit before he or she has a chance to develop “bad” habits. Furthermore, since the agency wants to get the most money for its training dollars, hiring a firefighter at a young age ensures that it will get at least 30 years of service out of him or her.
Younger candidates generally have fewer personal and financial obligations, and are more likely to have the free time to pursue relevant education and training prior to being hired. This is highly prized by many departments, as they do not have to pay for it.
Younger firefighters are generally in better physical condition. They will do well in high impact areas of the community where the job is very physically demanding. In addition, they will usually work out in the station, which can be contagious to the other firefighters. Ultimately they may be the cause of the entire shift working out together.
Younger firefighters are often very concerned about eating properly and are more educated about nutrition. Quite commonly, older firefighters pay little attention to healthy eating in the fire station. A younger firefighter may educate the crew about eating turkey burgers instead of ground beef, or on the importance of taking vitamins.
Additionally, hiring younger firefighters minimizes the chances of hiring an employee with a pre-existing injury. It is true that a pre-employment medical exam will identify many of these injuries; however, with the implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, agencies are not failing nearly as many candidates as in years past. Since many candidates have successfully litigated and won a job, medical disqualifications have become less frequent.
The converse to these potential benefits is the fact that a younger candidate has spent the majority of his or her life at home with minimal responsibilities. Predictably, this will not be well received in a fire station. This is especially true since it is expected that the rookie is the one who makes sure all of the little things are done around the station. These are the same things that mom did at home for him or her.
Another factor when dealing with “younger” candidates is the fact that they are going to be living and working with mature (relatively speaking) adults. It can be difficult for a younger person to fit in with a group of older adults, especially firefighters.
Fitting in is difficult to begin with, especially when you consider that a respected member of the crew may have been moved to another station to make room for the new firefighter. The displaced crewmember probably contributed to the chemistry and cohesiveness of the crew, and now an “outsider” has been assigned.
Maturity is an important quality for a young firefighter. Since he or she has usually led a sheltered life while in college or living at mom and dad’s, it is likely that the rookie simply does not have extensive life experience. Imagine what you were like 5 years ago. How about 10 years ago? How much have your values and work ethic changed? I guarantee you are a different person. You have matured by virtue of your life experiences.
An older applicant, on the other hand, will usually fit in much better than a younger one. He or she has spent years in the work force learning what it takes to get along, and has learned acceptable social behavior through “life experience.”
Many departments prefer “older” candidates to younger ones. Since these departments are looking to hire firefighters with life experience, older candidates fit the bill. An older candidate will do whatever it takes to earn (and keep) the job. A candidate with more work experience may have a greater appreciation of his or her new job on the fire department.
Many older candidates have worked in a variety of difficult jobs. These range from roofing, carpentry, plastering or working behind a desk in corporate America. All of these jobs may include long hours, inadequate pay, little or no medical benefits, minimal flexibility, poor job security and, oftentimes, minimal job satisfaction.
A career in the fire service offers good pay and benefits, job security and retirement as well as job satisfaction. Hiring a more mature firefighter gives you a rookie who feels like he or she got a new lease on his or her employment life.
Older firefighters usually bring a lot to the job. If they have spent their lives working in the trades, they bring knowledge of plumbing, electrical and carpentry, as well as the skills of using various hand and power tools.
Most importantly, older firefighters generally fit in with the crew more easily than younger firefighters. Their life experience gives them a strong platform on which to base their career.
A candidate who is considering leaving an established job has a lot to lose. Add a mortgage payment, a spouse, and a couple of children to the equation, and this candidate has a lot on the line. The candidate is taking a pay cut, losing benefits and most importantly, losing job security. It is not likely that an employer will give an employee back his or her job after leaving it.
People who have a lot at stake make terrific employees. It doesn’t matter how hard things get, he or she is going to have the drive to succeed. There is just too much to lose.
As you can see, there are benefits to hiring both younger and older candidates in the fire service. My personal belief is that most fire departments prefer to hire rookie firefighters who are in their late twenties to early thirties. Being married and owning a home strengthens their profile. Having a couple of children completes the equation.
This is not to say that candidates in their early 20’s or early 40’s will not be considered; they will simply have to demonstrate that they are the exception to the rule. It’s up to the candidates to demonstrate that their personality traits, maturity and experience make them the best choice for the job. A fire department will consider much more than age when making a hiring decision.
11-26-2007, 12:03 PM #8
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
Did You Practice With A Recorder?
What tools can you use to practice and rehearse your oral board answers? Right, a video camera. 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.
I received a call from a candidate. He has made it to a few oral boards and one Chief’s Oral without success. He has been invited to the San Diego 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? Like most people (99.7%), he hemmed and hawed and finally said, “Well, no. But, I’m thinking about it.”
His answers were garbage. 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. 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 recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and over learn your material until it becomes second nature to you, you are going up against candidates that have and are more prepated. The above candidate has already lost some great opportunities. Had he 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.
Start asking yourself this question: What am I doing that can best prepare me for the most important part of the hiring process? . . . The oral board. Because if you can’t pass the oral board, or score high enough on the list, you don’t get the job. Never! Ever! Ever! Now, where’s your recorder.
11-26-2007, 05:13 PM #9
- Join Date
- Apr 2007
I live on the east coast and tested out west. I had a 95 on the written test. I flew 1700 miles for the cpat and did not even sweat during the test. My oral interview was with two captains each from a different department. The same test was for the two cities. One city called a couple hundred people to continue. The other city only called 50 or so and I was one of them. Same interview and two totally different scores. I can not figure it out myself. Keep practicing and Good luck. Just my experience with oral boards.
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