Thread: Oral Interviews!
02-14-2008, 02:52 PM #1
Zup everyone! I 'm a newbie here and looking forward in becoming a CA. Firefighter! I wanted to get some feedback or insight on oral interviews from everyone who has gone through it. What should I expect or what should they expect from me, what not to do, and so forth? I'm having my interview with Pasadena Fire Dept in CA. so any suggestion will gladly be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
02-14-2008, 05:18 PM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
The Best Oral Board Secret!
I’ll tell you in advance the secret oral board tool is in the fifth paragraph.
One of the biggest things is learning how to take a firefighter interview which is like no other interview.
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!
I received a call from another candidate. 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 and wanted to set up a private coaching session. 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.”
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 http://eatstress.com/thirty22.htm 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.
If you want to be one of the last of America's heroes, instead of posting messages on bulletin boards asking others where they're at in the testing process for this city and I'm in the top 40 on this list or whatever, start asking your self 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 tape recorder?
Last edited by CaptBob; 02-15-2008 at 12:18 PM._____________________________________________
"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"
Fire "Captain Bob"
02-14-2008, 05:23 PM #3
02-14-2008, 05:42 PM #4
02-15-2008, 02:37 AM #5
- 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.
02-15-2008, 12:07 PM #6
Maybe it is just my browser, but the link http://eatstress.com/thirty.htm seems to just be an advertisement and provides no sample questions.
02-15-2008, 12:20 PM #7
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
02-15-2008, 07:29 PM #8
Let see if we can get this one deleted too.
An individual came onto these forums and blatantly advertised a product. He was QUICKLY removed and the thread deleted.
Yet the continued "canned" responses and pure advertisement on this thread is allowed to contine.
I guess if we bring money into Cyngus Enterprise and are employed by FH.com it is acceptable.
Pure H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-YCo 11
Virginia Beach FD
Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. Which one are you?
'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.
02-15-2008, 10:08 PM #9
I'm just puzzled about what other sort of interview there is apart from an 'oral' one.
And Doc, links to business sites aren't advertising are they? Hmmm? Never...
03-18-2014, 02:58 PM #10
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
What was your experience with interviewing with Pasadena? I have an interview coming up and don't know what to expect.
03-30-2014, 01:09 PM #11
- Join Date
- Jan 2014
This is my knowledge thus far with oral board interviews:
Create a list of common oral board questions and prepare your responses.
Often times oral boards will have questions that seek you to hit certain key words. Some of these words include diversity, teamwork, motivated, honesty, etc. Learn to read a question and determine what type of question it is and what key words you need to hit. Is it a diversity question? Is it a sexual harassment question? Is it a policies and procedure question? etc
Record yourself, both audio and visual, and pick apart any nervous ticks you might have or the tone of your voice etc.
Make your responses planned BUT not so planned that it sounds like you are reading a piece of paper.
Formal interviews will be structured in a way that there is no back and forth discussion between you and the proctors. They will read a question, you will answer it, notify them when your answer is completed, and move on to the next question.
You will typically have 15 minutes to answer about 5 to 7 questions. Use up all of your time if possible, but do not dwell on one question too long and not be able to answer all of your questions.
Do not be shaken by the demeanors of the proctors. Sometimes proctors will look disinterested or make weird faces to your responses. Some departments do this to see if a candidate can be stirred by something so simple. How will you handle the pressure of a bad call if you cant handle that? (This is info straight from the horses mouth)
Always shake the proctors hands before and after an interview and look them in the eye.
This next info is from my time selling mens clothing before becoming a fireman
Make sure your suit is tailored and fits well, not just off the rack, if you dont know how to get this done seek help from a retail specialist.
Your shirt should be either solid white, or light powder blue, nothing else, no patterns
Wear a "Power Tie". Bold reds, yellows and blues. But be conservative. Nothing too flashy.
Your suit should be either dark navy, light gray or charcoal. No blacks.
Shoes match your belt.
And lastly, wear a watch.
03-30-2014, 03:40 PM #12
You are correct we do ask the candidate several questions and we do have the right to ask follow-up questions so be careful on how you answer. Just answer the question and be careful what you add as we can follow-up. It also can go past the allotted time so be careful....Respectfully,
Lifetime Member CSFA
IAFF Alumni Member
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