Resume Tips for the Entry-Level Firefighter

Of the resumes that I see, the majority of them are boring and do not make a very good first impression.

Creating the perfect resume that brings out the best in you, as well as showcasing your knowledge, skills, and abilities, is not that difficult (at least it should not be that difficult!)

In most of the college level fire technology classes that I teach, I require the students to turn in a resume. I'm not necessarily telling them what is right and what is wrong; I'm suggesting ideas and changes based on my experience and opinion. Of the resumes that I see, the majority of them are boring and do not make a very good first impression. Many of them also have at least one spelling error. Your resume should be easy to read, straight forward, to the point, and present you as the most qualified candidate for the position you are applying for.

What is a resume?

It is a brief (one page or less) "snapshot" of you and your qualifications for the position you are applying for; nothing less, nothing more. What they should put on a resume and what they should not put on a resume confuses some people. To start off with we need to clarify something. A resume is not a job application. Many people think those words are synonymous with each other. They are not.

Let's briefly review some differences between a resume and a job application:

  • A job application usually asks for everything (you usually don't have a choice of what to put in the boxes because you are specifically requested to provide certain information) whereas a resume is left up to you to decide what goes on the paper, and in what order.
  • A job application can be anywhere from one page to six pages, whereas your resume should not be more than one page.
  • Not every employer is going to request or even allow you to provide a resume, whereas most (if not all) are going to require you to fill out some type of job application.

Why do we need a resume?

Some agencies might actually require you to provide one with your application. If they do not specifically ask for one, then you should always attempt to provide them with one at the time you are turning in an application. Some agencies might use the resume as a screening tool, to narrow the applicant pool down to a more manageable number of candidates; especially if they want to only have candidates with specific qualifications or certifications continue in the process.

Do all agencies allow resumes?

When I was testing to become a firefighter, most agencies allowed resumes to be turned in when the application was filed. I have rarely seen applications that stated "no resumes will be accepted." While many agencies allow resumes at the time of application, some do not accept them after that point because of the sheer volume of candidates and paperwork that is added to the process.

What about an updated resume at the time of my oral interview?

While most agencies allow resumes to be accompanied with the job application, many of those agencies do not allow you to provide an updated resume at the time of your oral interview. That is why it is so important to turn one in at the time you submit your application -- you might not have that second chance to submit one at your oral interview. The only reason you should turn in an updated resume at the time of your oral interview would be if you have some changes that have occurred since the time you originally submitted your first resume.

In the past, I remember turning in my initial application and then not having my oral interview until six months to three years after the initial application was filed! Now, hopefully you can see the benefit of offering to submit an updated resume at the time of your oral interview. When they ask you "why do you want to provide a resume, we already have the one you submitted with your application?" -- you can tell them that you have added various certifications, degrees, accomplishments, etc. to that initial resume and you want them to be aware of how far you've gone from that point to today.

What do I need to list on a resume?

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