Oral Interviews: The Closing Statement

Sept. 15, 2005
This is the last chance to sell yourself and the best chance for the oral board to remember you.

One of the most important phases of an oral interview is the closing statement. The closing statement, if you are provided the opportunity to do one, is your last chance for you to sell yourself and the best chance for the oral board to remember you in a positive and unique way.

In some oral boards, it is not uncommon for interviews to occur for one week or more, and for hundreds of candidates to be interviewed by the same oral board panel. A firefighter candidate is getting rated during their interview and immediately after their interview concludes. Another thing that may occur after all of the candidates have been interviewed and ranked (based on their oral board scores), is that all candidates are then re-ranked, based on what the oral board can remember about each of them and based on the needs of the department. If the oral board is re-ranking candidates after the interviews have ended (and your interview occurred on the first of ten days of interviews), it is critical that you leave the oral board on a high note and with a good taste in their mouth.

Most of the candidates being interviewed have very similar backgrounds and experiences: EMT and/or paramedic training, certifications such as firefighter 1, education such as a two-year degree in fire technology and having completed a firefighter academy, volunteer experience, etc. The list goes on-and-on, and this can make it tough for candidates to stick out and be remembered after the last interview is concluded. That is why having a strong closing statement that the oral board members can correlate to you after the interviews have ended is so important.

Here is a typical closing statement question:

There are three ways you can answer a closing statement:

2. You can just ramble on, repeat things you've already said, and sound disorganized and unprepared (most candidates utilize this method).

3. You can have a strong, powerful, jaw-dropping closing statement that has been prepared and rehearsed (very few candidates utilize this method).

How long should a closing statement be? In a perfect world, it should be anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half. Any more than that and you're going to bore them to death and have them contemplate reducing your overall score you have tried so hard to do your best at.

What information should your closing statement contain? Your closing statement is not, I repeat not, an opportunity to repeat everything you have said in your opening statement and in your interview. While it can be true that people learn through repetition, and also remember things through repetition, the goals of your closing statement are to:

2. Let the oral board know that you really want the position you are applying for (surprisingly enough, many candidates fail to let the oral panel know that they really want the position they are applying for and that they really want to work for the agency they are applying for.

3. Leave the oral board wanting to hear more about you (as opposed to the opposite - their wanting you to leave the room as fast as you humanly possible).

Does every agency allow candidates to have a closing statement? No; but it is better prepared to have one than not have one. If they don't allow you the opportunity to make a closing statement, you better hope you were able to cover all of the bases in your previous questions. Since some departments do not permit closing statements, this is why I feel it is important to state all of your key accomplishments, your pertinent knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as your desire and motivation to become a member of that agency you are applying for in your opening statement and in your other questions you are answering.

When I was testing for the position of entry-level firefighter, I quickly learned I had to have a closing statement that would just drive home the fact to the oral board that I was the best candidate for the position. I also learned I would have to provide some form of "shock-value" to my interview. When I say shock-value, I mean it in a positive way. Virtually every candidate has something positive and unique to offer the fire department in the way of knowledge, skills, and / or abilities. However, most of the candidates typically do not know how to make themselves stand out and be remembered.

When I have to participate in an oral board (as an interviewee), I know that one of the best ways to have the oral board remember me is to have a strong opening and closing statements. I also know another way is to provide some form of "shock-value" so that they will remember me for at least the rest of the time the oral boards are in existence. Why is this so important? Well, oral boards are expected to be non-biased and objective, and are not supposed to judge one candidate to another candidate. They are supposed to objectively grade candidates against a pre-determined and standardized rating form.

Well, I think we all can agree it is virtually impossible to do this, because we all are biased in one form or another. Even if the oral board members are briefed and trained in advance to help reduce bias and subjectivity, it is still impossible for them to not be influenced by you in some form or fashion; that is human nature and something you should try to work on to go in your favor. Now providing "shock-value" is nothing that is illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is providing the oral board with information that will hopefully show them how UNIQUE you are as compared to other candidates.

For example, when I first started testing to become a firefighter, I was working full-time at a retail drug store chain. I was getting paid a decent wage (so I thought at the time) and was having fun working there. However, I soon realized it was not the career for me to continue in for the next 30 years. When I made the decision to put as much time as I could into becoming a firefighter, I knew I would probably have to go back to part-time status so that I could have more time to take tests, educate myself, go to paramedic school, perform volunteer work, etc. Going part-time was going to cost me about $20,000 per year in lost wages, but I knew it was going to be worth it in the long run.

I ended up packaging that into my closing statement as a form of "shock-value" to prove to the oral boards that I was motivated and dedicated to becoming a firefighter, and that I was willing to make sacrifices to get into the fire service.

Here is the closing statement I used when I was testing for entry-level firefighter:

I would like to first thank the members of the oral board for your time and for allowing me to be here today. In the short time we have been together, I hope I have shown you how much I want to become a firefighter for the _______ fire department. Becoming a firefighter is something I have wanted since I was a little kid. I realize that sounds clich

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