Catch the Big Fish with the Right Bait!

Dec. 11, 2006
Prepare for your interview like you know you should, and next year you can give everyone a picture of you with your new badge for Christmas.

How can you make a really great first impression to carry you through the oral board interview to get your badge?

This from our Fire Captain Son Rob:

Luck is Given to the Prepared!

In the weeks before Christmas there are two types of people, those who are happy and enjoying the season and those no so happy. The difference is the first group prepared, their shopping done, cards written they relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Meanwhile the second group is trying to find that last minute gift before their car was done filling up at the pump and they have to pay.

I was outside a building where oral interviews where taking place. I saw a guy sitting in his car writing like mad on a piece of binder paper. Another guy walking by looked in the car and acted like he was thinking if maybe he had written some stuff down he might not feel like throwing up right then. These guys have never shopped early for Christmas.

Right after Christmas, you are probably saying, as most of us do, I will have all my Christmas shopping done by October next year. That same attitude should apply to your preparation for your oral interview.

Please allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment. If you have put in an application, taken the written, and physical ability, you have an oral coming up...If you are in a fire academy, working as a volunteer, in high school, or are twelve years old and are going to be a firefighter some day YOU HAVE AN ORAL INTERVIEW IN YOUR FUTURE; YOU JUST DON'T KNOW THE DATE YET.

The choice is up to you. How do you think you can present yourself in the best light? If you have spent weeks or even months preparing or you are sitting in your car an hour before the interview still trying to figure out what you have done to prepare and hoping it looks something like what you put on you application.

My suggestion is you kill two birds with one stone. Prepare for your interview like you know you should, and next year you can give everyone a picture of you with your new badge for Christmas.
Good luck,
Captain Rob

The oral board gets you the badge!
After seeing clone after clone after clone candidates, someone will walk into the oral board room and BAM, BAM, BAM they set the room on fire! They nail their answers. The raters are thinking we've been waiting all week for this. We want to give them a badge! You can do it too! I haven't worked with a candidate yet who couldn't do it. They just didn't know they could. Just minor corrections are usually all that's needed to separate them from the clone pack of candidates.

Candidates have about a 20-minute opportunity for a 25+-year career. The ultimate goal is to have the least amount of distractions in your oral board. Everyone has his or her opinions. It seems once a person gets hired, they instantly become experts on how to get hired and quickly forget how hard it really was to nail that badge. Since oral board scores are calculated in hundredths of points (82.15, 87.63, 90.87, etc), bad or incorrect information can place a candidate less than one point out of the running and put them out of the process. I have seen this all too often.

Question: I just had an oral where I was asked to tell them about myself. I proceeded to "dump the whole load". Two questions later I was asked "What have you done to prepare yourself for the position of firefighter." I was stumped. I had just told them everything and now had nothing to say without reiterating.

Reply: One of the worst things you want to do is reiterate in the body or closing of your oral board.

This might help: The dilemma is shall I have a short or long answer for the typical opening question "Tell us a little about yourself". Remember "a little". This is just an ice breaker question to get you comfortable in the chair. A one-minute or less answer about you and your hobbies is all that is needed here. They don't need your name (they already have it) and NEVER tell them your age.

A "Nugget" here: If they look baffled after your short answer, ask if they want more. They usually won't.

Most candidates make a big error on this "Tell us a little about yourself" question by dumping the whole load on why they want to be a firefighter, what they have done to prepare, why this city and on and on. Many are surprised when they find out there's not a box on the rating sheet to score this, "Tell us a little about yourself" answer? So why would you want to dump the whole load when the question is not scored? That's not what this question is about. It's only to get you comfortable in the chair. Then, when the panel starts asking why you want to be a firefighter, what have you done to prepare and the other standard 30 possible oral board questions (you can get a copy of the 30 questions Here), you have to reiterate what you have already said. You lose valuable time and points here.

When you get into the body of your oral board please use signature stories about yourself. More on signature stories Here.

When some candidates start talking in an oral, it's like going on a journey. There could be no final destination. Most panel members aren't packed for the trip. I asked a candidate to tell me a little about himself during private coaching one day. I stopped him 12 minutes later somewhere in Montana. I said you have just used up 12 minutes of a 20-minute oral. What do you think we have time for now?

This just in: ...your materials helped me feel confident about my answers and kept them on target so I didn't brain dump on the first question.

Hello Captain Bob,
Just wanted to take a minute to say thank you. I ordered your materials earlier this year as I was testing around the Northern Virginia area for the first time. I was actively working to becoming physically fit for the CPAT, I was taking practice tests for the written exams, and I was totally stumped on how to practice for the oral interviews. Passing the first two I figured I had better "train" for the interviews and your materials helped me nail the both the initial interview and the Chief's interview for the municipality that was my first choice. I knew I could speak clearly and present myself but I was having a hard time deciding what to emphasize and how much to say and your materials helped me feel confident about my answers and kept them on target so I didn't brain dump on the first question. Thanks again for putting together an effective tool that works. I graduated from the academy last week and proud to say I earned a badge and my dream job.
Thanks again, Wells Wilson
PS. the tape recorder worked wonders!

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!" Get a bonus when you sign up for our F-r-e-e Newsletter Here. Over 300 pages of f-r-e-e information on our web site.

Fire "Captain Bob" Author of Becoming A Firefighter,
Conquer Fire Department Oral Boards, and It's Your Turn in the Hot Seat!

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