You Have to Pass The Psych Test First Time Out!

Nov. 13, 2006
What's included in the psych test? There is a written test that sets up a profile of you.

Most candidates are more than surprised when I tell them up to 40% fail the psychological test given by many departments.

I received one phone call and two e-mails from relatives of a firefighter/medic candidate who failed a psych test before the candidate called asking "What can I do now?" He had been testing for 5 years and this was the first job offer. I asked him if he knew who we were? Yes. Did you know we had a preparation program for the psych? Yes. Why didn't you get it? I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard this, "Things were going so great I didn't think I needed it."

Imagine after all the education, experience and time preparing to get this job like the above candidate . . . and you're eliminated. Then no one will talk to you to find out what happened. I've talked to too many candidates who were devastated and didn't know what to do next. This is a critical part of the testing process you need to prepare for and pass the first time out.

You've jumped through all the flaming hoops and made it through the background check. Then, you're conditionally offered the job pending the medical, which includes a psychological test. You take the test, no big deal right? Then the phone stops ringing.

You are out of the hiring process. You are told that you didn't meet the profile. What profile?

What do you mean I didn't meet the profile? I've got training, experience, education, every degree, certificate, merit badge, and a paramedic certification. I've been a volunteer, paid member of another department for 10 years, and lived and breathed this job. And, I don't meet the profile?

What's included in the psych test? There is a written test that sets up a profile of you. Then, there is an evaluation by a psychologist.

Written Test: The most common written portion of the psychological evaluation is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory interview test of up to 1000 questions. The aim here is not to pass the test but to go into the job fully prepared. Put your pride and natural defensiveness aside. They ask a few questions in several different ways. You want to answer questions "strongly for" or "strongly against" instead of being in the middle undecided. Answer questions to present yourself as a more social, interactive, team playing type of person, i.e., you would rather be in a conversation with others than reading a book alone.

You can get some insight on how the written test is scored HERE

HERE is a link to a book with the entire MMPI 2 exam in the appendix and most of the relevant scales.

Some written tests include an Ink Blot Test. You can find out more about this test HERE

The Evaluation: This is where the wheels start coming off the wagon for too many candidates.

Before the interview, the psychologist will often have you take a separate personality test, fill out a personal family history, a biography and additional information forms.

The biggest error candidates make during the psychological evaluation is thinking there is a patient/doctor confidentiality even when the doctor has them sign a release that there is not. This is not your family doctor. Guess who's paying the bill?

What gets candidates in trouble here is they want this job so bad that they will say and do almost anything to get it.

Although I don't encourage candidates to be less than truthful, those candidates who are honest to a fault diminish their chances of passing the psychological interview! That's right. You folks want this job so bad you will tell the psychologist anything they want to know. Even stuff they didn't ask you. Once you start down this road of total honesty, creating trails where you don't have to, tossing out more information than was asked for thinking this guy is your friend is where you get into big trouble. Especially when the psychologist says, "Everyone has skeletons in their closet, this interview is not designed to eliminate you from the process", or "you don't want to be too squeaky clean." So you open up. Then the phone stops ringing and no one will talk to you. You are out of the process Mcfly. And, you don't know why.

So what should you do?

Only answer the question you're being asked. Before you volunteer information, think before you speak. If they want to know more they will ask. Don't appear to be closed but warm and cordial. Present your ideas clearly. Don't ramble or chat. Be articulate. This is how you're going to be in the field. Believe it or not this is part of the job interview. You are making an impression of who you are going to be as a firefighter.

Make sure you dress up and don't slouch. Be prepared to audition for the part of being a firefighter. Know your strong points. Be prepared to demonstrate you are a team player.

A large city fire department called in twelve candidates for the psychological interview. Only three passed. They sent in six more, only two passed. Another six more were tested. Again, only two passed. All those who passed were our candidates. They prepared in advance with our special report that took us over a year to compile to let them know where the land mines were before they went in. Ask them if it was worth knowing what was a coming?

This from a new firefighter:
I want to comment on your psych test information and report. I had to take one for two departments. Well all I know is that I went into the test and followed your advice. I tried to answer the questions as honestly as I could, while presenting myself as a very positive social person. Some of the "experts" out there say that you should be brutally honest on the test. Well 3 good guys I know did just that, and they did not pass either test. We lost 10 out of 25 guys on one test! In all honesty I might not have passed either if I hadn't followed your advice. I feel that is a very dangerous test, and some of the advice these people are giving out is costing great candidates a job. I wanted to let you know that your advice worked, and I owe you much thanks! Steve.

This from an in service firefighter: During the last hiring process 2 years ago the psychologist passed 10 people. Of those 10, 2 have quit, 2 have been fired, and 1 committed suicide. I wonder if he is worth what the city pays him to evaluate prospects? Have a nice weekend.

More on the psych HERE

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Fire "Captain Bob" Author of:
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About the Author

Bob Smith | Magazine Staff

Fire "Captain Bob" Smith has helped countless entry level and promotional candidates gain their badges. He is a retired 28-year Hayward, California Captain, speaker/author of the CD/DVD programs "Conquer the Job Interview," "It's Your Turn in the Hot Seat!," the books, "Becoming a Firefighter-The Complete Guide to Your Badge," "Fire Up Your Communication Skills" and "Eat Stress For Breakfast," which have been translated in 24 countries including South Korea, Latin America and China. He is a coach, publisher, author, and a rater on job interviews.

"Captain Bob" has gained experience from more than 175 oral boards. To date over 2,300 candidates have received their badges from his program. He uses simple tools to uncomplicate the process.

He incorporates his own experience gained from three successful start-up businesses, a 41-year marriage (29 years that were good according to his wife), education, and 20 of research. To learn more about his dynamic programs, services, newsletter and more than 250 pages of proven tips and free information visit his website at

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