The Greatest Show on Earth

May 7, 2007
If you got to the circus early now you could go down on the main floor where the three rings greeted visitors with several performing acts. This reminded me of the meet and greet when you first walk into the oral board room.

After several years we went to the circus with our four grandsons. It was a new, fresh, exciting experience. In several ways it reminded me of an oral board.

If you got to the circus early now you could go down on the main floor where the three rings greeted visitors with several performing acts of elephants, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, and much, much more. This reminded me of the meet and greet when you first walk into the oral board room and answer the icebreaker question "Tell us a little about yourself".

The opening act was a large canon that shot a husband and wife at high speed half way down the auditorium. Even though you knew it was coming, everyone including my four- year-old grandson sitting in my lap jumped. I related this to your first question of "Why do you want to be a firefighter" or "What have you done to prepare for the position." Even though the panel knows your answer is coming they can be jump started in their minds by your answer; after hearing clone after clone that has put them to into a stupor la la land. A unique signature story about you they have never heard before. You hit them with bam, bam like the canon, you take them on the journey and you're on a roll. This is critical during these first few seconds of the interview.

The circus is fast moving. As a balancing act is performing in ring one, in the shadows over in ring three the crews dressed in dark clothes work stealth-like to prepare for the next stunning act of Olympic class gymnasts on high steel poles defying gravity. Think of this as you're answering a question but in your mind you are scanning your script anticipating that next question. You grin inside when the next question and the one after that you have drop down killer answers laced with your golden nugget signature stories. You're having a seamless no surprises interview.

Jugglers appeared, reminding me of being at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Warf in San Francisco where street artists perform. This particular Sunday a juggler began his performance by juggling three oranges. Then, he said throw me something, give me something. Out of the crowd came a purse with a long strap. It was immediately suspended with the 3 oranges. He yelled again throw me something, give me something. Being San Francisco a butcher knife came out of the crowd. It too was suspended with the purse with the long strap and the long oranges. Again, he called out throw me something, give me something. From the crowd appeared a black bowling ball. Effortlessly it was in the air being juggled with the butcher knife, the purse with the long strap and the three oranges. I want to invite you as the juggler in your oral boards so when you go in, sit down, and they start giving you questions you will be able to field them like the juggler returning them with your gold nugget answers to get your best score.

Returning to the Circus

Then, the announcer yells, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages I want to call your attention to the center ring. Spotlights scan from all corners of the auditorium where the center ring is shrouded with high sheer drapes. As the drapes fall there are elephants, zebras and horses performing to the ooohs and ahaaa of the audience. It's like waiting for those questions where you are loaded for bear. As the panel turns their spotlight to you in the center ring, you pause then deliver your super nova "nugget" answers that create the thought in the panel member's minds; I have been waiting for this all week.

The announcer calls your attention high about the big top where trapeze artists perform the most difficult triple spins side by side. This is you nailing it! You know it! The feeling that builds its own energy and confidence. You're seeing the rare little smile on the faces of the oral board members. They're feeding your answers with tips and drawing you into enhance your presentation build your confidence as the circus trainers give treats to an animal that has done a great job. You've never felt this way before in an interview. You know you're coming back for the next performance that will be the chief's interview and a real shot at a badge.

You're feelings are quickly confirmed as you leave the room when the staff hands you the coveted background packet. You have jumped through the flaming hoops and you are now on the fireside of the hiring process. You're weepy as you leave the building because this is the farthest you have ever gotten in the hiring process. You can taste that badge.

Haven't been there or had that feeling. Remember just like a circus act you must have your practiced-rehearsed skill set in place before you show up to audition for the part. Then, you can be invited to play in the Greatest Show on Earth. That of being sworn into the position of being one of the last of America's heroes. The curtain is going up. Are you ready?

Here's a candidate who was:

Dear Capt Bob,
Well I know you hear this a lot, but the techniques you teach work. I tested for 3 departments here in Southern California. The third time's a charm, and in my case it's true. It was the first time I ever interviewed for a fire department job, and well the chief called me the other day and offered me a position. I thought I would have to wait until I finished a fire academy before I would get any hits. This new job came at the perfect time. My wife and I had our first baby. Coming across your program helped me show the department who I really am and well I got the job. Once again thank you for the info, and I tell all my friends who are testing to visit your website. Jesse

Welcome to the fire service Jesse.

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"
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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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