Oral Board: Beat The Clock!

July 13, 2004
Firefighter candidates should field the question presented, satisfy the board and move on.

The average oral board is 20 minutes. If you have 5 questions, that gives you 4 minutes for each question and answer. Add on an opening and closing (which are not usually scored) and you will have less time for your answers.

Candidates don't have time to deliver long, over kill, salvo drop, clone answers that drives most oral board panel members nuts anyway. I have been on panels where we either zoned out with these answers that went into minute detail or we just cut off the candidate, probably before they delivered the good stuff for their answer, and went on to the next question.

There are some oral boards where the session is being timed. If you don't move along, you won't get a chance to answer all of the questions to get your best score. If you have all these questions that go on and on and end by trailing off somewhere in left field, you might want to reconsider your position. I asked a candidate in a coaching session the opening question, "Tell us a little about yourself?" Fourteen minutes later we were somewhere in Montana. I said, "You've just used up 14 minutes of a 20 minute oral, what do you think we have time for now?"

Another candidate did a great job in a coaching session but didn't stop adding on more to his answers before his next interview. When the panel asked him what he knew about the City of San Jose, he went on and on (yes, one of the panel member told me this) ending with telling them how many convention hotel rooms they had in the city. Yep, that's the person we want to hire that will drive everyone in the station crazy. We already have enough of those.

Instead of just keeping it simple, often candidates complicate and over analyze the question until they get analysis paralysis. They ask anyone that will stand still long enough what they think. You end up sounding like a canned "Clone".

Candidates need to be prepared to field the question presented, get their top score, satisfy the oral board and move onto the next question. Why give the panel a blue print, when we they just need a sketch. Why give us a dump truck, when we just need a trailer?

That's why it's so important to be practicing with a tape recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material on those long drawn out answers, and find out if you really sound like Donald Duck.

Short Interviews

I was scheduled for a half hour interview with the board, they presented themselves and I shook there hands firmly with confidence. They asked me 6 questions', they where worded a little bit different from what I was studying in your tapes' but after I took off the disguise it was the same point! I answered them, but I had little stumbles here and there. What worried me was that when I came out of the room there where couple of there city firefighter's with stunned face's and I was wondering why" and then I looked at my watched and saw that I was only in there for about ten to fifteen minutes... I'm freaking out here Bob" What do you think are short interview's good or bad? Thanks''

It is not unusual to for candidates to stumble a few words in their oral board. The raters expect it.

If you had personalized answers for the base line of possible oral questions, practiced faithfully with a tape recorder to hear what the oral board was going to hear out of your mouth, delivered "Nugget" answers, it is not uncommon to get out of an oral board quickly with just 6 questions. And, don't psych yourself out by thinking their firefighters were stunned. You probably nailed it.

Don't worry until its time to worry. It's not time to worry yet!

This candidate did indeed nail it and got his badge!

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

Fire "Captain Bob" Smith has coached countless entry-level and promotional candidates to get their badge. Over 2,000 candidates have received their badges from this program. He is a retired, 28-year veteran firefighter from Hayward, Calif. Captain Bob is a well-known speaker, author of the audio/video program "Conquer the Job Interview" and the books "Eat Stress For Breakfast" and "Fire Up Your Communication Skills." He is a member of the prestigious National Speakers Association. You can book him as a speaker or get a copy of his books and tapes by calling toll free at 888-238-3959. E-mail: [email protected] or Web site: www.eatstress.com

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 www.EatStress.com.

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