What to Wear to the Firefighter Job Interview

May 14, 2004
The strongest non-verbal statement you can make in the oral board is what you wear.

The strongest non-verbal statement you can make in the oral board is what you wear. It is time to step up and make the investment.

I had a candidate tell me he went to an interview wearing a tie, suspenders and no jacket. I asked him, "Who did you think you were Larry King?" I asked him if they called him back for a Chief's interview? No. The defense rests.

Men: Do wear a wool suit in dark blue or gray. Pinstripes are fine, but avoid brown, black, or high fashion brightly colored suits. Sport coats or blazers are out, so is polyester. Tie should be in a solid color such as navy, red, maroon, yellow stripe, or paisley print. Wear a white, off white, or pale blue long sleeved shirt in cotton or a cotton blend. Starch it no matter what the instructions say. No patterned shirts!

Don't: Wear casual or novelty watches, too much jewelry, monograms, religious, political, or fraternity affiliation accessories. Beards are out; mustaches are a gray area. When in doubt, shave it off. Don't wear cell phones, pagers or any other electronic leases.

When my son was trying to become a firefighter I begged him to shave off his mustache. He said Dad this took me 26-years to grow and I'm not going to shave it off. He got hired. He got married and his wife made him shave it off. Go figure.

Women: Do wear a tailored business-like suit or dress with a jacket, not overly feminine. Choose suits in conservative solid colors such as gray, navy blue, black, beige, or camel with conservative hemlines. Natural fibers such as wool are your best bets.

Always wear stockings in natural shades even if it's 110 degrees. Avoid dark colors with light colored shoes. Always carry a spare pair.

Don't: Wear anything flamboyant, trendy, faddish, low-cut, too tight or short, or otherwise provocative. You are not trying to make a fashion statement, but trying to get a badge! No heavy perfume, ankle bracelet, stockings with patterns, lace, bold colors, or seams; sandals, very high heels, unusual colors, or casual styles. Ladies: hair up; no bangs falling into your eyes or face. Don't ever wear slacks, even pantsuits.

From Anita:You say women should wear a business suit, but not a pantsuit to their oral interviews. What's the difference? During some coaching for interviews with a very 'oral board successful' captain friend of mine, I was told to never wear a dress to an interview because it makes women appear too feminine. So, I have always worn a black pantsuit to my interviews and people have always said that I have looked very professional. Is it hurting me? Thanks for your help! Anita

Reply: It's your choice, but I believe it's hurting you. You want to use everything to your advantage. When a women walks into an oral board wearing smart business looking attire, it changes the dimension of the interview trust me.

Yes, the panel members are supposed to be professional. Yeah, they're still men too. They can and will be distracted by what women look like, wear and how they interact.

If you don't think how you wear your hair, attire and accessories can be a distraction you are wrong. Being wrong could cost you the points you could have had going in prepared.

I was on a panel one day and a female candidate came in with long hair, a shorter skirt and a necklace that distracted us. Her long hair had been a little wind blown as she walked into the building.

We kept focusing on that pendant on her necklace. It looked like a naked women. It turned out to be a weight lifting woman flexing her muscles.

Like it or not, the suggest formula says: Ladies: hair up, no bangs falling into your eyes or face.

I had a female candidate contact me prior to an oral interview for the City of Oakland. This paramedic had been trying for 5 years to get on the fire department. She just missed the cut at Contra Costa County. She was tired of testing.

I asked her what she was going to wear. She said she always wore a pants suit. I convinced her it was time to step up and make the investment. She showed up for coaching in a tailored (killer) wool suit.

I showed her in 10 minutes on the video the mistakes she was making in her presentations.

She called me two weeks later on her birthday, that she had received her notice that she nailed that job in Oakland. She has the job of her dreams.

"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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