FAQ's About The Entry Level Oral Interview

Feb. 14, 2004
The oral interview is the most important phase of virtually every hiring process.

The oral interview is the most important phase of virtually every hiring process. Whether you are testing to become a firefighter or attempting to land a job in the business world, you still must realize that the oral interview is the phase of the hiring process that will determine whether you will get hired or not get hired. Many people argue that it isn't fair to base a hiring decision on a 15 or 30 minute oral interview. While I agree with them, I do realize that this is reality land and that many organizations base a majority of their hiring decision on that oral interview. That is why it is critical to do your best on the oral interview and also know what you are getting into when you walk into your interview; all so that you can achieve the most possible points.

Here are some answers to some of the questions I am most frequently asked regarding oral interviews:

1. How many board members are usually on the oral interview panel?

2. Where do the board members usually come from?

Key point - when answering questions, make sure that you make eye contact with all of the panel members, make sure that you include all of them in your presentation, and make sure that you answer your questions in a way that everyone can understand. Don't start spitting out all these fire service related acronyms that a citizen from the community or a personnel services manager might not have a clue about. If they don't know what you are talking about, you risk the chance of not getting the maximum points!

3. What types of questions could I expect on the entry-level oral interview?

However, most departments have a specific (a.k.a. standardized) set off basic questions they will ask you. Typical questions include:

  • Why do want to become a firefighter for our department?
  • What have you done to prepare yourself for the position of firefighter?
  • Tell us about yourself?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses; and what are you doing to improve those weaknesses?
  • Questions asking you to describe a situation from your past where you have made a situation better (relating to a work project or accomplishment or a personnel issue).
  • Questions to test your tolerance, ethics, or values relating to stealing, alcohol, drugs, etc.
  • Is there anything else you have left out or would like to add?

4. Should I bring copies of all of my certifications / transcripts / accomplishments to the oral interview?

5. Should I bring a resume to the oral interview?

6. How long should I expect the oral interview to last?

7. What percentage of my overall score on the final hiring / eligibility list is based on my oral interview score?

8. How should I best prepare for the oral interview?

The best five ways to prepare for the oral interview are as follows:

  • Stop by fire stations to talk with the firefighters that are already employed there
  • Stop by city hall (or the county building if is a county fire department) to obtain information about the city or county demographics
  • Go to the fire department website and see what valuable information you might find (might be different than what you obtained in person)
  • Go to the city or county website to see what information you can find about the city or county that the fire department is located in (might be different than what you obtained in person)
  • Drive around the area that the fire department protects so that you can see for yourself what type of area you are applying for.

All of those above items are great things to talk about if you are ever asked the question "what have you done to prepare yourself" or "what do you know about the city or fire department?"

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