I couldnít Believe
Well it finally happened, after all these years of hearing things firefighter
candidates have said in interviews, that some expert has told them was the right
thing to do, I hear it first hand. I was sitting in the office of the fire
station were I was working. The
engineerís son had a friend testing for our department and he wanted him to talk
to our firefighter, the newest guy on.
Iím sitting there
doing my work, and from the other room I hear him recommend this guy tell the
board that he wants to be a firefighter because the pay is good and there are
lots of days off. Now Iím waiting for them to laugh, and tell him theyíre
kidding. It doesnít happen. The engineer has been on for 26 years, and hasnít
had an interview for 19 years. The new guy was a lateral medic, and didnít have
much of an entry interview. So I can see how this poor guy can be thinking,
heís in a fire station for the dept heís testing for, and heís got a guy with
many years on, and a guy who was the last one hired. He must be getting the
straight scoop. He was getting the exact opposite. He had signed up for the
ďHow To Fail An Oral Board" class, and he didnít know it.
As I walked into the room, I couldnít let this go, the new guy was telling him
that a good weakness to share with the board is that youíre a
perfectionist. Now Iíve worked around perfectionists and itís no walk in the
park, they think they donít do anything right, and neither do you.
The candidate was Hispanic, and I asked him if he spoke Spanish. He told me he
spoke a little and could understand a little more. I asked him if that might not
be his weakness, that while he spoke some Spanish, it needed improvement. He
bought some language tapes on the way home from the station, so he could
demonstrate he was doing something to fix the problem.
Now I find myself arguing with the new guy about what the best response is to
why you want to be a firefighter. His theory was the board really wants to know
why you want to be a firefighter. Trust me on this one, WE DONíT CARE, if you
like the hours, pay, and status the job will bring you. You need to tailor your
responses to match what the board is looking for, not what you feel, save that
for your girlfriend. But you can take those things that motivated you to become
a firefighter, and make a beautiful response to this question, and then it's
I worked with this
same guy, the expert new guy, again the other day. I mentioned to him that I
thought his responses were about the worst I'd heard. He said, "Yea, I've
always been lousy at oral interviews." I asked him why he was giving advice and
he said, "Well, everyone keeps sending people to me because I'm the new guy, so
I figured I'd try to help." I told him he was, if anything hurting their
chances, not helping, and he agreed.
Know this. There are people out there who know their bad, but will still give
you advice because you asked.
In entry- level interviews we are going to ask three types of questions:
1. Situational questions: to find out how you will handle lying, cheating,
stealing, drinking, drug use, and getting along with others.
2. Information questions: What have you done to prepare. What do you know
about our department? These questions have a definite answer, itís like a math
question two plus two is always four. There is a way, on our ratings sheet, for
us to indicate you got it right, or you got it wrong.
3. Subjective questions: Why do you want to be a firefighter, what first got
you interested, what is customer service, ethnic diversity, your closing
statement. These are not questions that have a right or wrong answer. We are
going to rate you, basically, on if we liked your performance, and if you drew
us in. Itís more like an English exam; your score is based on you getting us to
identify with you.
You want to think of the responses to these questions like a military
operation. You want to get in, hit all the targets you can, and then pull right
back out. You don't get any points for just talking, and you run the risk of
loosing the board.
Take every opportunity you can get to practice your oral interview skills; you
can ever take police tests. Every time you speak in front of others you will
get better, and more comfortable doing it. But please understand everybody on
the fire department is not an expert, some of them donít even know how they got
hired, and after listening to them talk I canít figure it out either.
Good Luck, Firefighter Rob
707 869 1330
Got a call from a candidate last Monday. He lives in
Washington now and his oral was to be on Friday. He got his FF1 from an academy
in So Calif. He said he hasnít helped much trying to get a job. He has now
been a medic for 8 months with no luck in testing. In the most pathetic
monotone voice he said this is the department he really wants to work for and
(with absolutely no enthusiasm) he will be one of the 15 hired.
He asked if he could run one of his answers on what a negative is for him that
his firefighter buddies and other friends helped him work out. Sure,
shoot. Joel said a negative for me is my past. Even though I got a DUI and
some other minor stuff, thatís not who I really am.
Like FF/Rob said above, I couldnít believe my ears.
Uh, Joel that answer would only open a can of worms that you would never be able
to close. Donít use it.
Joel said, OK how about this one. Another negative for me is my paramedic
skills. This job will help me improve them. Again, I couldnít believe my
ears. Yep, thatís the guy we want to hire, the one with the poor medic
skills. Canít use this one either.
Like Rob mentioned above, everyone becomes an expert when they get hired. The
answers Joel worked out with some firefighters and friends were definitely not
helping but hurting him. The bigger problem is he didnít even have a
clue. This was just one answer. How bad were the others?
I would like to say this was an isolated incident. Joel is not the only
one. We encounter these bad answers on a regular basis. It is especially
painful in an actual oral board where we see the candidates die a slow dead one
question after another. Then the candidates wonder why they don't get hired.
This is an area where we try to help candidates from stepping on the land mines.
After a little probing, we did find a negative Joel could use that he was
working on to improve.
Has any what you've read made sense? Would you go on an African safari without a
guide? Then why would you go to an oral interview without a guide to show you
where the rocks are so you can make it across the river without being washed
away? Haven't you been beat up enough yet? We would you like to work with you
to turn things around? It's been said that when the student is ready
to learn, the teacher appears. Are you at this point now?
We can help you where ever you're at in the process. From the written test,
physical agility, resume, oral board, background, psychological, or promotional
interview. We can shorten the learning curve to the closest point between you
and the badge. The proof is in the badge! To date, we have handed out 2,077
badges in our program. One of the next could be for you. The ball is in your
court. How are you going to field it?
I was speaking at a college fire technology program
recently. The candidates seemed to sluff off their attention when I touched on
the psych test. Yea, yea, yea this does not apply to me was the
reaction. Until they couldnít believe their ears when a candidate said, you had
better pay attention to Captain Bob because he is right on target. He said,
ďHey Iím not a bad guy, but I recently took a psych test as the last step in
getting hired. By the time they got done, they made me look like Charles
Manson. There was dead silence and full attention as he revealed his story.
This opened a flood gate of questions that seemed would never end. Just because
you have passed the written, physical, oral, background and medical, please
donít get the illusion that you are bullet proof, on a roll, and the psych test
is going to be a day at the beach. Once recent candidateís dad was a captain at
the department where his last step was the psych. He called devastated that he
was out of the process.
ďNothing counts Ďtil you have the badge . . . Nothing!Ē
Ask "Captain Bob"
Top of Page
Fire "Captain Bob" Smith has coached countless entry level and
promotional candidates to get their badge. He is a retired 28-year Hayward, Ca.
Captain, speaker/author of the audio/video program "Conquer the Job Interview,"
the books "Eat Stress For Breakfast" ISBN 09657620-3-3, "Fire Up Your
Communication Skills" ISBN 09657620-6-8 and 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.
Web site: www.eatstress.com