Donít be A Clone Candidate!
If you are handed a form along with your background packet that you could be
subjected to a polygraph understand LA City, like many other agencies that will
use this ploy to get you to bare your soul, has not given a poly in recent
history. But that could change at any time. Keep in mind though that even if LA City
may or may not give a poly, it is one
of the toughest backgrounds to get through. If you made it through the on line
Personal Background Questionnaire (PBQ) before your written, thatís a good
start. Just for ducks check out the poly here
Donít be A Clone Candidate!
Itís not the interview questions that are the problem, itís the answers!
Unfortunately many candidates become clones and give clone answers. And the
bigger problem is they donít know it. I hate to say, but often they are cloned
in fire colleges and academies. Clone answers can doom your oral board.
One of our officers was on an oral board for a big city. Several boards
interviewed 965 candidates. His board interviewed 250 candidates over a period
of 10 days. Imagine you were this officer and it is the fifth day of interviewing.
You have just come back from lunch where the city has wined and dined you.
Youíre tired and you know you have another five days of interviews ahead of you.
The next candidate is called in. The first question you ask is, ďWhat sparked
your interest and why do you want to be a firefighter?Ē He proceeds to give you
the same clone answers you have heard from almost every candidate for five days.
Public service, helping people, not the same thing every day, blah blah blah.
The magic that you needed to hook up with the oral board has passed and you didnít
hook them into listening to your stuff. You have just scored yourself. Trust me.
You can see the glaze come over the ratersí eyes. Itís like a deer caught in the
headlights. Theyíre gone and they wonít come back.
Itís not that you canít use clone answers. You can. But first you need to
deliver a signature story about you. Not a clone answer of anyone else. I havenít met a
candidate yet that couldnít come up with signature stories. Signature stories
demonstrate experience. They also tell that you not only know the answer to a
question, youíve lived it. Firefighters love firefighter stories. If you open up
with a signature story, you instantly separate yourself from the other clone
candidates. Stories show the oral board who you really are. You capture the
board and take them on a journey with a story they have never heard. Is this making
The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is being themselves on
purpose. When you are yourself, you become conversational because you are on
your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies.
An oral board member told me they had a candidate who didnít answer all the
questions the way they wanted him to do, but he had such great personal life
experience in his answers (stories), they hired him anyway. This is human
nature. Stories help bridge that gap. Clone answers and clone candidates donít have a
So the point here is not the question, but the answer. Start establishing your
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in mock orals with one of my
instructors who happens to be really great when it comes interviewing. In our
class that comprises mostly of people starting fire tech classes, nobody did
very well. It was a great lesson about how we need to start preparing and getting to
familiarize ourselves with the testing process. However, 2 guys who were friends
with our instructor participated in our mock orals, and put the rest of us to
They obviously have spent countless hours practicing orals with our instructor.
They really knew their stuff and not having any oral experience myself, I was
very impressed, along with the rest of my class. My question is that these guys
were so well rehearsed and knew each question and answers like the back of their
hand, they sounded like actors in a playóanybody could tell that everything down
to expressions, and hand motions had been practiced over and over to perfection.
Is this what interviewers want when they interview you? Do they really want to
see rehearsed answers? Donít get me wrong, the answers were very good, but
seemed so artificial. Please let me know if itís better to answer questions to the best
of your knowledge, or just to memorize good answers. Thanks, any input would be
Reply: What you saw was a perfect example of turning candidates into Clones.
Itís impressive at first. But if you felt is was too rehearsed, so will the oral
board panel. When you see it over and over again it gets old and puts the panel into a
daze. We could tell who the instructors were on many of the clone candidates by
the second question. This will stick out in an interview. One thing about clone
candidates; they will end up with a score that will put them in the clone pack.
One of our officers was going to be on an oral board panel for our department.
He had been telling people that he could tell which candidates were coached by me.
After the interviews, he was telling us about this great candidate who nailed
his interview and came out number one. I asked him if he thought the guy had been
coached? He said he was so good using his own stuff he couldnít have been.
When I told him this was one of my candidates, he screamed . . . NO WAY! Yep,
heís one of our guys.
Not only that, this guy had been testing for over 3 years. He scored 532 on his
last test in Stockton. He came to us three weeks before his oral with our
department. He had great stuff, but didnít know how to present it.
The proof is in the badge, and, as you already know . . . Nothing counts Ďtil
you have the badge . . . Nothing!Ē
Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter
Ask "Captain Bob" Any
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