Ride alongs can help you or destroy you! Candidates want the opportunity to do ride alongs as a way of showing interest, gain information for their oral, and can say in their oral they had been to the stations. Often they don't know the culture and etiquette.
We had a candidate in one day for a ride along. He had an opinion on every topic that was brought up, including sports and the current movies. When it came time for lunch, he was the first one on his feet to fill his plate. His mother would have died if she had seen it.
Let me be blunt here. Dummy Up! You don't have enough time to have an opinion! In this situation you have to be humble, have your questions already written down and realize you are a snotty nose rookie. Too many candidates come in wanting the badge so bad they act like they already have time and want to impress the guys with all of their knowledge. BIG ERROR!
Because, this information will spread like wild fire and destroy you with those who will be making the decisions. Too many candidates tank themselves here and they never know what happened. This applies even if you're already a firefighter applying for another department.
Don't take the bait. Even if you have a friend in the station. If the guys want to joke around and play games, don't do it. You are not part of their family yet. You have not time!
Some departments don't allow ride alongs during test time. If you're lucky enough to do a ride along, show up on time with a desert. If it's ice cream, make sure it's the round stuff; not the square stuff. We had so much square stuff during one of test we had a contest in the back yard to see who could throw the square stuff the furthest.
After giving this information at a college fire program a candidate shows up at my station the next day. He didn't make an appointment, have desert, or have any questions ready. McFly?.
One candidate told me in another class that he had made an appointment and had to wait a half hour when he got there. Poor baby. Understand this is our home. We spend more time at the fire house than with our own family. So here you come waltzing into our home with not knowing what to do.
If you're fortunate to get a ride along stay for lunch if offered. Offer to pay your share and do the dishes. Leave before dinner and never spend the night. You might interfere with the kick back time during and after dinner.
Should you go to as many or all the stations in a department? Please spare us this part. Don't turn yourself inside out trying to cover all of the stations hoping the word will get back that you did. It will make you look anal and compulsive, which you probably are if you're doing this. This will raise its ugly head in the psychological test if you get that far. One or two stations is fine. If you try to do them all only increases the chances of saying or doing the wrong thing or catching a shift of malcontents that will bad mouth you.
If you're bent on doing a ride along, first make an appointment. During test time things get crazy. Be patient. Act like you would if you were the new rookie in the station.
"Absolutely Nothing counts until you have a real BADGE . . . Nothing!
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 book "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.