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Monday, December 13, 2010

How To Become A Firefighter Part 3: Research

Congratulations. You've passed the written examination and have been invited to participate in the oral boards. Your interview is.....

Now what? Time to do some research. Firefighters are an opinionated bunch and we all think that our department is the best. We expect you to know why it is the best. We want to know why you want to work with us more than any other department. Now you and I know that this is complete BS. You want to work for a fire department. At this point, getting hired anywhere is better than working for the low wages on the box or worse. We know that you are applying everywhere but we want to know that you are willing to put in the time and energy to find out things about our department.

So how do you do this? First thing is to go to the department web page. Figure out all the information you can from there. It's not a bad idea to memorize some statistics before you meet anyone. Online forums (such as the ones found on firecareers, firejobs, or firefighter-jobs) are a good source too.

Once you've gathered all the information you can from the web schedule an appointment with one of the fire stations. When you visit, don't show up empty handed. Ice cream is a great idea. Make a list of information you would like to know and bring it with you. Write down their answers. If they offer you a meal, kindly refuse. If there is a project that they have to do while you're there, offer to help. Roll up your sleeves (go in a shirt and tie) and help. They will tell you not to bother but doing things like this make a very good impression. Don't just hang out at the station. Your visit has a purpose. Once it's done, move on. The more stations you visit, the better. Double houses and BC houses get you more exposure. You want to make a great impression so that when you see them on the interview panel they already have a positive outlook towards you.

That being said, it can also have the opposite effect. If the visit leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the guys at the station you've more or less shot your chances. We had a guy this last week just pop in to the station. We were off training until dinner time. So we came back to the station to find this candidate waiting for us. We were cordial and answered his questions. He just talked while we dried the rig (it was raining) and cooked dinner. My captain was nice enough to offer him dinner so he stayed and ate with us. We didn't plan on him being there and he didn't help cook/clean and didn't offer to pay for his portion. He knew almost nothing about our department and was overly confident. I don't know for a fact how he did on his interview but I know the story of his visit spread through at least our battalion faster than a wind driven wildfire.

Another thing to do is to have mock interviews with company/chief officers of a fire department. If you can do it with officers of the department for which you are testing so much the better.

In general, the more information you have on your prospective department, the better.

Next, The Interview
Previous, The Written Exam


Rachel said...

Awesome set of posts! My husband is graduating from our regional fire academy on Friday and will begin the job search soon. He's going to love your tips! Thanks a lot!

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

Rachel- Good luck. It's a great career. Not all of the departments do things exactly this way but hopefully some of it helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

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