What Can I Expect from a Firefighter Interview?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills

Formats for conducting a firefighter interview will often vary from among fire departments, though in general, candidates can expect to address the same type of concerns and discuss the same potential contributions required of the job. Competition for firefighter jobs are extremely intense with far more applicants applying than positions available. Therefore, it is essential for candidates to demonstrate why they are right for the job during the firefighter interview. Regardless of the fire department hiring, this means candidates can expect to demonstrate a high degree of fortitude in uncomfortable situations. In doing so, candidates are called upon to elaborate on their background, handle situational questions effectively, and demonstrate how their qualifications match with the job requirements.

Firefighting positions are highly competitive.
Firefighting positions are highly competitive.

A firefighter interview is usually with an interview board, which often consists of three members: a fire captain, a personnel department staff member, and a member of the community. During the interview, candidates can expect the board to rate them according to how they carry themselves and respond to questions presented. Boards will expect, regardless of jurisdiction, for candidates to arrive prepared for the interview. Lack of preparation demonstrates a lack of commitment, which will likely resulting in a disqualification before the interview even begins since having commitment is held in high regard within the firefighting community.

Background questions in the interview will usually cover work experience, education, training situations and actual experience at fire scenes.
Background questions in the interview will usually cover work experience, education, training situations and actual experience at fire scenes.

Before the firefighter interview begins, the candidate is usually introduced to the interview board by a chairperson. After the introduction, the chairperson will ask the candidate to take a seat across from the interview board members. Candidates are expected to demonstrate courtesy and show self-confidence, although a degree of nervousness is acceptable and even expected. Making eye contact with the board members is important, and candidates should also sit upright in their chair.

Typically, the questioning portion of the interview will begin with asking the candidate about his or her background. Throughout the questioning, the board will make every attempt to assess the candidate’s potential to work effectively as a firefighter. Background questions will usually cover work experience, education, military experience, training situations and volunteer experience. Most importantly, the board will want to know how each of those experiences has prepared the candidate for a firefighting position.

Thereafter, the board will move onto situational questions where the members will want to assess how a candidate would respond to and handle uncomfortable situations. For example, the board may present a scenario where at the scene of a residential fire the candidate witnesses a fellow firefighter picking up items from the house and putting them into his or her coat. Then, the board will ask the candidate how he or she would respond. Not only will the board expect an answer, but also for the candidate to elaborate on why he or she would respond in the manner articulated.

Signaling the end of the firefighter interview, the board will ask the candidate if he or she has anything to add. If so, the candidate should provide that information in a clear and concise manner. This includes explaining why the information is relevant to the final hiring decision. Upon providing the information or declining to do so, the chairperson will thank the candidate for his or her time, and the candidate should do that same of the board members and chairperson.

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