Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Getting an interview for the position of a firefighter is an exciting time. Whatever you put on your application and resume caught someone's attention, and now they want to meet you in person. During my career, I have reviewed hundreds of applications and hired many firefighters. Let me give you a few tips that may help you interview better for the job.
Dress for success: You will likely meet with a group of fire department officials during your interview. Your first impression is always essential. Coming into the interview with a baseball cap on, ripped jeans or sweatpants may not be in your favor. Come prepared to show your best self. If you are not sure how to prepare for the interview, you can ask before you arrive.
Greet the panelist – When you arrive, greet all of the panelists. They want to know you're friendly and able to communicate openly. This is no time to be shy. COVID will likely change the former practice of shaking hands, but you can try.
Sit on the edge of the seat – I have seen too many candidates get comfortable in their seats when interviewing. They first sit up straight in the chair, and as time goes on, they start leaning back as if they were watching a movie. Pull out the seat and make a conscious decision to sit on the front edge so you don't get too comfortable.
Practice your body language – 60-90% of our communication comes from our body language. Practice your facial expressions and body language before the interview. Crossed arms tell interviewers you are closed. Not looking at those asking you questions can raise concerns about trust. Sit up straight, look them in the eye, and give them the best answer you can. Be yourself!
Use your life experience - The questions read to you are trying to gauge your knowledge and experience level. They are written to evoke a response. Most of the questions will be focused on getting to know you and your life's experiences. If you do not know the answer to the specific question, find a life experience you can use to show you understand the question's concept. For example, answer this question. "Please tell us what teams you have associated with and your role within the team." The fire service is team-driven. If you are working on your own at an emergency scene, you better be assigned that task. Where you a Boy Scout? On the volleyball team or in a product development workgroup? Say something!
Ask a few questions - Typically, you will have time to ask a few questions at the end of the interview. Do not pass up this opportunity. It will allow you to express your interest in the position and explain your purpose. You can bring a notepad with you to the interview.
A few days after the interview, follow-up by sending an email thanking the panelists for their time interviewing you. Let them know you enjoyed the process and look forward to hearing back from them soon. Not only will this help bring your name back up, but it is also a rare occurrence these days. Be the classy one.
Like all other organizations, the fire service is looking for people who can stay engaged in their mission. We are looking for people with a positive mindset who is interested in serving others. This business has no place for an "I" or "me" attitude. We are an Elite Team and have a responsibility to one another while we serve. We must stay committed to training hard, participating, and always be ready to respond. Go into the interview and tell them what your goals are. Let them know you are committed to the team, and you want nothing more than to become a better person while serving in one of the world's greatest industries.