You've got 1 interview for a 25+ year career. How are you going to stun
the interview panel to convince them to give you the badge over the other
Most candidates do poorly on their interviews. The problem is most
of them don't know how poorly they're doing. I've seen it too often after
being on over 175 fire interview panels. It's the most misunderstood and least prepared for portion of the testing process.
I've seen candidates with great credentials, but can't present the package at the interview. And, if you can't present the package, you don't get the job . .. Period! Never! Ever! Captain Bob Smith
Preparing for Your Firefighter Interview
Historically, the interview is the step in the firefighter hiring process where most candidates lose the job. Often, the main reasons for an unsuccessful interview are due to a lack of interview preparation by the candidate or he/she is unfamiliar with the interview process.
The interview is the first opportunity for you to meet with FDs face-to-face to sell yourself for the position. It is not enough that you want the job; you must demonstrate through awareness and past behaviours that you are suitable for this type of career. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Practice and preparation ahead of time are essential to your success.
The interview panel’s job is to ask you a set of behaviour-based questions (called Targeted Selection) relating to behaviours) expected from a firefighter. For example:
1. Adaptability - Maintaining effectiveness when experiencing major changes in work tasks or the work environment. Adjusting effectively to work within new work structures, processes, requirements or cultures.
2. Applied Learning - Assimilating and applying new job-related information in a timely manner.
3. Building Strategic Working Relationships - Developing and using collaborative relationships to facilitate the accomplishment of work goals.
4. Customer Focus - Making customers and their needs a primary focus of one's actions. Developing and sustaining productive internal and external customer relationships.
5. Initiating Action - Taking prompt action to accomplish objectives. Taking action to achieve goals beyond what is required. Being proactive.
6. Stress Tolerance - Maintaining stable performance under pressure or opposition (such as time pressure or job ambiguity). Handling stress in a manner that is acceptable to others and to the organization.
As part of your preparation for the interview, consider times when you have demonstrated these competencies. Since you do not know what question you will be asked, it will help to have more than one example for each competency so you are prepared for any question.
You do not require firefighter experience to successfully meet the position’s skill sets. Consider all your experiences including those gained through work, school, team/sports activities, volunteer or personal experiences. Be prepared to speak about them with a specific example and to phrase your responses in a S.T.A.R. format.
TARGETED SELECTION AND THE S.T.A.R. FORMAT
The major principle of Targeted Selection is that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour. Specific questions about situations that you have experienced helps to more accurately predict how you will behave in similar situations in the future.
SAMPLE TARGETED SELECTION QUESTIONS
- "Describe a time when you had to work at a fast pace for a long period of time."
- "Tell us about a time when you inspired someone to work hard to do a good job."
- "Provide an example of a time when you took steps to improve your performance."
- "Describe a situation when you developed new, creative ideas to solve problems."
THE ELEMENTS OF S.T.A.R.
When the interviewers ask you Targeted Selection questions, they have been trained to collect the data in a S.T.A.R. format. You are expected to follow this format when responding to the question:
(S) ituation / (T) ask - What was the CIRCUMSTANCE or What NEEDED TO BE DONE?
(A) ction - What DID YOU DO?
(R) esult - What HAPPENED or What FEEDBACK did you receive?
Another easy way to compose your answer is to tell it like you are relating a story to a friend. Tell the interviewers what caused you to act (situation/task), what you did about it (action) and how it turned out (result).
The interviewers are mainly interested in what your actions were in the particular situation. As a result, your example should be roughly:
20% Situation / Task 70% Actions 10% Result.
It is also important that you share what you specifically did. While FDs recognize that people work in teams or may be modest about their actions, this is your time to share what your contribution was; use the word “I”, not “we”.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW
Tip #1 – Conduct research on Behavioural Descriptive or Targeted Selection interviews
Visit your local library or bookstore to research this interview style. Talking to people who know or are familiar with this interview method may also prove helpful. Interview DVDs, CDs and book are available below.
Tip #2 – Commit to adequate preparation before your interview
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare! Practice and preparation ahead of time are essential to your success. It’s better to start preparing early so you are not caught off guard later.
Tip #3 – Know the position, department and city for which you are applying
Your objective should be to develop an understanding of the Fire Department you are applying to and of the firefighter position and of the city as a whole.
Tip #4 – Presentation is important on the day of your interview
This is your opportunity to form a positive impression with your interviewers. A professional and confident demeanour will go a long way. Your dress, grooming and deportment will be considered. Be conservative and present a professional image.
Be well versed with the department’s hair and jewellery standards. A respectful approach is required.
Recognize any distracting habits you may have and try to eliminate. Maintain good posture and direct eye contact.
Plan your arrival for no more than 10 – 15 minutes before your appointed time to avoid confusion for the interviewers. Arriving late always creates a bad first impression.
Tip #5 – Use your interview time wisely
A job interview is a communication process. Practice your verbal skills to ensure you:
- Listen carefully. (Ask for clarification if needed)
- Remain professional and positive.
- Speak clearly and audibly.
- Answer the questions with specific examples.
- Moderate your volume and animation.
Although it is wise to avoid excessively lengthy responses, ensure that you provide the relevant details. You don’t want to leave your interview thinking…”Oh! I forgot to tell them about…”.
When given the opportunity, ask well-thought out questions which demonstrate your interest in the position. Let your interviewers know why you want the job and what you can offer.
Sample Questions (These are only a small sample of possible questions)
Why do you want to work for X Fire and Emergency Services?
Describe in your own words Professional Firefighter.
Two words to describe you personally and professionally.
Why do you want to be a firefighter?
Discuss a time when you persuaded others to see your ideas.
An individual is consistently eating their lunch by themselves what would you do?
You are outside doing yard duties when fellow Fire Fighters make a racial slur to an individual walking by. What do you do?
A teammate removes their SCBA in a volatile environment. What do you do?
The chief orders a directive you do not agree with. What do you do?
Describe a time, in detail, when you took on a leadership role.
What role does public education and prevention in firefighting today?
What are you most proud of with regard to your accomplishments so far in firefighting?
What will you do with your down time during a shift?
Why should we hire you?
If you were working with us and a job closer to home came up what would you do?
We work with the OFM curriculum, what have you done to work towards this?
In the work environment how do you deal with stress?
Fire Interviews—Tips and Sample Questions
OS & CPS