Wow, you got the interview. Sure, you’ve put in a lot of work to get this far, from schooling and certifications to all the hoops the department has put in the hiring process.
Now, you think the tough part is over… but there’s more to the story! The interview is just the beginning – this great journey that we all take, no matter what occupation we have chosen. Yes, it is a big deal, but now you have to land the job.
As a Fire Family, we think that just talking to the Chief and having an good recommendation is enough to get the job.
But, we often forget that the Human Resources Department is a beast of their own. The follow their own set of rules and regulations and it’s much less personal.
We sat down with a 30 yr retired Human Resources Director, Sandra Edwards, to ask her about some information related to what you should and should not say. Sandra worked in the military and hospital settings, not unlike the fire service, but she admits that there was a steep breakdown in what HR needed, and what the Chiefs wanted. Here’s what she suggests as an insider to HR, and an outsider to the Fire Life:
What you should and should not say in your Firefighter Interview
Some people think that they can nail the interview without any preparation – that is when you might fail.
As the old saying goes, “Prior proper planning, prevents piss poor performance!” Prepare, prepare, prepare.
If you don’t prepare, you may show up very nervous, blank mind, sweaty palms and unprepared. This increases your stress!
Before we talk about what to say, let’s look quickly at some things you should do prior to the interview by following this checklist:
• Find the address and make sure you know how to get there. Please take into consideration traffic, school zones, etc. Make sure that you arrive 15 mins early instead of 15 mins late.
• Decided what to wear – wear something that looks good on you and is comfortable. Don’t wear the latest fashion to look good. Most of the times you are dealing with “old fashioned” interviewers who have years and years on the job. Take this into account.
• Review your resume – make sure that you have updated resume and bring a copy with you, and bring copies for those that interview you.
Now, what should (and shouldn’t) say during an interview?
think about the questions as they ask them- don’t just blurt out an answer because you are anxious.
Remember that during the interview It is okay to stop and think about the question – it is also okay to ask if you can answer it later.
This would be a good reminder to add that you can bring a notepad, and you can write down the question to better understand it (as is the case with math or technical questions) and that you can also make a note to go back to the question at a later date.
Don’t get to personal – all answers should be job related. It’s not that you should be dishonest, because honesty is the best policy, it’s that certain things should be left unsaid that first meeting.
Legally you don’t have an obligation to share too much information. It is not necessary to go into any personal information regarding your family situation or personal issues. You don’t need to talk about relationships, children, or medical issues. Mentioning where you live, or your plans to move, or your thoughts about the environment are best left for small talk over coffee after you’ve gotten the job.
If for some reason, you may think it might imply, you make bring it up at a later date but not necessary at the first interview. In fact, I recommend never bringing it up at the first interview. You want them to hire you based on your credentials and work ethic.
Yes, I know the Fire Family is “one big family”, so if you have it on social media (like that you are married, politics etc) you might as well share it if it comes up. But my recommendation is to turn your pages private and keep these things under wraps that first meeting as they can deny your application without any recourse on your part.
School and grades are bound to come up. If you struggled in an area, but ultimately passed the course, you can choose to not disclose that information.
But, Consider if it would be helpful to you to share it- maybe they might ask about what you struggled with in Fire Standards or they might want to know if you have a weakness you’d like to work on that first year of probation.
You should come prepared to talk about technical parts of the jobs, as well as hypothetical. This is a good time to call up a trusted friend, or someone who has offered to mentor you, to see what they have to say about the technical side of a firefighter interview.
Lastly, you don’t have to share the perfect ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’, or any version of that, as it’s going to come up. You can tell them that you’d like to find a career home and master your techniques. Or you can tell them that with the current economic climate that you just want to maintain a job that you enjoy and that meets your needs.
Hiring people is very expensive, so HR is looking to find those that want to stay on the job. It’s why they are going to ‘probe’ you to get as much information as they can without breaking the law. It’s their job after all.
Just know you don’t have to share much about your personal life, and you don’t need to word vomit about insecurities, failures in school, or flaws you have.
A short answer is normally the best.