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The importance of Resumes

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  • The importance of Resumes

    I wanted to share an email that was sent to me by a Division Chief in charge of Training and promotional exams for a major fire department in northern California. I have removed all of his personal information for reasons that will be obvious after you read the email.

    Chief Lepore,

    Thanks for your article on the importance of resumes in this month's California State Firefighter’s magazine; it is truly relevant to performance on promotional exams. I am finding that many individuals that I come across have put very little time in to producing a worthy resume. In fact, during the last promotional exam for the position of Battalion Chief I had put on in our organization, the rating board had privately told me that one of the candidates had damaged his scores because of a poorly done resume.

    In fact, they were embarrassed for him because of the quality of his
    resume. I was able to follow up with him that this was an area that he needed to work on and pointed him in a direction to fix this situation. What I have found is that a poor resume does more damage than no resume at all.

    It is my opinion that too many fire service personnel are producing more than a one-page resume. Unless one is going after the position of Fire Chief, resumes should be one-page only. This past exam for the position of Fire Chief in our organization gave me a great example of the relevance of one-page resumes. Bob Murray and Associates put on the exam and Bob personally mentioned his appreciation in me putting together a well layed-out one page resume that drew attention to significant accomplishments. So, it does matter.

    Thanks again for your article; I hope to share it with a number of


    (name removed)
    Division Chief-Training & Safety
    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief

  • #2
    I'm sure this true, but I wish the
    author could have elaborated
    a little more as to why the resume
    was poor quality...Was it grammer,
    structure, length, content or all
    the above ?

    So basicaly it's supposed to
    be a brief sales flyer about
    yourself kinda thing, that can
    be either tossed in the trash
    or possibly looked at. Just like
    timeshare condos in the everglades.

    All the training, experience, dedication
    thrown out because of bad advertising.
    I know that job seeking is
    a sales pitch, I unfortunately
    suck at it.


    • #3
      The author of this email asked that I remove his name as he did not want to insult his guys. I respect his wishes.

      It is really important to understand the importance of a resume. It is the panel’s first look at you, the candidate. We see it before you enter the room. A strong resume sets the tone. A poor resume is difficult to recover from.

      Having the honor of serving as an evaluator on a bunch of promotional exams, I can share with you that we pay attention to EVERY detail. This begins with your objective. Take the time to be creative and describe the position you aspire to. Other glaring mistakes are misspellings, grammatical and punctuation errors, and formatting inconsistencies.

      Take the time to put your resume on nice paper and in a nice folder. Describe your responsibilities in detail. Highlight your department and/or committee work. If you are competing for the position of Lieutenant or Captain, emphasize your supervisory and/or training experience.

      In short, pass your resume to anyone and everyone have them look at it with a critical eye. One of the most qualified people is the department’s secretary. She spends all day on the computer and will probably have good suggestions for you. Another idea is to go to the officers on your department and ask to see theirs. They have obviously been successful and most of us have one that is relatively up to date. Most people don’t mind if you “borrow” things from their resume (imitation is the best form of flattery).
      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief


      • #4
        Eric viewed this post and asked me to post his reply. Here it is. If you would like send me an email and I will put you in contact with him. In the meantime here are his thoughts:

        "In response to your question, it is very important that a resume demonstrate
        the professional qualities for the position you're testing for. In this case
        where the person was testing for the position of Battalion Chief, you have to
        remember that the quality of people who are evaluating you are higher level
        managers and department heads that are evaluating mid-management personnel.
        These people tend to be higher educated and have a greater understanding of
        management and leadership concepts, so in turn they expect to see higher
        quality work from candidates. In this persons case, their resume was not
        organized in a professional format, their work history didn't spell out
        details of assignments but just dates of where they worked, their education
        accomplishments were incomplete, there was no stated objective for their
        resume, and generally was not of the quality you'd expect from a
        mid-management position. It would have been a stretch for an entry-level
        position in my opinion. This candidate learned a valuable lesson from a poor

        I do take the time to briefly look at resumes after the candidate has left
        the room. Most people do. Despite how well you perform in an oral process,
        evaluators are curious about how a candidate looks on paper. This is because
        some people have a natural gift to sell themselves in a positive light, but
        haven't accomplished much on paper. Others can get so nervous, they neglect
        to sell themselves properly. The purpose of a resume to demonstrate a level
        of professionalism and make known your accomplishments. This is how business
        works at all levels. Remember, that as you go higher in an organization your
        accomplishments need to reflect the position your testing for in "all areas".
        Training, education and experience are all important factors in selling
        yourself, the resume is a way to draw positive or negative attention to
        yourself. With so many candidates seeking the position of firefighter, bad
        advertising will eliminate you as a candidate. "


        One more thing to add to that response,

        "There are many web sites that will tell you how to write a resume or cover
        letter if you search. With these free services available, there is no excuse
        in producing something less than professional".

        Have a great New Year,

        Last edited by BCLepore; 12-31-2006, 09:49 PM.
        Paul Lepore
        Battalion Chief


        • #5
          I am in the process of making a resume for an up-coming fire service job. It is not as an Officer in a department.
          I know that my resume is too long at 1 3/4 pages. I just don't know what to cut out.
          Fortunately, I have time to work on it because these jobs won't be posted for at least another month.

          I would like to know which carries more weight:
          a Letter of Recommendation

          Is the line "References available upon request" a no-no? I have seen this done many times and thought an automatic furnishing of the information would be more appropriate.

          May I have some thoughts and advice, please?

          If you are willing to teach;
          I am willing to learn.


          • #6
            would like to know which carries more weight:
            a Letter of Recommendation or References?

            Neither. Have you ever read a bad one? We don't read them.

            Is the line "References available upon request" a no-no?

            Yep, it's a no-no. A waste of space.

            This might help:

            Most resumes are poorly done. The business resume format is not the best for firefighter candidates. That’s because with the high volume of candidates, the raters only have a few moments to look at resumes before you walk into the room.

            What's the first impression the job panel has of you? Your physical appearance, yes. What else? Your choice of words, eye contact, and your hand shake are all important. You probably missed the most important point!

            Your application and resume before you walk in the room! I can't tell you how many times we've seen applications with misspelled words, horrible spelling, chronological order wrong, and we haven't even seen the candidate.

            I'm a one-page resume guy for entry level; without a cover letter. Do not give us a book. we will not read it. The board does not have enough time. And do not come into any interview thinking you are going to hand the resume to us and we're going to read it then. That is not going to happen. Often candidates will come in, they will try to hand out resumes, it upsets the normal flow of the interview. We're going to read it before you come in the room. If you can submit a resume, get it to personnel to be placed in your file before the interview. Don't fax It. Make the appropriate copies and hand deliver or FedEx them.

            A candidate faxed me his resume for review. The cover letter for the position he was applying for stated, "Attached is a "brief" description of my qualifications." I laughed out loud because he had sent me a book. The printer ran out of paper. Save a tree, the raters will not read these volumes. Don’t make me send out a search party to find your great stuff. Hit me with your major qualifications, starting with your experience, on one page. Write it believing the raters won’t go past the first page. If you put your resume in a folder, don’t cover up the first page with a title page. Keep it simple.

            On a chief's oral you can add more to your resume for education and letters of recommendation. But don't forget to still put the important stuff on the first page, because that's what the raters are going to be looking for.

            On the first page of your resume, many people start with their education. For me, I like to have experience jump right off the page. Hit me with experience, bam. Fire fighting, bam. Some kind of training, apparatus operator training, fire school, whatever it is. Hit me with that experience. And that doesn't necessarily have to be in chronological order or fire service experience. So many of the resumes I see, way down at the bottom of the first page, I find the important stuff. Because that's how it falls in chronological order. It starts with some education up here, some college, whatever, blah blah, experience, now we're down at the bottom of the page where I might not see it.

            I was reviewing a candidate's resume and in chronological order his paramedic certification was at the bottom of the page. I asked him, "What were the most important items on his resume? He said, my firefighter 1 and paramedic certification." They were at the bottom of the page where they might be missed. We put those items on top, so those are the first things that hit you. We put the dates on the right side of the page where it can be referenced. Once you put the dates on the right-hand side of the page, you list your experience in order of importance; not chronological order. This makes a big difference.

            My suggestion for a firefighter resume format:

            Carl Mcfly
            1284 Main St.
            Kensington, Ca 94588
            Phone: 510-286-5890 e-mail: [email protected]

            OBJECTIVE: To achieve a level within the fire service.


            Firefighter Fire Department, CA 2-00 Present
            Duties include but are not limited to fire suppression in structural as well as wild land environments and emergency medical services under highly stressful emergency conditions. Also, fire prevention, public education, vehicle and station maintenance under the supervision of a Captain, always focusing on providing quality customer service.

            Engineer (Acting) 2-03 Present

            Firefighter Fire Department (Auxiliary) 3-99 2-00
            Perform in a probationary capacity under emergency situations, fire suppression, emergency medical services, also fire prevention, public education, vehicle and station maintenance.

            EMT Ambulance Service, CA 3-99 2-00
            Perform under emergency situations; emergency medical services under the direction of Redondo Beach and L.A. County Fire Department Paramedics. Vehicle and station maintenance and Code-3 driving.

            INSTRUCTOR Emergency Response CPR 3-03 Present
            Adult, Child, & Infant CPR training for the community as well as for the professional rescuer.

            Owner/Operator Pool Company, CA 5-97 2-00
            Service and repair of residential and commercial pools and spas according to County Health Department specifications.

            EDUCATION: (is space is needed to keep on one page, these can be placed in two columns)

            Bachelor’s Degree
            EMT Defib and Combitube certified
            Firefighter I
            Red Cross certified CPR Instructor
            Firefighter II
            Federal Red Card System Member
            Driver/Operator State certified
            Class B Driver’s License

            If you have space left using a size 12 fount on the first page you can add:

            Member of State University Track and Field Team.
            Member of State University X-Country Team.
            Volunteer for Hubbs Institute White Sea Bass Population Restoration Project.
            Volunteer for Red Cross on various projects

            That’s all you need. Nothing more, nothing less. Keep it simple.

            If you have the opportunity to get that application ahead of time, take it and make a photocopy of it. Then plug in the information. Have a qualified person correct it.

            When my son was trying to get on the fire department, he had his mom do that. She is a good speller, and a good typist. Put everything down. Then you've got something that you can transfer to the real application, and that becomes boilerplate. Then you can use it any time you have a new application. Many applications now are computer generated. They are difficult to type your information into the limited space. These applications can be scanned into a computer where you can easily fill them in.

            Make a photocopy because you never know when you're going to that job interview. I talk to people who have put in applications, and six to eight months later, they don't have a copy and don't remember what they've put down.

            "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

            More Tips on getting hired and promoted by Firehouse Contributing Author Fire “Captain Bob” Articles here:

            Fire "Captain Bob"



            • #7


              Send me an e-mail. I need to talk to you about some things.


              • #8
                I am in the same boat and went with a writing service

                Originally posted by ROOKIELZ View Post
                I am in the process of making a resume for an up-coming fire service job. It is not as an Officer in a department.
                I know that my resume is too long at 1 3/4 pages. I just don't know what to cut out.
                Fortunately, I have time to work on it because these jobs won't be posted for at least another month.

                I would like to know which carries more weight:
                a Letter of Recommendation

                Is the line "References available upon request" a no-no? I have seen this done many times and thought an automatic furnishing of the information would be more appropriate.

                May I have some thoughts and advice, please?

                I looked all day for resume help and ended up going with a resume writing service that only does firefighter resumes. They seem really good and did a phone interview to collect all my information. They said they will have my resume done by Tuesday in the PM. Just look online and you will see the company I am talking about.

                Good Luck
                My viewpoints and ideas are exclusively my own. Although I may express opinions and comments pertaining to the fire service, they are in no way representative of my employer.


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