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  • Clones!!!!

    When the question why do you want to be a firefighter many answer with:

    I want to make an impact and be a difference in peoples' lives

    Having a family of my own has taught me just how important being a close-knit group is and I want to be a part of that camaraderie

    I enjoy working with people and having the opportunity to do it everyday is very exciting for me.

    I want to fight fires and give 110% for this department and the community in which I serve.

    What attracted me most to a career as a firefighter is the sense of family that comes with the job.

    I think it is tremendously rewarding to be a team player

    I look forward to not working at a desk 40+ hours a week.

    The relationships built in this environment are family like, and not found it your typical 9-5 environment

    I have made the commitment that I will do what it takes to become a firefighter.

    All these are clone answers. We hear them over and over again in the oral boards. And you thought you were unique.

    One of our officers was on an oral board for a big city. Several boards interviewed 965 candidates. His board interviewed 350 candidates. Imagine you were this officer and it is the fifth day of interviewing. You have just come back from lunch where the city has wined and dined you. You’re tired and you know you have another five days of interviews ahead of you.

    The next candidate is called in. The first question you ask is, "What sparked your interest and why do you want to be a firefighter?" He proceeds to give you the same clone answers you have heard from almost every candidate for five days. Public service, helping people, not the same thing every day, blah blah blah.

    The magic that you needed to hook up with the oral board has passed and you didn’t hook them into listening to your stuff. You have just scored yourself. Trust me. You can see the glaze come over the raters eyes. It’s like a deer caught in the headlights. They are gone and they won’t come back.

    It’s not that you can’t use clone answers. You can. But first you need to deliver a signature story about you. Not a clone answer of anyone else. I haven’t met a candidate yet that couldn’t come up with signature stories. Signature stories demonstrate experience.

    They also tell that you not only know the answer to a question, you’ve lived it. Firefighters love firefighter stories. If you open up with a signature story, you instantly separate yourself from the other clone candidates. Stories show the oral board who you really are. You capture the board and take them on a journey with a story they have never heard. Is this making sense? It’s that magic in your story that will make the rater say in their mind, this is what we have been looking for all day. This is who we want to hire.

    The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is being themselves on purpose. When you are yourself, you become conversational because you are on your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies.

    An oral board member told me they had a candidate who didn’t answer all the questions the way they wanted him to do, but he had such great personal life experience in his answers (stories), they hired him anyway. This is human nature. Stories help bridge that gap. Clone answers and clone candidates don’t have a chance here.

    Stories are more than facts. If you can create the excitement, emotion, the color and magic to relive of the actual event. You will capture the interest and a top score on that question. A big part of getting this job is convincing the oral board that you can do the job before you get it. Stories are convincing and can demonstrate your experience, even if they’re not fire related.

    Some will say, "Captain Bob" how can you help so many candidates without making them into clones?" Good question. Simple answer. The real reason is nobody else can tell your story! Nobody! When you start lacing your answers with your personalized experiences is where you start to shorten that gap between you and that infamous badge.


    I was doing private coaching with a candidate. He was telling a story about being a federal firefighter in Yellowstone when it burned. The story was not too exciting the way he was telling it. I had to stop and ask, "It sounds like you were trapped?" He was. Now he tells that story and the hairs start standing up on the back of your neck. You’re trapped with him. You can smell the smoke and see the embers dropping around you. Does this story make a difference? Please say yes.

    I would not encourage you to use this story from a candidate about when his parents divorced. It could send the oral board in the wrong direction.

    My parents had divorced when I was 18 years old and I learned an invaluable lesson through this experience. I learned that family was not something to take for granted.

    During this period of my life, I became detached from my sense of family and was unhappy with how I chose to live my life. It was then that I was introduced to the fire service.

    Reply: I would work more from the angle of this portion of your story:

    A friend of mine had interested me in taking the core classes at Santa Ana College and I quickly realized how rewarding a career in the fire service could be. Some aspects that I was attracted to was the stability, the excitement, and the challenge of the job.

    Watch out for stability though. It could mean pay, benefits, and time off to many raters. These are things you want to stay away from.

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

    Fire "Captain Bob"


    Last edited by CaptBob; 06-27-2003, 07:48 AM.

    "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"


  • #2

    Here's another typical answer from a candidate:

    I lived here all my life I want too give something back too the community

    Reply: This is by far at the top of the list in the clone answers hall of fame. Who really cares that you live here? So do eighty thousand others. Most if not all the raters are not going to be from your city. What are you giving back to the community now? I’ve had the interview room go dead silent when this was asked of candidates after they gave that answer.

    I want to challenge all candidates to think about it this way. Rewind the video tape of your life to that time when something happened like the above story from tomdeltazulu, a call to your house to, a training drill, a college program where something clicked in your mind that said, “I knew right then that I would not be satisfied until I achieved my badge.” When was that?

    I asked a candidate, who was testing for Oakland, during coaching one day why he wanted to be a firefighter. He gave me the typical "Clone" answer, "It's giving back to the community, public service, helping other's, blah, blah, zzzzzzzzzzzz."

    I stopped him and asked, "What really got you interested in being a firefighter?" He said, "Oh, well I grew up in Oakland, but moved to Shasta during high school. After graduation I went to hotel management school in Reno. That didn't work out, so I moved back to Oakland and started going to Chabot College. I met an old friend who was in the fire science program. We ended up over at his house. His father was a Captain for Oakland. They got me all fired up, I signed up in fire science, got my firefighter 1, became a medic and I'm currently a federal firefighter."

    I just sat there amazed. I asked him if he had ever used this (his signature) story before? He said no. You gave me the "Clone" answer and you had this beauty sitting here? He polished up the story and practiced it with a tape recorder. He works proudly for the City of Alameda.

    The important point to realize is it doesn't take much to improve your situation and separate yourself from the clone candidates.

    Another candidate remembered he had the Gage and Desoto dish and cup set from the TV series Emergency. His mom had a picture of him in front of the TV as a kid eating off it when the show came on. He took that picture to his orals. Did it work? He works for San Jose Fire.

    You can check out a story and picture of Squad 51 by clicking here: http://www.eatstress.com/squad51.htm

    After a written test I asked a group of six candidates why they wanted to be firefighters. They were amazed that what they thought was unique was only a “Clone”. After I worked with one in the group with his signature story of why he wanted to be a firefighter, the rest of the group used the formula to put together their own too.

    I have yet to find a candidate who doesn't have signature stories. The problem is they don't know how to use them. You might not know yours today. But, after reading this, you will have some aha’s in the next few days.

    During coaching after trying for five years Dave expressed his burning desire, passion, “my life won't be complete until I get a badge” compassionate longing, agonizing story why he wanted to be a firefighter. One problem. Dave sucked big time! Even after testing for 5 years, he wasn't ready for any oral board. His answers were garbage.

    As I have suggested to you, we had Dave rewind the video tape to that time when he knew he wanted this badge more than anything else in his life. After looking off in the distance, Dave’s eyes lit up and he took me on the journey. Dave had just finished EMT and as a volunteer responded to a medical call at the mall. CPR had begun on a female patient. The crew worked up the patient and Dave was assigned to ride to assist in the ambulance to the hospital.

    As they were loading their gear back up on the engine at the hospital, a doctor came out and asked it they were the crew that responded to this lady. Yes sir, we were. The doctor said well had you not arrived in time to provide the life saving skills that would have been a dead lady. Dave said something clicked right then and there where he had to have a badge.

    I asked Dave if he had ever used this signature story in his interviews? He looked baffled when he said no. His interview was for the department he made that historic response to the mall. DUH?

    A few days later, there was a message on my recorder. A guy was yelling, Captain Bob, you are the man. It was Dave. He had just received the call that he was going to the chiefs’ oral. His first in the five years he had been testing. Not only was he going to the chief’s oral. He was number . . . 2! They were interviewing 30 candidates for 10 jobs. How do you like those odds?

    Another candidate used his signature storythis way:

    When I was 10 years old, my father as a captain on the Boston Fire Department took me to work with him. That afternoon we got a call. We rolled out with a lot of other rigs to an apartment fire. I saw my dad get off the rig, direct people for rescue and extinguish the fire. I knew right then that I would not be satisfied until I achieved my badge. Steve

    Who else could tell Steve’s story? No one. He was there. After we worked on this story in private coaching, Steve was able to recreate the excitement, emotion, enthusiasm, and color of the actual event. You were on the rig with Steve; you saw the flames, and hairs on the back of your neck start standing up. Again, firefighters love firefighter stories. We do. If you can tell the oral board a signature story from your life experience that relates to the answer, it can catapult you past the “Clone” candidates.

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

    Fire "Captain Bob"



    "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"



    • #3
      Right on!

      Once again, Captain Bob hits the nail on the head.
      While I have not had the privilege of sitting on as
      many oral boards as Captain Bob or Paul have, I
      do know that they know what they are talking about.

      However, the point that sticks out in my head from
      each of the boards I have been on is that a good
      majority (70 to 90%) of candidates ALL HAD
      CLONE ANSWERS! When you do the math, that
      actually makes sense, because usually only less
      than 10% of the candidates (sometimes less than
      1%) actually get the job. In most of his posts,
      Captain Bob makes that point of not having clone
      answers. If you go to his website, you'll see the
      same point being made. If that is the case (which
      it is) then why do people still continue to provide
      the clone answers when people like Paul provide
      the question?

      This is not meant negatively or should be looked
      on as me picking on people or hammering on
      them. Actually it is the opposite: to motivate you to
      be the best you can be and get out of that clone
      answer mentality! I realize some of you might be
      scared of answering a question with "your
      signature story" because you don't want someone
      to copy it or use it for themself. Well, if it is truly
      your signature story (that only you can tell), then
      what are you worried about? You're the only one
      that should be able to repeat it during an oral
      interview? Make sense?

      Whether you agree or disagree with Captain Bob
      does not matter. He is 100% correct when he
      continuously states that you should not have clone
      answers. The trick and test for you, the future
      firefighter, is to take those thoughts and words and
      actually put them into action. Make them work for

      Just some thoughts.


      "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"



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