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    I have a chief's interview coming up. Does anyone have any pointers that might help me out? It would be much appreciated.

  • #2

    Originally posted by rd2522
    I have a chief's interview coming up. Does anyone have any pointers that might help me out? It would be much appreciated.
    This topic comes up often. In addition to the following click on search above this posting and do a search on chief's interviews:

    What can you expect in a Chief’s Oral?

    Chief’s Orals will vary widely depending on the style of the Fire Chief and the department. However, here are some suggestions:

    1. Get to know about the Department and the Chief before the interview. What are some of the core values of the organization? What are some of the key issues or projects that the department is involved with? Some Chief’s like that you took the time to know a little about what the department is all about? However, if the topic comes up . . . be genuine . . . don’t B.S.!

    2. The Chief’s interview is often casual in that there are not necessarily a specific set of fixed questions like on the more formal oral board. The Chief may ask about anything that is on your resume or follow up questions in response to your comments. Casual does not mean that you don’t wear professional business attire.

    3. One thing is certain; this is the Chief’s brief opportunity to get to know you. I cannot speak for all Fire Chiefs, but I tend to use this opportunity to look for examples in your experiences that demonstrate maturity, stability, responsibility, judgment, compassion, work ethic and other characteristics that I believe are important to be a successful firefighter.

    4. By the time you reach the Chief’s interview, you probably have already been through the written, PPT, and oral board(s). In those portions of the testing you probably have demonstrated your memory, reading comprehension skills, mechanical aptitude, basic math, physical ability, ability to work with others as part of a team, understanding of firehouse etiquette, communication skills, and likely have addressed some honesty/integrity scenarios.

    5. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself in terms that demonstrate the qualities mentioned above. Give specific examples.

    6. Stay on track with the point you are trying to make. Don’t get lost and wander off into irrelevant areas. You’ll miss your point, which may also cause you to become more nervous than you already might be. Listen closely to the questions and be responsive to them.

    7. Finally, try to be relaxed and conversational in your manner. Be confident, but not cocky. Make good eye contact. Try to be natural . . . be yourself . . . that is who the Chief wants to get to know!

    I hope this helps. Good Luck!

    Ruben Grijalva, is the State Fire Marshall, California

    "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
      The Chief’s Interview

      Alan Patalano is a Deputy Chief for the Long Beach Fire Department in Southern California. He has agreed to share his thoughts and ideas on what he is looking for from a candidate during a chief’s interview.

      There are dozens of people around who will be glad to offer advice on how a candidate should perform during a Chief’s interview. They will tell you about the theory of interview questions, body language, dress and presentation. I don’t have expertise in any of those areas; instead, what I have is the experience of conducting Chief’s interviews from the perspective of a Chief Officer and from the perspective of sitting in the room after the interviews are completed and actually deciding which candidate gets a job offer.

      The Chief’s interview is far different from the structured oral interview that you may take during the initial testing phase. The initial interview usually asks every candidate the exact same questions, in the exact same order. This is done so that the exam is consistent for everyone. The Chief’s interview does not operate in this fashion. In the Chief’s interview I am free to ask questions of each candidate based on his or her resume, experience, education, background and responses to previous questions. I do not need to ask each candidate the same questions. This is an important point. My questions are based, in a large part, on your responses to prior questions.

      I evaluate your responses in several ways, including:

      1. How well do you communicate?
      2. Are your answers thought out?
      3. Are you confident?
      4. Are you truthful?

      Let’s look at each aspect:

      How well you communicate has a huge impact on your overall score. Your ability to utilize the spoken word to convey a message or make a point is the foundation of a great score. The first portion of good communication is listening. What do I mean? Simply stated, to develop a great answer you must know what question I am asking. It is not uncommon to stop a candidate a couple of minutes into a great answer because he or she is answering the wrong question! There are several reasons why this happens:

      • The candidate anticipates particular questions before arriving at the interview, classifies the question as one of his or her preconceived questions and provides the answer.
      • The candidate has a list of predetermined answers and utilizes the canned answer that is closest to the question I ask.
      • The candidate formulates a reply without listening to the complete question.
      • The candidate is nervous and gets off-track while answering.

      So before you can develop a great answer you should listen carefully to the question in its entirety. If you are unsure of what is being asked, then ask for the question to be repeated and/or clarified. This not only allows you to provide the best possible answer, but also shows that you are not afraid to speak up when needed to avoid mistakes (a good quality to have on the fire ground). But do not make it a habit to ask for every question to be repeated. This might only show that you are not attentive.

      Once you determine what the question is, make sure you take the time to formulate a great reply. Many times I no sooner finish the question before the candidate starts talking. I always think to myself, “I wonder if the candidate was listening when I was talking.”

      Tone of voice, volume and grammar all impact how I perceive your answer. An angry or aggressive tone makes me question how you may respond to the public during emergencies, especially when you are under stress. Low volume indicates a candidate may be timid or lack confidence. Poor grammar or slang makes me question your maturity. Remember that good communication is predicated on providing information in a format so that the listener (i.e. the interview panel) can understand it, and not on the way you like to say it.

      Next I like to see that your answers are thought out, logical and realistic. Once I ask the question, you should be able to walk me through the sequence of events or the steps you would take. As an example, if the question asks about your education, your response shouldn’t start with high school, then discuss grade school, then a course you are currently taking, and then your college experience. It should be presented in a logical sequence: grade school, high school, college, and the current course. It is confusing to the interviewer when the answer is presented in a disorganized fashion, and makes me wonder if everything you do is disorganized.

      Answers also have to be realistic. If asked a situational question about which task you would perform: 1) pull a hose line to a door, 2) hook to a hydrant, or 3) raise a ground ladder, the worst answer would be, “I would do them all because I am young and strong.” It’s not practical and shows a lack of understanding of the real world. On the fire ground we are faced with choices, and every firefighter must be able to analyze facts and make decisions. I expect to see this same quality during the interview.

      Another big quality I look for during the interview is how you represent yourself. Do you appear confident? Are you sure of yourself? Your answers should reflect your confidence in your skills and abilities. An answer that is vague or noncommittal demonstrates a lack of confidence. The nature of our business makes confidence during emergencies a vital personal quality. Can you make a decision and then act on it? Needless to say, there is no crying during the interview!

      Finally, do not let me catch you telling a lie, stretching the truth or telling only half the story. I am willing to overlook past behavior (up to a point) if you have shown that you have changed that behavior. I won’t consider it past behavior if I find you to be dishonest or unwilling to share all of the facts during the interview. That is your current behavior and is unacceptable. It will not matter to me if you can offer a good excuse for why you weren’t honest initially because I will already be looking for a better candidate. I cannot stress this enough. If I catch you in a lie you will not get a job offer today or for the life of the list, period.

      It is very important to understand that during the interview I am looking for candidates who will be able to work with my firefighters for 30 years. We can train you to pull hose, take a blood pressure and operate a hydraulic rescue tool. What we can’t train you to do is act in an honest, ethical manner or be professional or compassionate. You must have those traits “built-in” before you arrive for the first day of drill school, so I look for those qualities during the interview.

      Education shows that you can commit to a course of action and follow through until completion. Work history shows loyalty and commitment. Community activities show that you believe yourself to be part of something greater than just yourself, your family and friends. How you dress shows that you consider yourself important and respect the job and those who perform it. All of these things serve to assist me in “seeing” the real you. No single fact, statement, or resume line assures you a job offer. Instead it is a compilation of all of your various education, background, experiences and presentation that helps you to rise above the other candidates and secure a position.

      I have offered positions to candidates with years of firefighter experience and to those without any experience at all, to those with extensive education and to those with only a GED, to candidates with a list of certificates and to those who didn’t have a single piece of paper except what was required to apply. What they all had in common was desire, commitment, honesty, loyalty, compassion, and a dedication to serving a greater good. If you possess these qualities and can demonstrate them to me during an interview, then there is a very good chance that within a year I will be shaking your hand and welcoming you as the newest member of my department.

      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief
      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief


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