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Situational Questions

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  • Situational Questions

    I was wondering if people could contribute some interview questions regarding diversity and situational questions. I realize there are specific things that these questions are designed to target. I have seen a few of these questions and would like to get some more of them to practice.

    Also, what are your opinions of trying to personalize your answers to these questions? Thank you in advance.

  • #2
    Scenario Questions

    Don't start a soap opera!

    Do you think you have what it takes to answer all situation questions correctly? . . . answer this (in less that an hour)?

    What would you do as a rookie firefighter? Your Captain asks you to come in his office to review your final evaluation of probation. You notice a smell of alcohol on his breath? How would you reply?

    This is a perfect example how you can be fooled on a scenario question. I believe there are only 30 oral board questions. They can be disguised in hundreds of different ways. This is one of the disguises for drinking on the job, which is number 12 on our 30 plus list. You can find a list of the 30 sample oral board questions here: http://www.eatstress.com/thirty.htm

    Here is a simple way to break a disguised question down. Dissect the question down to its simplest term, one word, of what the question is really about (i.e. stealing, drugs, drinking, etc.). Once you have removed the disguise, you can place it in one of the 30 plus oral board questions you already have answers for.

    This is one of the simple tools we have to uncomplicate the oral board process.

    One way to help you do this is picture a piece of paper with a line drawn down the center. On the left of the line are issues dealing with ethics, such as stealing, drugs, or drinking. With ethical issues, you ask appropriate questions to determine what you suspect.

    If true, you don’t deviate . . . you go straight up to a supervisor. On the right side of the line is anything to do with getting along with others; you will go to great lengths to work it out before going to a supervisor. If you can decide what side of the line the question belongs, you have a better chance of knowing how to answer the question.

    So take off the disguise that this is your captain. Dissect the question down to its simplest form; one word. What is this about? Right, drinking. What side of the line is this on? Right or left. If it’s on the left side of the line what do we do? Drinking is not tolerated. Right again. Ask questions to determine if your suspicions are correct (are you drinking?). If so, you go straight up (why don’t we go to our supervisor) no matter who or what rank is on the other side of the table; and stick to your answer no matter what. YOU WILL NEVER BE WRONG! TRUST ME!

    Here’s another way this question can be disguised:
    You go in the locker room and see a fellow firefighter drinking something that looks like alcohol. What do you do? The clone, soap opera answer would be: I would try to get him into the day room, play cards and try to smell his breath; or I would have him go home sick, or have another firefighter come into relieve him.

    These are all soap opera answers. Unfortunately they are taught in fire academies and fire technology programs. They will make you a clone candidate. Don’t go on this journey. They are insulting to the oral board. You will loose valuable points here. We are intelligent beings on the other side of the table. Give us credit for that. Don’t start a soap opera. Ask a question that would verify your suspicions and give a direct answer; not a soap opera.

    Understand that if the oral board fires up a question that sounds like drinking on the job, it’s going to be about drinking on the job. If it’s a question that sounds like taking drugs on the job, it’s going to be about taking drugs on the job; It’s not going to be aspirin. If the question sounds like it’s about stealing on the job, it’s going to be about stealing on the job. If they fire up a question that sounds like sexual harassment, that’s what it’s going to be about, or they wouldn’t bring it up.

    If they fire up these questions, take off the disguise ask questions to verify what you suspect, decide what side of the line it belongs on and then take action in fantasyland. Don’t be like so many candidates by starting a soap opera.

    "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 hiring process is not a game and it is not a fairy tale. We ask specific questions to determine if the candidate will fit into our culture.

      All of the interview questions can be classified into three categories:
      1. Will you make it through out training
      2. Will you make it through the probationary period
      3. Will my firefighters in the station like and respect you?

      Situational questions are designed to see how a candidate will respond if
      faced with adversity. The following are common areas of potential conflict:
      1. Moral issues
      2. Ethical dilemmas
      3. Legal issues
      4. Societal obligations
      5. Violations of established policies and procedures
      6. Interpersonal conflicts

      Most candidates focus too hard on what they think the board wants to hear
      rather than saying what’s really on their mind. Here is a typical example:

      Moral issue:
      As you watch the engineer back up the rig, you see him accidentally strike a car. As you approach, you observe him trying to rub out a deep scratch on the vehicle that he hit. When he notices you watching, he tries to make light of it, and tells you not to worry. You tell him that you feel it’s important that he bring it to the captain’s attention. He explains that it’s an “old, junky” car. He adds that in the fire service, everyone sticks together, and asks you to “cover” his back on this one.

      Most candidates misinterpret the point of this question. They are confused
      by the “brotherhood” of the fire service, and believe that firefighters are willing to lie for the good of a co-worker. Nothing can be further from the truth, since a true firefighter doesn’t lie, and will refuse to cover anything up.

      The best way to answer a situational question like this is to determine how
      you would handle it in your everyday life. Let’s say you and a friend are leaving the parking lot of a restaurant, when he accidentally backs into another car. He leaves a dent, but tells you he doesn’t plan on doing anything about it.

      What would you do and why?

      No matter how loyal a friend you are, I don’t believe you’d be willing to turn
      your back on the fact that he just damaged someone’s vehicle. You will most
      likely persuade him to try to locate the owner of the vehicle or call the police. If he refuses to do either of these things, you will probably encourage him to at least leave a note for the owner of the vehicle. You might remind your friend that leaving the scene of an accident, no matter how minor, is illegal and would be considered a hit and run.

      For some reason, many candidates believe that firefighters can get away
      with doing something immoral, unethical and/or illegal.

      There are some common rules of thumb when dealing with moral issues.
      In every situation, it’s imperative to do the right thing. In this situation, the right thing would be to step up and take a stand against the action. Remember, even though an action may be legal, it can still be immoral. It’s a firefighter’s duty to make a moral decision whether it is for himself or a co-worker. A candidate would be expected to know this and respond accordingly.

      Firefighters do not operate in “gray” areas. If something is wrong, it is wrong.
      Even if there’s only a perception that it may be wrong, it is usually wrong.
      Perception often ends up being reality. It is important to maintain the dignity of the fire service. Firefighters are a rare minority of people whom the public
      allows into their homes without a second thought. It is incumbent on all
      firefighters to protect and honor this privilege.

      Ethical questions deal with something that may not be illegal, but either go
      against society’s rules or the cultural rules of the fire department. Ethical
      dilemmas are often related to violations of departmental policies and
      procedures. Policies and procedures are often written as a result of either
      personal injury to a firefighter or civilian or damage to equipment. In almost all
      cases, they stem from a monetary loss that the fire agency has suffered in the past.

      An astute rater will ask a candidate if organizational policies are important.
      A savvy candidate will undoubtedly nod his or her head yes, and assure him
      that a firefighter should not, under any circumstances, violate the rules.
      If, on the other hand, a candidate believes it’s acceptable for a firefighter to
      violate a policy because it seemed insignificant, it stands to reason that he will violate similar policies once he or she becomes a firefighter.

      Departmental policies and procedures are meant to be followed. Let’s say
      a rookie firefighter decides that a policy is insignificant and elects to ignore it.
      Now let’s say an injury or accident occurs as a result of the broken policy. The probationary firefighter will be expected to outline a memo to the chief about the circumstances surrounding the incident. Predictably, the fire chief will want to know why a departmental policy was violated. He will be expected to provide the city manager or board of fire commissioners with an explanation.

      Imagine the frustration of the fire chief having to explain why a new firefighter violated a policy, and what the consequence of his action will be. Since a probationary employee has no civil service protection and no union representation, a serious infraction could result in his termination.

      From an organizational standpoint, you cannot have members follow only
      the policies and procedures that they feel are important. This would result in
      an organization that lacks discipline and would eventually collapse.

      The fire service has adopted many of the military’s policies and procedures. This is why the fire department is considered a paramilitary organization. If it’s assumed that a soldier would never violate a policy or procedure, why not assume the same with a firefighter?

      In most situations, the moral or ethical dilemma wouldn’t personally involve
      you. The dilemma would be for the firefighter who is either asking or implying
      that you should look the other way. You know what you would do if you were in your fellow firefighter’s shoes. You would take the high road and do the right thing. Your challenge will be to convince your comrade to do the right thing.

      Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s the only way to go.

      Legal issues are usually pretty clear-cut. Most candidates understand the
      importance of taking action when a situation is illegal. Candidates who don’t
      understand this will not usually fare well during the interview.

      Societal obligations, however, are usually in the “gray area.” It can be much
      more difficult to decide between right and wrong when it involves an action
      that comes close to crossing the line of good judgment.

      In this situation it’s important to investigate and gather the facts. If it appears that there has been some type of wrongdoing, you need to make it clear that you would step in and address the situation. The panel does not expect you to suggest there be an in-depth investigation. Your response could simply be that you would address the fact that something was wrong, and would refer the situation to your captain.

      Interpersonal conflicts not only create an uncomfortable working
      environment, but erode crew unity. There are numerous situational questions
      that are designed to determine how a candidate deals with these conflicts.
      While people deal with interpersonal conflicts every day, conflicts in a fire
      station can be magnified because firefighters live, eat and sleep in close
      quarters for extended periods of time.

      The purpose of these questions is to determine which candidates will get
      along with others. Candidates who grew up in large families and those who
      played team sports have an advantage in this area since they are used to
      dealing with many types of personalities.

      When confronted with an interpersonal conflict, it is important to approach
      the individual and attempt to clear the air. A savvy candidate will suggest
      asking the other firefighter if he or she is doing something that needs to be

      Instead of assuming that the other firefighter is off base, it is important
      to ask (and listen) and then do what you can to improve the situation.
      Whatever the cause of the irritation, it is important for the candidate to be

      As you root your way down to the source of the conflict, it may be that
      you are not meeting the standard. It may also be that you are not perceived as being a team player...

      If you are interested in downloading 85 of the most commonly asked fire department interview questions check out the link below.

      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief
      Paul Lepore
      Battalion Chief


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