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    On Wednesday, I spoke at Fire Rescue West in San Jose. While there I stopped by some of the display booths. I met a frustrated candidate from the east coast. He told me he had a four year fire related degree, FF1, experience, training, volunteer, yada, yada, yada. The written and physical agility are not a problem. Like many candidates, he can't crack the oral. He said it's political (things start changing when you accept the responsibility of where you are at and not trying to blame other's).

    In just a few moments I was aware of something critical. Then I asked him if he were using a tape recorder to practice? Like most people, he himmed and hawwwed and finally said, "Well, no. But, I'm thinking about it."

    He sounded like another recent candidate. Even though I hammer the point home that you have to use a tape recorder and hear how you sound. He still didn't get the message. His answers were garbage. I don't get it. You folks want this job so bad you say you will do almost anything ethically and morally to get it. I guess that doesn't include using a tape recorder to get your timing, inflection, volume, where to cut out material, and find out if you really sound like Donald Duck. You need to get married to your hand-held tape recorder. You need to hear what the oral board is going to hear from you. It's the closest distance between you and the badge you're looking for!

    This is usually a guy thing. Guys think about their answers in their head and write them down. Then they think their answers are going to come out of their mouths like magic in the oral. Trust me, after being on over 100 oral boards, they don't!

    Let me tell you how critical this really is. If you're not using a tape recorder to practice, practice, practice, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and overlearn your material until it becomes second nature to you, YOU MIGHT AS WELL NOT SHOW UP FOR THE INTERVIEW. YOU ARE WASTING THE ORAL BOARDS AND YOUR TIME! Seek out another career. Understand you still have to interview there too. The above San Diego candidate has already lost some great opportunities. Had he been faithfully using a tape recorder to prepare for his oral boards, he probably could have had a badge already.

    Come on now, honestly, how many of you have used a tape recorder to practice?

    Some will say, "Well, if I practice it too much it will sound canned." NO it won't! It sure will be planned though. Practice makes permanent. "Luck is where preparation meeting opportunity." One practice session with a tape recorder is worth 10 speaking out louds. After practicing, you will get to a point where your answers will get into your subconscious. That's where the magic begins. You can't be fooled.

    Everyone has butterfly's in an oral board. The trick is getting all the butterfly's to fly in the same formation that can make the difference. Practicing will remove up to 75% of the butterfly's. You want the other 25% to carry you through the interview.

    Be advised that your competition knows the value of using a tape recorder. They are catapulting past you if you're not using one too.

    Instead of posting messages asking others where they're at in the testing process for this city and I'm in the top 40 on this list or that, start asking your self this question: What am I doing that can best prepare me for the most important part of the hiring process? . . . The oral board. Because if you can't pass the oral board, or score high enough and the list, you don't get the job. Never! Ever! Ever! Now, where's your tape recorder?

    Getting the job of your dreams is like winning the lottery!

    "Captain Bob"

    [This message has been edited by WebTeam (edited April 08, 2000).]

  • #2
    I think I can understand this candidates frustration, Cap.
    What kind of firefighter hiring process depends so heavily on giving a polished "oral presentation"? What kind of relevant knowledge or skill does that measure? If we were hiring salesmen or lawyers I could appreciate the weight you, and presumably your department place on the interview. And while basic communication skills are necessary, when hiring firefighters we should be more concerned about their scores on a validated written test, their physical agility test score, experience, education and background investigation. Interviews are highly subjective to score (I know, I've done it.) Assuming this candidate scored competitively on the written and agility he might have a legitimate gripe.
    I've seen plenty of guys who can "talk the talk", but I'll take the ones who can "walk the walk" any day. Just my two cents.
    Be safe.


    • #3
      I agree with your comments. Unfortunetly this how the hiring process works. Most candidates in this siutation can learn the skills if they don't lose hope first.

      "Captain Bob"


      • #4
        Capt. Smith,

        I am in a similar situation as the "frustrated candidate" you mention. I am comforatable in my abilities in the written/physical testing areas, it's just my interview skills that I feel are lacking.

        From my days in Public Speaking class in college (many many years ago), I agree 110% with your advice to use a tape recorder to reherse and review your answers, but the question I have to ask of you is - What TYPE of questions should we be rehearsing for?

        Not having sat for many interviews or review boards in the past, I am ignorant of what type of things will be asked of me and what they are looking for / expecting to hear.

        Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated, not only by myself but countless others out there in a similar situation as myself.

        Thank you for your help.


        Take Care - Stay Safe


        • #5
          Thirty-Plus Basic Oral

          Board Questions

          I believe there are only about 30 oral board questions. Plus or minus a couple. But these 30 can be disguised into hundreds of different questions.

          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.

          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.

          Here is the list of the "Thirty Plus Oral Board Questions":

          Thirty-Plus Basic Oral

          Board Questions

          1. Tell us about yourself.

          2. Why do you want to be a firefighter? When did you decide on this

          3. What is the job of a firefighter? Are you qualified?

          4. What have you done to prepare for this position?

          5. What are you bringing to the job?

          6. Why do you want to work for this city or agency?

          7. What do you know about his city or agency?

          8. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?

          9. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

          10. What would your employer say about you?

          11. What are the attributes of a firefighter? What is the most important
          one to you?

          How Would You Handle the Following Scenarios?

          12. Drinking or drugs on the job?

          13. Stealing on the job?

          14. Conflict with
          another employee?

          15. Irate citizen? 16. An employee crisis at an emergency? 17. Sexual

          18. Racial situation? 19. Conflicting orders at an emergency? 20. An order
          that could place you in great danger or be morally wrong?

          21. What do you say when you don't know an answer to a question?

          22. Are you on any other hiring lists? What would you do if another city
          called you?

          23. When can you start if we offered you the job?

          24. How far do you want to go in the fire service? Where do you see
          yourself in 5 years?

          25. What are the quality traits of a firefighter? Which one is the most
          important to you?

          26. Have you ever been in an emergency situation? Tell us what you did?

          27. What word would best describes you in a positive way? A negative

          28. How do you handle conflict?

          29. Why would we select you over the other candidates?

          30. Do you have anything to add?

          In reference to the above, several candidates have called me about the following question:
          You're a firefighter and the guys in the station want to you to participate with them to play a joke on the female firefighter. What do you do?

          Many candidates have said, "Well these kinds of jokes are part of being a firefighter, or we are a family; it's expected, or depending how bad the joke is, or I've played jokes on others before, etc."

          Let's go back to the original formula on this page. Dissect the question down to its simplest form to one or two words. What is the core purpose of this question? Take off the disguise and you will have one of the questions from the 30 plus oral board list above.

          Have you got it?

          It's . . . . SEXUAL HARASSMENT!

          Many of the candidates screamed out loud when they finally figured out the real purpose of the question. Too many gave a poor answer.

          Now what's your answer?

          This is a simple tool to uncomplicate the process. There are only about 30 oral board questions. They can be disguised in hundreds of different ways.

          It's your job to take off the disguise and find the real question and have a
          "Nugget" answer to satisfy the oral board, get your best score on the answer and cause the board to go onto the next question.

          This "Nugget" tool is one of several that can separate you from number 40 and below on a list to between 1 and 10 where you get a shot at the badge. You'll know the difference when the call comes in to go to the Chief's oral. It can happen quicker than you can imagine.

          There are only 30 questions. What are your answers? Take the question
          apart, know the real purpose of the question and deliver your "Nugget"
          answer. Next question please.

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

          In reference to the above I received this question:

          I'm not trying to be cheeky, this is a serious reply. Would the Board ever
          ask the question in reverse? Meaning would they ask a female candidate if they would participate in a joke on a male candidate? If yes, would they be looking for the candidate to reply no, that it would be sexual harassment?

          Would it be appropriate for either gender to say they would participate, distinguishing that only if the joke would not be of a nature that may be sexual harassment? This issue is very important in my city, because they are on the verge of hiring the first female firefighter. Not only do male
          candidates want to make it understood that they are able to work with females in this environment, likewise I would not want to appear as if I was concerned about this type of scenario or uncomfortable and oversensitive about the cajoling that goes on.

          "Captain Bob's" reply:
          Subject: Sexual Harassment

          Sexual harassment questions are the most dangerous of oral board areas. It's a can of worms you don't want to open. If you do, you will never be able to close the can. You need to keep your answers short and simple
          here. Otherwise, you will tank yourself big time. It has nothing to do with which gender, it's how it's interpreted by the person that is offended.

          Fantasy land:

          The oral interview is like fantasy land. It is not like the real world. Your answers in the oral board might not be what you would do in real life.

          Don't fall into the trap. The board understands the rules, you can't fool
          them. If you try, the board will crank up the music and let you dance your fool head off.
          Don't try to intellectualize and bring heavy logic to this process. If you do,
          someone, who understands the rules in fantasy land better will get the badge. So, please follow the yellow brick road rules in fantasy land and don't look behind the curtain.

          You don't think so? Well, my Son's captain was on an oral board for five days. One candidate got top scores. When they were finished and completing their comments and scores this candidate said, "I'm sure glad
          that's over. They said yea, O.K.. He said because their coming. They look up and said who's coming. He said the Martian's are coming.

          They chuckled. He got mad. Turns out this guy was a genuine kook. But he did so well in the oral because he lived in fantasy land and new the rules.

          Don't ever forget this! It's a true story!

          So in this fantasy land environment, sexual harassment is not tolerated. If you try to draw a line at cajoling, where does it stop? At sarcastic comments, physical contact? You will open a can of worms trying to make everyone happy. You could express how an easy going person you are, but sexual harassment is not tolerated. Again that is determined by the person who is offended. Male or female. It's the LAW! There are personnel rules to protect you.

          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 and then take action in fantasy land. Don't be like so many candidates by starting a soap opera.


          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. 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.

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

          "Captain Bob"


          • #6
            Capt. Bob,
            Thank you very much for the information. I have read your reply twice already and I get more from it each time. I'll definetly be printing it out and using it as a "study guide".

            After seeing how you broke it down into the 30 basic questions, it seems funny how complicated we as canidates can make a relativly simple question.

            As I start getting replies back from applications/resumes and get to start applying what I'm learning, I'll be sure to let you know how things work out.

            I hope other canidates out there take the time to read and learn from what you've shared so far.

            Thanks Again,



            • #7
              Captain Bob - EXCELLENT answers and tips. I've been a supervisor in the "private sector" in charge of hiring & firing and the questions are "textbook". BIG help! Thanks!


              • #8
                I am an inspiring firefighter, I have been trying for almost 7 years, I just want to say that Capt. Bob has some real good ideas and insights to the testing process, I have taken written test after written tests and had no luck getting on the hiring list. I saw Capt.Bob's website and took some advise from him, passed my orals and now finally have made the hiring list in my hometown and hope to be hired within the year..so I say take a shot and listen to teh man he knows what he speaks of..I would have to agree getting the job of your dreams is probably like winning the lottery....

                Jason Davis


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