Preparing For The Firefighter Interview

The process of getting a job can be rather interesting. It can be full of tests, questionnaires, evaluations, and of course interviews.

If that job is something you want to make into a career, for many the process can be intimidating. In fact, the more we care about something, the more anxious we can get about it, the more nervous we become about saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and we can begin to overthink or shut down completely.

This can be true for anything in life, but so much about a career can hang on each facet of the hiring process.

So how can you get over the nervousness of competing for a career you want badly? The same way you combat nerves for just about anything else you do—PREPARE meticulously.

When you are seeking to begin your career in fire and rescue, there are some core principles to keep in mind when it comes to going through these processes.

One of the things I often tell hiring managers is that the hiring process isn’t a contest to find the candidate that is the best interviewee. Some people conduct themselves well in interviews and have a lot of good answers. Not all of these people are as good as employees as they are in interviews.

The other side of the coin is those individuals that make tremendous employees, but get nervous or don’t always quite know what to say when they’re sitting across a table from a decision maker (or several decision makers).

Even though it’s not a contest to find the best interviewee, hiring managers do need to gain insight into a person’s knowledge, skills and competencies during the interview in order to move that person forward in the process.

Reflect on Yourself

No matter where you are in your career, chances are you have valuable experience that will translate well to the fire and EMS job you’re applying for. Understandably, the candidates that often struggle in interviews oftentimes are just starting out in their fire and rescue career, so they find it difficult to relate what they know to the job.

If you fall into this boat, you may not have a ton of on-the-job experience, but most applicants have a lot of relevant experience that they don’t always bring up in an interview and it’s usually because they haven’t given it enough thought ahead of time.

Holding leadership positions in school, clubs and sports teams; volunteer experience; prior work experience where you had to follow instructions, take directions from a boss, demonstrate a willingness to learn, work ethic, quality of work, productivity, customer service; and of course, formal training and coursework.

If you’ve ever had to work with a team under pressure to accomplish something important, you have insight. You gain relevant experience through all of these, take the time to think about how what you’ve done applies to the job you want to land.

Don’t Mock the Mock Interview

Another strategy when preparing to interview is to actually sit down and conduct a mock interview with a trusted mentor or peer. By finding someone you trust that may have more experience than you, hopefully interviewing others, you can benefit in multiple ways.

The mock interviewer will probably ask a sample of questions you may be asked, but they may also throw some questions your way that catch you off-guard. Practicing getting blindsided and having to think in that situation can be difficult. It’s the questions you don’t see coming that get easier through preparation, but you can also get used to handling that feeling of getting a question from left field.

Furthermore, ask your mock interviewer to pay close attention to not only your answers, but your mannerisms and speech. The interviewer can notice behaviors and tendencies, such as speech fillers (for example, saying um, uh, hmm, like, etc.), fidgeting with your hands or playing with items in front of you on a table.

In my years interviewing, I have seen and heard a lot, but one of the more interesting was the young man who played with his neck tie throughout the interview—rolling it up, gently biting it and flapping it on the table.

Some of these behaviors are simply how we react to a stressful situation. How a candidate conducts him or herself in the interview is important. Interviewers understand people are nervous, but these can distract from you putting your best self forward.

In my neck tie example, I suspect that young man had never received feedback on his presentation during an interview, and I highly doubt he even realized what he was doing to his tie until someone at home asked him why there were bite marks on it.

Tips like good posture, appropriate eye contact and speaking clearly, these are as relevant today as when you first started hearing them in adolescence. Be memorable for making a good impression and thoughtful answers that paint a picture of who you are, not distracting behavior.

Organizations are interested in hiring the best possible employees. Good interviewees can end up being bad employees, but bad interviewees rarely get the chance to prove their worth. If you care about getting a job, you’ll prepare appropriately, possibly following these strategies to put your best foot forward in landing that important job.

  • Steve
  • Updated April 7, 2021