The Interview Continued
Career FD Hiring - The Interview Series
By Richard Abaddon
It’s pretty tough to come up with unique characteristics to talk about in an interview. Everyone is going to talk about how they’re honest, hard working, reliable, and those are all great traits. But you want to set yourself apart from other candidates. Even if one of the interview questions is “What 3 traits do you possess that will make you successful as a firefighter recruit in an academy?” you can still answer by listing a bunch of good traits, and then following it with “but I feel the traits that will make me the most successful are X, Y, and Z.” In that scenario they asked for 3 traits, you brought up 7 but talked about 3. Boom, shat on.
You want them to have as much information about you as possible in the 20-30 minutes that you’re sitting in that room. If you’re having trouble thinking of unique traits, ask family and friends to write down 5 positive and negative traits that you possess. That exercise can help you learn more about yourself and thus give you more unique things to talk about. Negative traits, or areas that you can improve in will also likely be a topic of discussion and you should always give an honest answer, but be sure to end the answer in a positive way. You never want to be negative in your interview, positivity all the way. The stories that I mentioned are how you show that you understand why a certain aspect is important in the fire service as well as how you’ve experienced that aspect in your personal life, and how your personal experience relates to the fire service. That three piece is key. You want to tie those things together to show a solid understanding of the topic, how you have experience with that topic in your personal life (with examples) and that you know how to apply it to the fire service. Each of your traits needs stories to go along with them from your personal life. The more unique the story is, the more memorable you’ll be. Think about any unique experience you’ve had and think about lessons learned or traits you exhibited during that situation.
I can’t tell you what to talk about but the more you practice, the easier it will get. Always answer the question you’re being asked. If they ask how you will be successful in a fire academy, don’t tell them about how you’re going to always show up on time at the station and clean the truck. They didn’t ask you about the station. They asked you about the academy and there’s a big difference. Stay on track and answer what they ask. If you need a second to process the question, then take a second. People who say "um" before answering a question look stupid. People who sit silently processing it look smart. Better to quickly pause instead of going off on a tangent about some shit they never asked you about. As I already said numerous times, you want them to have as much information as possible, but you need to stay focused and plug in your characteristics at the right time. You’ll have the opportunity to tell them about anything you have in mind, just have your shit together and you will be able to tell them multiple ways.
I’ll list a few questions for you to start thinking about. These are questions that you can pretty much guarantee will be brought up in one way or another during an interview. You can also do some Googling (or Bing-ing, we don't care) and find plenty of people online who are answering interview questions and that will help you pick up a lot of good ideas. Once you think that you’ve worked on these questions enough, try answering them out loud. When you stumble, don’t stop and start over again. Work through it. Treat it like your interview. Set a timer and start talking, when you’re done check your time and get an idea of where you’re at.
Do you need to expand more? Maybe you’ll need to cut some fluff out, if you’re spending 10 minutes on one question, you’re not going to have time to be graded on the rest of the questions. Shoot for 3-5 minute answers. Record yourself; are you talking way too fast? Are you trembling when you talk? Slow down, relax, answer the questions, stay on track, expand your answers, and give them every single piece of information about yourself that you can before you’re done. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get in a fire station and work on this stuff. They’ll likely have previous interview questions which will probably be pretty similar to the next rounds questions. They’ll know what topics are hot in the department or what the chiefs want to hear candidates talk about. They’ll know what’s going on in their city so that you can tailor your answers to that specific department. They’ll know the guys working on the interview panel. “Hey man, we’ve got a guy who’s been putting in work at the station and he has an interview next week, he’s a solid dude, keep an eye out for him.” The benefits are endless. Do it.
Practice your response to these questions with the objective being 3-5 minute responses. You will need to practice, as 1 department may be asking 7 questions in 20 minutes, and another 5 questions over 25 minutes. It will be obvious who was prepared.
- Tell us about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a firefighter and why do you want to work for our city?
- What have you done to prepare?
- What traits do you possess that will make you successful in an academy setting? What traits should a firefighter possess?
- What does diversity mean to you?
- What does accountability mean to you?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Why should we hire you over other candidates?
- Tell us about a time you had to make a difficult choice at work?
These are bread and butter questions that you should be able to absolutely crush when asked. Interview prep is not something you should casually work on. If you are serious about getting hired, you need to be able to crush an interview at a moments notice. If you start prepping when you find out that you have an interview in a week, it is too late. Be a competitor, and leave no hand unshaken.