Career FD Hiring - Part 3: The Interview
Fire Interviews For Dummies
By Richard Abaddon
The interview. The most critical part of your hiring process adventure. If you can’t perform in an interview, you’re done. The road stops there for you. There’s no hope of pre-academy, academy, probation, dragon slaying, your first and second divorces...none of it. The interview is your way in, and if you show up unprepared and totally fuck it up it’s completely your fault. There is a very noticeable difference between people who are prepared for their interview versus someone who is winging it.
There will be hundreds of people interviewing for a limited number of spots and you can absolutely guarantee that the guy sitting next to you in the lobby has been putting in work in the interview department. Fuck that guy. You need to be proficient with your interview skills and ensure that Mr. Lobby Guy looks like a clown when he goes in after you. Like I’ve said in the previous articles, people are living and breathing the hiring process day in and day out. If you want to compete, you need to be a competitor. Work on your god damn interviews.
Who's the clown now?
There are some fairly important things to remember when you’re preparing for your interviews. If you’re going to be going to a station to work on interviews (which I highly recommend) make sure you read the article I wrote about ride alongs. If this is your first venture into the world of fire interviews you will absolutely fuck it up and probably feel like a total dumbass. That’s ok and it’s normal so just get that initial weirdness out of the way and then you’ll be set. It’s really fucking stressful and remembering what you want to talk about and staying on track is really tough sometimes, especially when a group of firefighters are on the other side of the table staring at you. Just keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere. You’ll quickly realize it’s going to take a lot of practice. It’s also totally ok to not take every single piece of advice you are given. I’ll probably give you some of that advice right now, and if you choose not to utilize it then you can go fuck a pike pole. But seriously, you will get a lot of conflicting tactics, mindsets, advice etc and it’s your job to take all of that and develop something that works for you. You want to be unique and memorable in your interview but you still need to check all the boxes. I feel that the most helpful things someone can do to prepare involve having solid character traits, solid bullet points, and enough repetition and familiarity with common questions so that you can plug those traits and bullet points into any question you encounter.
Your answer to each question needs to be at least 3-5 minutes long. Just set a timer right now and start talking...it’s a long fuckin time. You want to be shitting knowledge on whoever is on the other side of the table. You want them to know everything about you (minus #poopgang keep that a secret) by the time you’re done. The more stuff you talk about and the more detailed you are, the more opportunities you have to make a connection with someone on the interview panel and therefore have them pass you on to the next round. I had a really hard time expanding on my answers when I started interviewing. I wrote EXPAND in huge letters across every single piece of test prep I had, and that helped me a lot. Here’s an example for you...
Question: Before we start the interview, take a few minutes to tell us a little bit about yourself.
Answer 1: My name is Henry VonDinkleshits and I’m 26 years old. I’m from California and graduated high school in 2011. I’m married and I work at AMR. Also I'm a complete idiot.
Answer 2: My name is Henry VonDinkleshits and I am 26 years old. I was born and raised in Southern California in a town called Shitholesville, where I still live. I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors with my family and friends who I’m thankfully still very close with. I went to Shitholesville High where I played the fiddle and lettered in football and track. I played D line and I ran the 400m relay where both teams had some success. I graduated from Shitholesville High in 2011 and started to seek work in the emergency services field. I’ve been married for 2 years to my wife Helga, and we have 2 awesome chocolate labs named Adolf and Osama. We spend a lot of time outdoors with the dogs - we enjoy fishing and going for trail runs in my free time. I was hired at AMR in 2012 and have been working on a 911 ride for the last 7 years while I work towards achieving my goal of becoming a career firefighter. I’m really excited about this opportunity and I hope you’ll consider me for the position of firefighter recruit.
Don’t be an Answer 1 guy. Compare the two answers and look at all the opportunities in Answer 2 that there were to make personal connections with someone on the other side of the table. By expanding in Answer 2, you’ve shat much more information onto the interviewers. This is good. Remember, we like to shit. Obviously you can plug in whatever other personal details you have about your life’s journey. It’s your answer, so make it represent you and what you’re about. Before your interview has really even began, the panel knows that you’re a California kid, what you like to do in your free time, that you’re a family man, where you work and what your goals are etc. Its important to keep the “about yourself” answer short and sweet, so stay on track. Don’t start telling them what you’ve done to prepare, or why you want to be a firefighter. They’re going to ask you those questions in one way or another in a few minutes, so hold onto those little golden nuggets.
Also notice how I kept a chronological order in Answer 2. For me, its really easy to run through my mind what the fuck I’ve been up to if I just start at the beginning and go from there. This is where the need to expand and give a little bit more detail makes a big difference. As I also previously mentioned, using bullet points can help here too. I found that during interview prep if I tried to create a whole paragraph or script to an answer, I would almost always mix it up trying to remember word for word what I was supposed to say. What if they word the question differently? What if I get off track and forget where I was? If you use bullet points, you can always know in the back of your mind what topics or points you want to hit on. Your interview prep and practice will help you string those points together so that you don’t sound like some cro-magnon doofus. Along side your list of bullet points you’re going to want to have a handful of characteristics or traits, along with a few stories to support them.
Because the average attention span of someone isn't as long as this article would originally be, we broke The Interview portions up into two articles. You can view the second portion by clicking here.