STILL NOT A FIREFIGHTER? HERE’S WHY!

Modern Fire Engine Blog LogoAre you trying to become a professional Firefighter, but haven’t found success yet? You’re in good company.

Firefighter positions are extremely competitive and Fire Department tests bring out thousands of people who are pursuing the same dream. Candidates come from all walks of life. For some, their first application and test leads to success. For others, the process goes on for years, taking test after test, with no success achieving their dream.

What sets these people apart? Some would say it’s a matter of luck; however, as firefighters, we can’t control luck. What we can control is our preparation and actions.

There are several categories candidates typically fall into when pursuing a professional Firefighter position. Which category do you fall into? Depending on your answer, there are specific strategies to employ to increase your chances of progressing through the hiring process and achieving success.

firefighter job sign

CATEGORY 1:  WAITING TO APPLY/TEST.

 Perhaps you don’t meet the minimum application/testing requirements for a particular department, or perhaps you feel like you aren’t truly “qualified” or experienced enough to deserve the job.

 Regardless of your reason for hesitating, you need to start testing NOW. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements for a particular department, find out what those requirements are and start working toward them; however, while you are doing that, you should apply and test for other departments.

 Do your research and find out what the requirements are for various departments. Some departments require a completed Firefighter I Academy, EMT or Paramedic training/certification, and experience prior to applying. Some departments only require you meet a minimum age requirement (often 18), and have a high school diploma or equivalent to apply and test.

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Find out MINIMUM requirements to apply and test for all the departments in your area or any area you are willing to work.
  2. Apply and test for those departments where you meet the minimum requirements.
  3. Work on expanding your qualifications, so you can apply to more departments as soon as possible.

firefighter job application

REASONS TO TAKE ACTION:

Immediately applying and testing with departments does several things. Taking this action gives you first-hand experience with the hiring process. Going through this experience will give you valuable insight and familiarity with the application, testing and interviewing process, which in turn, will allow you to become more comfortable and confident with those various hiring phases.

Most importantly, by simply applying and testing, you give yourself the possibility of landing a professional firefighter position. 

 Remember, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. Applying and testing is your ticket for the chance at a professional firefighter career.

CATEGORY 2:  APPLYING/TESTING FOR ONLY ONE DEPARTMENT.

 Do you have your sights set on one department? It’s definitely a good thing to have a target or goal department so you can prepare for their hiring process; however, it’s better to have several target or goal departments.

Is your ultimate goal to be a Firefighter or simply to work for a specific department or organization? There is a difference. If you are committed to becoming a Firefighter you must be open to finding where you fit within the Fire Service as a whole, not just in one department. Most career and volunteer firefighters consider themselves Firefighters first, and members of a specific department second.

THE PROBLEM:

 By limiting your applications and tests to one department, you are limiting your opportunities for success.

 Most departments only test an average of once every two years. Many departments test far less than that. If you are only applying to one department and you have a bad day on the test (or a less than perfect day), you will not have an opportunity to become a firefighter for at least two more years.

 WHAT TO DO:

  1. Apply and test for multiple departments in your area or any area you are willing to work.
  2. If you don’t meet requirements for certain departments, work on expanding your qualifications, so you can apply to more departments as soon as possible.

How Hiring Firefighters

 REASONS TO TAKE ACTION:

 The more departments you apply and test with, the more opportunity you have for getting hired as a professional firefighter. If you expand your applications and tests to multiple departments, you are increasing your opportunities for success. You are also increasing your opportunities to learn, grow and improve at a much faster rate.

You might be offered a Firefighter position with a department other than your dream department. If this happens, TAKE IT. Remember, all professional firefighter positions are highly competitive and difficult to secure. You may never get a job offer from another department.

If you do accept a job with a department other than your dream department, your are not locked in for life. You can still test and work towards your dream. However, you may be pleasantly surprised and find that you love this department once you are a part of it. In addition, taking this job will mean you are now a professional firefighter.

As a professional firefighter:

  • You will start receiving a salary as a firefighter.
  • You will receive benefits as a firefighter.
  • You will receive continual and advanced training as a firefighter.
  • You will be gaining valuable, real life job experience as a firefighter.
  • And you will be gaining immediate “time in service” as a firefighter.

If you later transfer to another career fire department, this “time in service” will typically be applied to your “years in service” which contribute to your retirement and benefits.

CATEGORY 3:  CONTINUALLY APPLYING AND TESTING WITHOUT SUCCESS:

firefighter runningHave you been on the hamster wheel of testing for one department after another, year after year, with no success? If so, you need to do some self-evaluation to determine why you aren’t progressing further in the hiring process.

Try to figure out which phase you are most consistently dropping out of the hiring process. Think back on the various tests you’ve taken and chart the phases in which you were washed out. Of course there could be random good or bad days on some tests or interviews, but you should see an overall pattern. The most consistent phase you find yourself washing out of the hiring process is the phase you need to focus your attention on. 

Once you’ve determined what your personal road blocks are, you can focus on the techniques that will help you break through them.

WHAT TO DO:

WRITTEN TESTS: Purchase study guides and use them. Take practice tests. If you’ve already been doing this without success, hire a tutor from the local college or Craigslist. Tutors can usually be hired for $20-25/hour. A good tutor can explain concepts to you in different ways to help you understand.

PHYSICAL ABILITY TESTS: Firefighting can be a very physically strenuous job, and these tests are the MINIMUM standard for entry. The physical expectations in the academy and on the job are much harder than the physical ability tests. Working out, eating right and committing to a healthy, active lifestyle shows that you have the ability and desire to become a professional firefighter. Get motivated. Find a workout partner with similar goals or hire a trainer or nutritionist if you are struggling. If you find yourself lacking the motivation to improve in this area, then this may not be the right career for you.

INTERVIEWS: For many candidates, the interview process is the largest stumbling block. Unfortunately, it also happens to be the single most important determining factor in most department tests. If you are consistently failing the interview phase, you need to evaluate whether it’s due to the content or delivery of your answers. While the interview process can be very subjective, practice and preparation can make the difference between landing the job or moving on to the next test.

Most of the questions you will be asked fall into a handful of categories that you can prepare for. If you struggle with nerves or fail to convey confidence and enthusiasm, there are specific techniques that you can employ to improve your demeanor. The art of interviewing is a complex topic, so be sure to read through our INTERVIEW articles for specific information on how you can prepare, practice and improve. To get yourself started, participate in mock interviews and record yourself. This will allow you to see your strengths and weaknesses in addition to giving you a taste of the stress that is normally encountered during an interview.

BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS: If you have repeatedly been disqualified during your background investigation, you probably know why. If you don’t know why, respectfully ask the investigators. Also ask the investigators for advice on fixing or overcoming the problem. Ask them if you can take action to fix the issue, if it will drop off in the future or if it is something that will permanently disqualify you. See our articles on BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS for more information. 

get started on your firefighter career

No matter where you are in your journey to become a firefighter, you will benefit from stepping back and analyzing your plan and preparation. Are you creating and maximizing opportunities for success? Are you devoting the time, resources and hard work to improve yourself and the skills it will take to land your dream job?

Invest in yourself and your future career. Spend the money and take the time to learn, grow and prepare yourself. This career requires a lifelong dedication to learning and improving, and you need to be prepared to embrace that philosophy prior to getting hired.

I’d say good luck, but again, we don’t control luck. Instead, take control of your future, prepare and take action! I wish you success.

firefighter success