FIRE CHIEFS INTERVIEW

Fire Department Chief Collar Brass in Red and GoldThe fire department Chiefs Interview is one of the last steps in the getting your Firefighter job offer. This interview is different from your previous interviews. Typically, the Chiefs Interview is a less formal one-on-one interview between you and the hiring chief.

The Chief conducting your interview will want to get a feel for you, an idea of who you are and how you’ll fit into the organization. He or she will be forming a personal opinion of you: whether or not you will be a good fit in the department, whether or not you’ll represent the department in a positive, professional manner, and whether or not they would personally enjoy working with you.

The Chiefs Interview will be measuring your knowledge, ability, drive and personality. Where the previous Personnel Interview was filled with standardized questions that were given to every candidate; and the Background Interview was very fact based about your past places of employment, possible legal, moral or ethical indiscretions, etc.; the Firefighter Chiefs Interview is much more about you as a person. The Chief will have your file and will ask you any variety of questions about your past and about your future aspirations, both professional and personal. He or she will want to know as much about who you are personally as well as what you’ve done professionally.

Again, it’s important to note that this interview may be formal, but quite often it has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to your previous interviews. It is not uncommon for the Chief to smile and converse with you in a more relaxed way. After all, the Chief knows you’ve scored well enough in the other phases of the hiring process and you’ve passed your background investigation, so you have already proven yourself to be far above the average group of testing candidates. Now it is fine-tuning the list and making the final selections from the actual group of candidates who are truly in the running to start the next academy.

With that being said, this interview may evolve into a relaxed, personal conversation with smiles and laughs. You may feel like you’ve got this one in the bag; however, don’t get too relaxed. Do smile and do lightly chuckle if appropriate, but always be mature and professional with your demeanor.  Even though this may sound like common sense, it bears stating: be positive, be personable and above all, be professional!

CHIEFS INTERVIEW QUESTION TOPICS:

There are some specific areas that will usually be touched on. Thinking about them and preparing for them ahead of time will allow you to be relaxed and smooth in the real interview.

  • Know about the Fire Department you are interviewing for.
  • Know about the community or communities the Fire Department serves.
  • Be prepared to explain any question marks or grey areas in your past.
  • Be prepared to discuss your education and educational goals.
  • Be prepared to discuss your past work experiences and your future career goals.
  • Be prepared to discuss your home life, family, hobbies and extra-curricular activities.
  • Be prepared to discuss any volunteerism or community involvement you participate in, or be prepared to explain why you don’t have any experience with it.

You’ll notice a common theme with those points: BE PREPARED. One of the main reasons the public looks to us in times of their greatest need is because they expect us to be prepared to deal with whatever emergency they are facing. The public expects that of us. My chief expects that of me, and I expect that of my firefighters. In the fire service, we live and work in a culture of proactive preparation. We don’t wait until the alarm bell goes off to check if we have water in the engine and hoses loaded. We prepare BEFORE the call, before the event and you need to do the same.

CHIEFS INTERVIEW RECONNAISSANCE:

The first thing we do when we come on-duty is do “shift change” with the off going crew. Basically, we talk about what happened during their shift, what calls they had and what equipment they used and if anything is not working properly. We learn a lot from simply talking to others. From discussing their calls, we may get a sense of environmental conditions in our area: if things are burning more easily or frequently, if road construction is hampering our routes, if there are dangers in our area we need to be aware of. From discussing the equipment used, we get an idea if something is not working, if we need to spend extra time double-checking something that was used, or if something is new or if something needs to be replaced. By simply talking to others, we learn a great deal before we ever touch our equipment or run a call.

You too can learn a lot by talking to others. Every department is different and every Chief doing hiring interviews is different; however, the people who know those differences best are the people who live and work in those departments with those Chiefs. Get out and visit some stations in the Department. Talk with crews who know what is important in their department and to their Chiefs. Ask if they know who the specific hiring Chief is and what he or she looks for in candidates. This isn’t cheating, this is PREPARING. No one is going to give you the answers to the Chiefs Interview. This is your interview and the answers will be yours based on your background, your life and your views and opinions. However, having given potential questions some thought beforehand can make the experience much more relaxing and pleasurable for you and the Chief interviewing you. You wouldn’t want to blank out or fumble on a simple question because you didn’t see it coming. Chiefs expect firefighters to be prepared and they will expect you to be prepared for the interview.

CHIEFS INTERVIEW PRACTICE:

Going back to our “shift change” analogy, after we do our “shift change” discussion with the off going crew, we check out our equipment. We go out and climb all over our engine and equipment. We check to make sure everything is there and working properly. Anything that isn’t working correctly should be discovered and fixed at this time, before we need it on an actual call. We pull out every piece of equipment and adjust it and fine-tune it so it’s ready and reliable.

You should do the same for your upcoming interview. Basically, practice your interview. Any problems with it should be discovered and fixed before the real Chiefs Interview. Adjust and fine-tune your interview techniques and answers by doing some practice/mock interviews. Probably the most useful practice/preparation will be to ask crews who work for that department if they’d be willing to give you a mock interview. They will be able to ask you questions they were asked or questions on topics they know the hiring Chief is passionate about. They will be able to offer valuable feedback on things you did well and things you can improve upon. They won’t have your file to reference personal things, but they can still ask you some of the general questions you can expect. In addition to station mock interviews, practice interviewing with friends who are trying to get hired or just anyone else who will give you honest feedback.