Sitting through the interview process can be a nerve-racking ordeal; however, taking a little time to prepare for the interview will set us up for success when it comes time to sit before the chief.
Whether you are preparing to interview for a new job in a fire department or for a promotion in your current department, there are 5 key things you can do to ace the interview.
Tip #1 – Do Your Homework
The interview process should start long before we sit in front of the chief. Research the organization and gather as much information as possible. For example, if we know how many stations and companies are in the department, we can tailor our answers to that information.
Some key things to look for when researching the organization include:
- the number of personnel, stations, and apparatus
- rank structure
- call volume
- special services
- size and age of the population served
- the department’s vision or mission statement
Tip #2 – Practice Interviewing
There are a number of ways to practice interviewing. We can have your spouse or a friend conduct a practice interview or have an officer in our department set up a mock interview. I find the mock interview to be a great way to get feedback on our interview skills. If you have a mentor, I am certain they would be willing to do this for you.
Also, be ready to answer common interview questions. Questions like “How do you handle stressful situations?” or “What is your greatest weakness?” are often asked in an interview. You should be prepared to answer such questions in an articulate manner.
I recently asked a firefighter candidate the question about handling stressful situations. His response was: “I drink beer.” Obviously, he was not prepared for this question. Needless to say, he did not get the job.
Tip #3 – Remember First Impressions Are Everything
When it comes time to do the interview, we must ensure the first impression we make is a good and lasting one. Everything from how we walk into the room to how we speak can have an impact on the first impression. We must ensure that we are well-groomed and well-dressed for the interview. Depending on the situation, this may mean a suit or our fire department’s “class A” uniform. Regardless, we must ensure we are well-dressed.
When entering the room, it is a good idea to greet the interviewers and shake their hands.
Also, be careful not to fidget around too much. This is particularly true for firefighter interviews. Showing that we cannot handle the stress of an interview without letting our nerves get the best of us will only make the chief question our ability to handle the stress of the job.
Tip #4 – Do Not Fall Apart
Often, interviewees will let a slip-up on one question destroy the rest of the interview. If we do this, it only tells the chief that we cannot recover from a mistake or handle stress without falling apart.
If you make a mistake or slip-up on a question, try to relax and focus on answering the next question.
Tip #5 – Follow Up
This is a tip that is often provided to job seekers. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to follow up with the interviewer after the interview process is complete. However, it is important to understand the circumstances of the particular organization you are interviewing with and where you are in the process.
For example, if the interview is for an entry-level firefighter and the interview is only part of a multi-step process, it may not be appropriate to do a follow-up email or phone call. It is important to consider the hiring process for that particular department.
For those of us who may be interviewing for a promotion into the officer ranks, I believe it is very important to follow-up. This solidifies our desire and determination to the person making the selection.
If we decide to follow up, it should be polite and to the point. A simple note thanking the interviewer for their time and informing them we look forward to working with them should do the trick.
By applying these steps, we will be set up for success when interview time comes.
Photo courtesy of Brett Dzadik.