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Firefighter Jobs Newsletter #15

Are you interested in obtaining the competitive edge required to be successful in your goal of becoming a firefighter or being promoted to an officer's position within your department?  Since 1950, Don McNea Fire School's seminars, entry-level and promotional products have prepared over 40,000 applicants in their pursuit of becoming a firefighter or an officer.'s entry-level newsletter, which now has over 16,000 members, is about YOU BEING THE BEST - THE BEST PREPARED AND BEST INFORMED!  This periodic newsletter will concentrate on the complete firefighter and officer examination testing process.  We suggest that you start a notebook or 3-ring binder of our newsletters so that you can periodically review them in your examination preparation.

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1. Oral Interview Skills: Is My Answer Too Long? - Capt. Bob Smith

2. Firefighter Preparation Tip:  Preparation is a Reality Part II - Capt Steve Prziborowski

3. Don McNea Fire School's Test-Taking Strategies:  Firefighter Job Security and Work Schedule

4. Exam Announcements and Seminars

5. New Website

6. Prep Products


1. Oral Interview Skills:  Is My Answer Too Long? - Capt. Bob Smith


Capt. Bob Sir,


I Just completed my oral interview with a big dept. on the 17th. I feel that everything went great. It seems that they asked questions that I specifically studied for. Although I do have to say that I was still very nervous. I had practiced with a tape recorder as you had advised and my script came out great.

I do have one question for you though. I was asked the question of, "What do you know about the City of ------- and their fire dept?" I responded with the type of city they are, the location, major freeways, target hazards, square mileage everything imaginable that someone would need to know about the fire dept. and the city.

As I was giving my answer he looked up at me and gave a look like he did not even want to hear anything more that I had to say. This concerned me. Should I continue with my answer or somehow try and cut it a little short.

Reply:  You give your answer as planned. Although you can't tell what the board is thinking, if the panel looks puzzled ask them if they want more. They will tell if they have heard enough and you can be onto the next question. 

The best way to handle this type of question about the city and department is to use the shot gun effect. Give them a smattering of areas like square miles, population, type of city government, number of stations, engines, trucks, number of personnel and target hazards.

What would you think if you were on a oral panel and the candidate gave you a sample smattering answer? Right, you would think he had done their homework. If they look puzzled, ask them if they want more. They probably won't.

You don't want to go endless here. Just a sample smattering. I had a candidate one day tell us so much he got down to the grid water system the city used. Definitely overkill. Another candidate during coaching had a good answer for city information. In the next two weeks before his oral he piled more information onto his answer. He ended up making a long answer endless, finally telling them the number of convention hotel rooms that were available. He committed suicide in his efforts to over impress the panel. Oh, yea, this is the guy we want to put in a station that would drive EVERYONE NUTS!

This mindless, endless, rambling not only hurts your score, it robs valuable time that you could be using to let the panel know the important stuff that could improve your chances to make the final cut. Because as you know:

See if you can put your medic program on hold. Once you get off probation you can complete the program. Your department might pay the cost.

For more information on Capt Bob's oral interview strategies, go to the link below:


2. Firefighter Preparation Tip:  Preparation is a reality Part II - Capt. Steve Prziborowski


Perception is in the eye of the beholder. People are continuously forming opinions about you, based on their perception of you. Alternately, you are also continuously forming opinions about others, based on your perceptions of them. This is something you, the firefighter candidate, needs to be aware of, any time you are interacting with fire service (or non-fire service) folks while participating in the firefighter hiring process. Situational awareness in relation to perception can help you increase your chances of getting hired as a firefighter. However, not being aware of how others perceive you or the message you are sending to others can quickly reduce or eliminate your chances of getting hired as a firefighter.


Let me provide some more examples, all of which I have personally experienced (note to the best of my knowledge, all of the candidates that were observed doing these behaviors were not hired by the department they were applying to):


1. You show up to your oral interview and you did not bring enough resumes. You bring three resumes and there are five members on the oral board. Oops.

Perception: you are not prepared, unprofessional, and you are not taking the interview process seriously. Is it true? Not necessarily - is it reality? In their eyes it is.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: always plan ahead and bring enough resumes. I've been on oral boards with up to seven raters evaluating each candidate.

Note: many oral boards will also have one person from the human resource / personnel division on the panel to moderate and ensure the raters are sticking to the questions and not asking inappropriate questions of the candidates. Most of the time, these folks will not be grading you. Don't let that fool you! While they may not be grading you, the other oral board members may still ask them their opinion of you (after you leave). Make the effort to give them a resume and also include them in your eye contact while answering questions. It makes them feel included and it can't hurt your score.


2. You use terms that are considered inappropriate by the politically correct police, such as fireman or manning.

Perception: you are sexist and old fashioned. It is very possible to see at least one female rater on your oral board. Put yourself in their shoes, if you kept hearing someone use inappropriate terms such as fireman, wouldn't you be turned off by what they have to say? Do you think you would give the candidate the highest score on every question? I highly doubt it.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: always use appropriate terminology such as firefighter or staffing (as opposed to fireman or manning).


3. You walk into a fire station or fire-related facility (headquarters, fire museum, city hall, etc.) and you do not acknowledge every person you come in contact with in a positive way. For example, you want to talk to a firefighter and the secretary at the front counter is rude to you. It is very natural for a person to be rude back in this situation. Remember where you are! Just because the secretary is not a firefighter, it does not mean they cannot provide negative feedback or suggestions about you to the fire chief or other administrative staff. Also, if you see someone that is not in a fire department uniform, don't dismiss them as being unimportant or not realize who they actually are (you may be surprised at who they actually are!).

Perception: you are rude and do not treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: always treat everyone (I repeat EVERYONE) you meet with respect and dignity. Take the time to say hello, good morning, etc. You never know who a person might be or what influence they might have on you, on the chief, or on the hiring process! If I were a fire chief, I would definitely ask my secretaries what they thought of candidates as they came through the office for a chief's interview. Were they nice? Were they respectful? Did they act mature? Did they act professional? Would you have a problem working with them?

Remember the movie Tin Cup with Kevin Costner? He is trying to win-over Rene Russo and get her to leave Don Johnson, another golfer Kevin is competing with. She stays loyal to Don, while Kevin continues to try and convince her that Don treats women, old people, and children poorly and disrespectfully. Rene doesn't see this side of Don (which is very typical) and only sees the loving, caring side. Well, she finally has the chance to witness Don being rude to a little kid asking for an autograph, and that is one of the things that led to her breaking up with him. Think of this when you are interacting with people, especially relating to the fire service.


Case Study: I remember testing with the City of Roseville, CA about 13 years ago. I was still pretty nave about the whole testing process and had only been testing for a few months. I went to human resources at city hall to pick up my application, and then decided to stop by the headquarters fire station to talk with some firefighters about becoming a firefighter and about their department. Well, I go up to the front counter of the fire station headquarters, and who do you think walks up to me (in a suit)? The fire chief! The problem is that I didn't realize he was the fire chief. I probably assumed he was just some guy in a suit that couldn't be important (boy, was I wrong; I guess I assumed all chiefs wore fire department uniforms).

He asks if there is anything he can do for me and I tell him "probably not." I tell him I wanted to speak with a firefighter. He then informs me he is a firefighter (which chiefs technically still are) and also the fire chief, and he then says the crews are out on a call, but that I can step in his office and he would be happy to talk with me. How do you think that made me feel? Let me see.I just insulted the chief, and I had assumed something (remember the old saying; if you assume something, you make an ass out of you and me. Additionally, stupid I was in shorts, a t-shirt, and some old running shoes. Do you think I made a positive first impression? Doubt it! Well, he took the time to answer my questions and then took the time to ask me some questions, most of which I was unprepared for.


Some of these questions included:

Why do you want to work for the Roseville Fire Department?

What do you know about the Roseville Fire Department?

What can I tell you about the Roseville Fire Department?

What have you done to prepare for the position of firefighter?

Why should we hire you over the other candidates that are testing?

Needless to say (especially since I never got a job offer), I didn't make a great first impression. Did I learn a valuable lesson from this? You bet I did! Always be prepared, and always treat all people you come in contact with, with respect. Also, do a little homework on the department prior to stopping by the stations. And last, but not least, always dress appropriately in all phases of the hiring process!

What I hope you get from this, is that you continuously remember now that "perception is reality" and that everything you do, every move you make, every thing you say, is being evaluated, processed, and critiqued by the person or persons who are around you, whether or not they are interacting with you or not. Keep that frame of mind and you will hopefully be able to present yourself in a positive and professional manner, which gets remembered in the best way possible (as opposed to the worst way possible).

Steve Prziborowski is a Captain with the Santa Clara County (Los Gatos, CA.) Fire Department and has been in the fire service for 12 years. He is also the Fire Technology Coordinator at Chabot College in (Hayward, CA.), where he has been instructing fire technology and EMT courses for 10 years. He is a state certified Chief Officer, Fire Officer, Master Instructor, Hazardous Materials Technician, and state licensed Paramedic. He has an Associate's degree in Fire Technology, a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master's degree in Emergency Services Administration.  He also publishes a free monthly newsletter geared toward better preparing the future firefighter for a career in the fire service, "The Chabot College Fire & EMS News," that is available on his website at

3. Don McNea Fire School's Test-Taking Strategies: Firefighter Job Security and Work Schedule



One of the things that we discuss in our seminars and talks to prospective firefighters is the job security the position of a firefighter offers for yourself and your family.  Did you know that 99.7% of all firefighters ever hired are never laid off?  In today's changing economic situation, how many jobs can boast that statistic?  How many people do you know that have been working for a company for 10, 15 or 20 years and suddenly the company is bought out and their job is eliminated?  Once you have worked hard to obtain this job, it is yours for a lifetime.  You have financial security, medical benefits for you and your family, an early retirement plan these are all benefits that not many jobs today can offer.  The average firefighter salary range is $50,000-$65,000 with hospitalization and a retirement plan after 25 years of service or the age of 48.  How many people do you know who can retire at the age of 48?  Most people have to wait until they are in their 60's before they can think about retiring comfortably. 


The work schedule of a firefighter consists of two 24-hour days per week, for an average of 8 days per month.  With this schedule, a firefighter has an average of 5 days off per week.  Normally every 3 weeks, a firefighter is given an additional day off. 

Because of the many days firefighters normally have off during a month, many firefighters maintain a second job to supplement their income.  Many firefighters easily can make as much money on their day off as they do on the job as a firefighter.  These second careers consist of salesmen, ambulance drivers, accountants, landscapers, contractors, attorneys you name it, a firefighter does it on their day off.

For more test-taking strategies, go to the following link:

For entry-level examination preparation, go to the following link:


4. Exam Announcements


The City of Arlington Texas.

Application Deadline: Oct. 5th 2005

Click on the link below for exam details

For those of you preparing for this examination, click on the link below for exam prep:


The City of Ventura, Calf.

Application Deadline: Sept. 23, 2005

Click on the link below for exam details.

For those of you preparing for this examination, click on the link below for exam prep:


The City of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Application deadline: Sept. 23, 2005

Click On the link below for exam details.


The City of Orange County, Florida

Application deadline: Sept. 30, 2005

Click On the link below for exam details. =4&cboDepartment=1%7C10%7C31&cboJobTitle=-1&cboSalaryRange=-1&t xtPostingID=&txtJobCode=&cmdSubmit=Submit


The City of Marathon, Florida

Application deadline Sept. 30th 2005

Additional information can be found at the link below


The City of Upper Arlington, Ohio

Application info can be found below.

The City of Upper Arlington



The City of Elk Grove, Calf.

Application deadline Oct. 7th 2005

Additional information can be found at the link below


The City of Clearwater, Florida

Deadline Dec. 31, 2005

Go to the link below for exam details


Las Vegas and North Las Vegas Firefighter Examination

The cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas will be accepting applications for the position of Firefighter Trainee during the period of October 17 through November 17, 2005, at Las Vegas City Hall, Human Resources Department, 400 Stewart Ave, on the corner of North Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.  This recruitment will involve a highly competitive process that includes a written exam scheduled for January 25, 2006, and a pass/fail physical ability test scheduled for mid-March 2006.

Click here for further information on this examination:

For those of you who want a head start on your competition, Don McNea Fire School has assembled a 600+ question practice examination for the Firefighter Selection, Inc. (FSI) 8th Edition test preparation manual.  Go to the link below for further information - remember that luck goes to the prepared!


5. New Website

We are 98% completed with our new website and are finetuning the last 2%.  It will be well worth the wait when it is up and running!

6. Preparatory Products


Taking a Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) exam in the future?

Go to the link below for exam prep.


Preparing for an upcoming oral interview exam?

Go to the link below for Capt. Bob Smith's oral interview prep.


Taking a psychological exam in the future?  Don't go into this exam unprepared!  Don McNea Fire School's CD/audio exam preparation will help you prepare!


For those of you having difficulty on the Reading Comprehension & Mathematics portions of examinations, go the link below for help:


Have you recently been hired by a department?  Do you have any questions?  Email us at


We hope this newsletter and upcoming editions will assist you in obtaining the best job in the world - a firefighter.  We wish you the best of luck!


Don McNea Fire School

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