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Topic1:  Answering the Oral Interview Question What is Your Weakness?

Topic 2:  Making the Right Impression on Your Fire Station Visit Newsletter #71 entry-level newsletter is about YOU BEING THE BEST - THE BEST PREPARED AND BEST INFORMED!

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May, 2013

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    1. Topic:  Answering the Oral Interview Question - What is Your Weakness?

    2. Topic:  Making the Right Impression on your Fire Station Visit

    3. Firefighter Job Openings Across the Country


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    1. Topic:  Answering the Oral Interview Question What is Your Weakness?

    I was going over some questions for interviews, and I was hoping someone could help me with an answer. What are good answers for the question; what are your strengths and weaknesses? What are some bad answers?   John

Reply: Let's start with what your answers are first.

    O.K. If asked those questions I would probably respond with something like; My strengths are education, willingness to start from the bottom, my diverse background in fields other than fire fighting, and the fact that I have experience but am very adaptable to my current surroundings. My weaknesses are occasional tunnel vision, excitability, and no full-time experience. There are probably a thousand faults but you get the point. Where do I go from here? John

First understand that if we start giving answers, everyone would clone them and they would lose their value. I encourage candidates do use their own answers, reflecting their personal life experience.

This question can be asked in many ways, i.e.: What attributes do you think a firefighter should possess, or what qualities, what strengths etc. I think you can come up with better strengths. Education, starting at the bottom and a diverse background are not really strengths. They are what you've done to prepare for the position. Areas relating to loyalty, honesty, and being dependable etc. are strengths.

When you're deciding a weakness, use something that might have been a weakness, but you have already done something to correct it i.e., you had a problem speaking in front of groups. You have improved this situation by taking a public speaking class or joining Toastmasters.

Since firefighters are in a living environment, we would not be looking for someone with occasional tunnel vision and excitability. No full-time experience is not a good choice for a weakness either.

Got a call from a candidate who lives in Washington now and his oral was in 4 days. Joel got his Firefighter 1 from an academy in Southern California. He said it hasn't helped much trying to get a job. He has now been a medic for 8 months with no luck in testing. In the most pathetic monotone voice he said this is the department he really wants to work for and (with absolutely no enthusiasm) he will be one of the 15 hired.

He asked if he could run one of his answers on what a negative is for him that his firefighter buddies and other friends helped him work out. Sure, shoot. Joel said a negative for me is my past. Even though I got a DUI and some other minor stuff, that's not who I really am.

I couldn't believe my ears. Uh, Joel that answer would only open a can of worms. Don't use it.

Joel said, OK how about this one. Another negative for me is my paramedic skills. This job will help me improve them. Again, I couldn't believe my ears. Yep, that's the guy we want to hire, the one with the poor medic skills. Can't use this one either.

As already mentioned, everyone becomes an expert when they get hired. The answers Joel worked out with some firefighters and friends were definitely not helping but hurting him. The bigger problem is he didn't even have a clue. This was just one answer. How bad were the others?

I would like to say this was an isolated incident.  But we encounter these bad answers on a regular basis. It is especially painful in an actual oral board where we see the candidates die a slow death one question after another. Then the candidates wonder why they don't get hired. This is an area where we try to keep candidates from stepping on the land mines.

After a little probing, we did find a negative Joel could use that he was working on to improve.

Thanks to Capt Bob Smith, Entry-Level Author and Speaker, for his great insight into the oral interview process.  Additional oral interview strategies can be found at the link below:


Go to the link below for the #1 ranked site on the internet on How to Become a Firefighter!



    2. Topic:  Making the Right Impression on your Fire Station Visit

Visiting a fire station can be a very educational and rewarding experience when you are testing to become a firefighter. However, if you are not careful, the impression you make, as well as the behavior you present may actually go against you when it comes to getting a job with that fire department. I am a firm believer that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.
Why would you even want to visit a fire station you might wonder? Here are the three main reasons why you would visit a fire station:

  • To find out more about the job of a firefighter
  • To obtain more information about that fire department, either before they offer a firefighter examination or during the firefighter examination process
  • To visit with any acquaintances or friends that are working in the fire service

What benefits can you receive out of visiting a fire station?

  • Getting the chance to network, make friends, and make contacts that may be able to assist you in the future. Even if that fire department doesn't hold a firefighter exam for the next few years, many of those firefighters have friends or relatives that work in many other neighboring fire departments that they can put you in touch with for assistance.
  • Getting the chance to learn more about the job of a firefighter.
  • Getting the chance to ask questions of the firefighters that you may have not been able to find answers for on the department website or through other methods
  • Getting the chance to meet firefighters that may be sitting on your oral interview panel either in that department or a neighboring department. I can't count the amount of times I have met someone at a fire station only to find them at a later date on my oral board interviewing me, either in their own department or a neighboring department. The benefit here is that if you make a great impression on that station visit, it can go in your favor. However, the downfall is that if you make a poor impression, it can also go against you.
  • Getting the chance to talk to the newly hired firefighters so that you can ask them questions relating to what they did to get hired, and to find out what information they can share with you that might assist you in your pursuit.

Here are some suggestions to ensure that you make a good impression and that you properly present yourself to the firefighters:


  • Try not to just "drop in" and say, "can I get some of your time?" Many fire departments have very busy schedules during the day and like to plan out their daily routine as best as they can. Some departments require that you contact the fire department administration office to make an appointment to visit a fire station. If you're not sure, just stop by a fire station and ask them if you could make an appointment for a station tour and a chance to ask them some questions about becoming a firefighter. They will either schedule an appointment or if they have the time, fit you in right there.
  • If at all possible, attempt to call the station in advance to set up an appointment. Some departments provide station phone numbers to the public; some do not provide station phone numbers to the public. It wouldn't hurt to stop by administration or a fire station and ask them for an address and phone list of all of their fire stations. Let them know you want to become a firefighter and that you want to learn more about the job and have a chance to talk to the firefighters. Because of heightened security measures these days, don't be surprised if they don't give out phone numbers. The worst thing they could say is no.
  • If they don't give you the station addresses, where can you find them? Many fire departments list their fire station addresses on their website or in the blue government pages of the phone book.
  • Whenever you stop by a fire station, bring a nice dessert. If you bring ice cream, don't bring the square stuff. I laughed when I heard Captain Bob mentioning on his audiotapes to not bring the square boxes of ice cream bring the round containers. How true that is. I realize it is the thought that counts, but it just comes across as tacky or cheap, in my opinion. If you have the chance, bake something nice, like a cake, pie, or chocolate chip cookies you can never go wrong with chocolate chip cookies! It shows a little more personalization and also demonstrates your cooking ability or lack of ability. Make sure you bring enough for everyone on that shift. Most fire stations only have three or four members on duty per day. One container of ice cream or one pie should suffice. However, if there are 10 or more firefighters on duty, don't walk in with one container of ice cream. Do your homework in advance if worst comes to worst, count the cars in the fire station parking lot, which might give you a good clue.
  • If you set up an appointment, do not be late! This is a double standard. The firefighters can be late because that is their job! I remember a candidate showing up at 1:00 p.m. like I had asked him to. He had to wait out front until 2:00 p.m. because we were on a grass fire. When we came back, he appeared to be perturbed that we were not there at 1:00 p.m. I kindly explained we had work to do, but he still seemed to be bitter and bent out of shape. Luckily he didn't get hired, because with an attitude like that, I bet he would have been a joy to be around at the station. If the firefighters are not there when you are, kindly wait for them. Give them time to return, and if you find yourself having to leave, at least leave a nice note on the door saying that you waited but you had another appointment or something important you had to leave for and that you would like to arrange another meeting sometime. Leave them your phone number. That shows respect and common courtesy.
  • When you are at the station, make the attempt to say "hi," introduce yourself and shake the hand of everyone present that day. You never know where you might see that person again. By showing your politeness and enthusiasm at meeting the different firefighters, you show a positive and can-do attitude.
  • When you arrive, already have a list of questions that you want to have answered. Also, bring a notebook and multiple pens it is embarrassing to have to ask to borrow a pen if yours runs out. I mention the notebook also because I had a candidate stop by and 30 minutes into the question and answer session, he asked me if he could have a pen and paper to right down all of this good information I was providing him with. He didn't impress at all. Any time you visit a fire station you should expect to get some good information to write down. Also, if he didn't feel it was important to bring pen and paper, how is he going to be at work when he has to think and act on his own at times? Gee Chief, I didn't think it was that important, so I didn't do it! Yeah right.
  • Dress appropriately. Don't be the candidate that comes in to the station in a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops. Don't be like many of the other candidates. Remember that you don't want to be a clone. You want to stand out from the other candidates in a positive way. For the men: a simple polo-style or button-down is appropriate for a shirt try to stay away from t-shirts. Khakis or even clean jeans are appropriate for pants, and for shoes, you can wear any type of casual, clean, polished, closed-toe shoes no sandals. For the women, an appropriate shirt would be something tasteful, and non-revealing, with clean and tasteful pants. For your shoes, you can wear any type of casual, clean, polished, closed-toe shoes no sandals. You don't have to be as formal as you would for an oral interview, but you do have to dress appropriately and not too casual.
  • Why? You never know whom you're going to meet at the fire station and where you'll see them again. I remember the time I was in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops visiting a fire station. I thought I was all cool and everything until the fire chief walked in and the captain introduced me to him. I found out later from the captain that the chief likes everyone in the department to always wear their uniform because he is into a professional image. As luck would have it, I ended up getting a chief's interview. Unfortunately I was so nervous when I went in there because of how I was dressed when I first met him, that I did not do as good as I could have. Yes, there are those that say that they are not going to be someone they are not and that the chief should take them as they are. Keep thinking in that form or fashion and I bet your chances of getting hired will greatly decrease. It's not what they can do for you it's what you can do for them.
  • Do not overstay your welcome. You should expect to be there anywhere from 30 minutes to maybe an hour or so. Any more time than that is eating into their daily routine. Believe it or not, many fire departments do not sit in the chairs all day waiting for the bell to go off. They have to do hydrant testing, training, physical fitness, apparatus and facility maintenance, fire prevention inspections, public education details, and go on emergency and non-emergency calls. The more time they spend with you, the less time they have to do those things. Don't get me wrong I understand the importance of meeting with firefighter candidates during a testing process, and I will happily put aside some of those details to help someone out. I've even had candidates come into the workout room and pull up a chair while I run on the treadmill, just so I can get my workout in.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to stop by the fire station. If I had a dollar for every candidate that stopped by at 8:00 p.m. the night before his or her interview, desperate for assistance, I would be a rich man. What made them wait so long? Leave yourself plenty of preparation time in advance. Showing up at the last minute only proves to us that you either have poor time management or organizational skills.
  • If you find yourself doing more talking then listening, you're probably digging yourself a hole! You need to be a sponge. Ask a question, and then let them answer. Remember this is not a time to brag about how great you are or let them know how crazy the department would be by not hiring you.
  • If you get a good vibe from the crew that you've been talking with, go ask them if you could schedule a mock oral interview with them at a later date don't forget to also bring desert then. Mock orals can be tricky if you get people assisting you that have not been on an oral panel for years or have very little experience in the way of assisting candidates. One thing you should be asking at the station is if any of them have sat on the oral panels recently. If they have, then you might see if they would be willing to give you a mock oral. Take it for what it is worth someone's opinion. Just remember that everyone has opinions, not one opinion is necessarily right, and that you can learn something from everyone.
  • Do not forget to thank the crew for taking the time to assist you. Even a simple thank you note mailed to them after the visit is a nice gesture that would allow them to remember you in a positive light unless you were a bumbling idiot and the thank you note keeps your name in their heads forever!
  • When you are leaving, ask the captain if there are any other stations they would suggest you stop by as well. On that same note, ask them if there are any other individuals within the fire department that they would recommend you talk to as well. When I have good quality candidates stop by and ask me these questions, I try and point them to people that have been recently hired as well as people I know have sat on past oral boards, because they have a good idea of what they liked and disliked in the candidates that they chose to be the best.
  • Last, but not least, remember this little nugget: you are in the spotlight 100 percent of the time you are at the fire station. Don't let your guard down! The entire time you are there the crewmembers are informally testing you. They might ask you a question such as "why do you want to work for us?" or "tell us about yourself." Make sure that you have good answers to those questions which you should already have because you have been practicing and rehearsing for your oral interviews, haven't you?

If you just keep in mind that visiting fire stations can either help your outcome or hurt your outcome, you should be able to make that positive first impression the only that will potentially last your entire career. Visiting fire stations is a very critical part of the firefighter testing process. Make that positive first impression and you increase your chances of success!


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Past Newsletters!

If you would like to review our past newsletters, go to the link below or visit or and click on "Past Newsletters." 


3. Firefighter Job Openings Across the Country, in conjunction with, brings the following job announcements for your review.  Since 1996, has been providing its members with the most comprehensive and accurate firefighter employment information available. We list complete hiring information and provide links to the Departments' websites and local area.

Every time we post a new listing, we verify the information and verify links to the department. We search newspapers all over the nation daily to provide you with the most current job listings available.

We also provide links to the city in which the department is located. This helps those who are interested in moving to another location to find out about the area. With this tool, you can check out housing, schools, cost of living and even entertainment options before you move anywhere.

Firefighter Job Openings:

Huntington Beach, CA

Jacksonville, FL

Lexington, KY

Saint Paul, MN

Santa Clara, CA

Berkeley, CA

Broadview Heights, OH

Deer Park, TX

Huntington Beach Fire Department

2000 Main Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Orange County

714-374-1551 - fax

Position:  Firefighter Paramedic

Last Filing Date: May 17, 2013

City of Huntington Beach, Human Resources
2000 Main Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 536-5492


Jacksonville Fire Rescue Dept
107 N Market Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202

Duval County

904-630-2651 - fax

Position:  Firefighter

Last Filing Date:   June 28, 2013

City of Jacksonville, Human Resources Department
117 West Duval Street, Suite 100
Jacksonville, FL 32202
904-247-6263 enings


Lexington Fire Department
219 East Third Street
Lexington, KY 40508



Position:  Firefighter

Last Filing Date:  May 31, 2013

Lexington Fire Department
211 East Third Street
Lexington, KY 40508

Saint Paul Fire Department
100 11th Street East
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Ramsey County

651-228-6255 - fax

Position:  Firefighter (Paramedic) Lateral Transfers

Last Filing Date:  May 31, 2013


Human Resources Contact Information: Liz Staberg
200 City Hall Annex
25 West Fourth Street
St. Paul, MN 55102
Fax: 651-266-6490 &hit_count=yes&headerFooter=1&promo=0&transfer=0&WDDXJobSearchPar ams=%3CwddxPacket%20version%3D%271.0%27%3E%3Cheader%2F%3E %3Cdata%3E%3Cstruct%3E%3Cvar%20


Santa Clara County Fire Department
14700 Winchester Boulevard
Los Gatos, CA 95032

Santa Clara County


Santa Clara County Fire Department
14700 Winchester Boulevard
Los Gatos, CA 95032


Berkeley Fire Department
2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94703

Alameda County


Position:  Firefighter - Paramedic

Last Filing Date:  May 28, 2013

City of Berkeley, Human Resources Dept.
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, CA 94704


Broadview Heights Fire Department
3591 East Wallings Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147

Cuyahoga County

440-526-6153 - fax

Position:  Firefighter/Paramedic

Last Filing Date:  May 21, 2013

Broadview Heights City Hall
9543 Broadview Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147


Odessa Fire Administration
4th and Lee, Municipal Plaza, 5th Floor
PO Box 4398
Odessa, TX 79761

Ector County


Position:  Firefighter/Emt or Paramedic 2013

Last Filing Date:  May 24, 2013

City of Odessa, Human Resources Department
411 West 8th Street 79761
PO Box 4398/79760
Odessa, TX 79761

Reading Department Of Fire And Rescue
815 Washington Street
Reading, PA 19601

Berks County

610-655-6395 - fax

Position: Paramedic/Firefighter

Last Filing Date: May 17, 2013

City of Reading
Human Resources Office
815 Washington St
Reading, PA 19601

Deer Park Fire Department
2211 East X Street
Deer Park, TX 77536

281-478-7289 - fax

Position: Paramedic or EMT/Intermediate

Last Filing Date:  June 13, 2013

Deer Park Human Resources
710 East San Augustine
Deer Park, TX 77536


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