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Firefighter Jobs newsletter # 8

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 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. 15 tips to successfully completing a job application.  Capt. Steve Priziborowski.

    2.  What do I wear to a job interview?  Capt. Bob Smith.

    3.  Test-taking Tactics – Understanding the Test Maker's  Tactics.

             Don McNea Fire School (

    4.  LA County/City oral exam prep.  Capt. Bob Smith

    5. Current exam notices and prep seminars.

    6. Testimonials

#1      Capt. Steve Priziborowski

15 Tips to Successfully Completing the Job Application


Many of us probably cringe at the thought of having to provide a resume, or update a resume for an upcoming interview or application process. Producing and keeping your resume updated don't have to be that difficult or stressful. A properly prepared resume can distinguish you from other candidates as well as showcase the knowledge, skills, and abilities that make you the best fit for the position.


1. Keep it to one (1) page – unless you are competing for a chief officer position (and you have over 10 years of specific experience to the field you're applying for) you don't have that much that can't be squeezed onto one page. If it can't fit on one page, it probably isn't important enough or relevant enough to be on there. When I took my Captain's oral interview, I had a one-page resume. It was tough to squeeze everything on there (and have to leave things out), but I made it work. I received a 100% score on my oral interview, so I guess a one-page resume didn't hurt me.

2. 12-point font size is suggested for text. I've seen ones that are in 9-point and 10-point font (as well as 18-point font). 12-point font size is standard for text – anything smaller and people are going to strain their eyes, anything larger is going to be obnoxious. Usually the people reviewing your resume are not just fresh out of college. They usually have some experience behind their belts and with experience comes declining eye site. How are you going to keep someone's attention if they have to strain to read your writing?

3. Keep it short, sweet, to the point, and leave plenty of open space to distinguish between things you want to stand out. If you're writing more than two to three lines of text in a row, it is going to read like a paragraph. People reviewing resumes usually don't have time to read novels – they want one to two lines that are separated by open space, maybe accented with bullets or other objects, and pleasing to the eyes. Think about if you hand out an updated resume when you walk into the room. If you write paragraphs, there is the tendency they will not see key points (because all the words blend together after a while) and that they will miss things. Even if they had the time to review the one you turned in with your application, they usually don't have more than a minute or two to read it – that is why it is important to be short and sweet, making things stick out and be noticeable.

4. Make sure you keep it from being BORING. (Many resumes are plain, difficult to read, and will put the reader to sleep). Use type sets such as uppercase, sentence case, bold, underline, italics, in addition to just the plain old regular computer print. Alternating type sets will help the reader distinguish and pick out certain things about you and what you have to offer, while also ensuring that certain things about you are highlighted.

5. If you're not updating your resume at least once a month, you're probably not doing as much as you can to prepare yourself to become a firefighter. Updates can include additional education or training, another relevant certificate, more hours of community service / volunteer time, etc.

6. If you are going to bring a resume to the interview (updated resume or initial resume), I would suggest bringing at least seven (7) resumes with you. I had an entry-level interview once with seven oral board members. Talk about intimidating. Most oral boards usually only have three to five members on them, but how would you feel if you only had five resumes and there were six people in front of you? What are you going to do now? Only pass out five of them and leave one person in the cold? How do you think that person is going to score you? I bet you would be embarrassed and it would potentially make you so nervous that you screwed up that you would not do as well as you should.

7. DO NOT LIST: "References available upon request." It is a waste of space and I've never had any department ask me for references at the time of application or while you're going through the entry-level process. If they want references, they'll usually ask you as a part of your background investigation paperwork. It might work in the business world, but to me it is one line of text that can be used more wisely.

8. Stick to neutral colors – white, gray, beige, etc. If you want to stand out, having bright colored resume paper is probably not the best way.

9. Don't forget to list your name, address and phone number. A few years ago, we were looking at hiring some new EMT instructors at the college. One excellent candidate turned in his resume (no job application, just a resume as a screening tool). However, when I made an attempt to find a way to contact him to bring him in for an interview, I couldn't locate an address or a phone number. He had just put his name on the top of the resume and went into his qualifications.

The scary part is that he was already a Captain at his fire department. The only thing I can assume is that he used the same resume that he used for his Captain's promotional exam (even then that is risky because it bucks the normal trend). That is fine for his fire department because I think they knew how to contact him, but it was not acceptable to me because I did not have a way to contact him. He failed at making a positive first impression. Learn from his mistake.

10. Try to stay away from using abbreviations on your resume. About the only acceptable abbreviations are EMT, CPR, or the State you live in. Why is that? Well what might be an abbreviation of one word might be the abbreviation of another word to someone else. In the medical field, PE can stand for patient exam, pulmonary edema, or pulmonary embolus. Not that you're probably going to list PE on your resume, but I think you get the point.

Think about who might read your resume – it might not just be a fire service professional. Folks from the H.R. / Personnel department might be the ones reading it (or screening it) first or during an oral interview, and you can't expect them to know fire service abbreviations. Also, many departments have a citizen from the community on the oral panel. Do you think you're going to score points if you're talking about things they are not aware of? Also, writing out words can be perceived as being more professional or mature.

11. The only name, street address (2544 Jones Street), zip code, and phone numbers that should be on your resume should be your own! Do not list names of references (I've seen that done) or names of supervisors. You know my opinion on listing references. As for names of supervisors, that information will be going on the application. Another problem with listing names on your resume is that not everyone you list is going to be well liked.

I realize the oral board is supposed to be objective – not subjective. However, if you list the name of a reference on there that might not be a "quality reference" in the eyes of the evaluator (oh yes, it is a very small world); you put yourself at risk of getting the maximum points. I know that subjectivity is not supposed to occur in the oral board process, but it is almost impossible to eliminate bias and personal opinions in the testing process.

12. If you're going to list email addresses on your resume, avoid ones such as or Oh yes, I've seen many similar ones. I am not here to judge folks on their hobbies, personal lives, or professional sports team choices. I am just offering the suggestion that you might want a more "professional sounding" one such as your first and last name. I know we're supposed to be objective, but put yourself in the shoes of a fire chief reviewing resumes of candidates they plan to hire as firefighters for the next 30 years, representing their community and their department. Just like cars and the clothes we wear can be an extension of our personalities and attitudes, so can email addresses.

I have no problem with the Oakland Raiders. But what if the person reading your resume is a 49'er fan and hates the Raiders? Or what if you are a female on the oral panel reviewing resumes and you see a I know we're not supposed to be biased, but can you blame them if they are? Also, for those of you with email accounts: if you have a "member profile," I would suggest reviewing it to make sure you would not be ashamed if a fire chief that was looking to hire you saw that profile. I make the EMT students at the college provide a resume to me and every now and then, I go check to see if they have a member profile, and there are always a few students that list things that would probably be found to be "unprofessional."

13. Don't list hobbies on your resume. You're not getting hired for your hobbies – you're getting hired for your knowledge, skills, and abilities (in addition to how well you perform throughout the testing process). Nothing says you can't talk about them during the interview, go ahead. To me it is a waste of space on your resume. Also, what might be a "cool" hobby to you (snowboarding, bungee-jumping, motorcycling, jet skiing, etc.) might not be so "cool" to the Chief Officer reviewing your resume.

Getting back to subjectivity – every fire department has probably experienced folks getting injured off-duty doing some of those "cool" things. The last thing we need is another injury that is just waiting to happen. Chief Officers are usually trained or educated in risk management concepts. Let me see, this candidate likes to jump from planes, race fast vehicles, etc… If they take risks off duty, they might do them on duty…. Don't let people's minds wander – they will go places you don't want them to go.

14. Have somebody else take a look at your resume to proofread it for errors or things that just don't make sense. Remember when you've been staring at your "masterpiece" for a while, changing things, adding things, etc., you are going to get tunnel vision and after a while, you wouldn't even be able to realize you had misspelled your name. Trust me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt. One misspelled word can be enough to have the person reading it convinced that you don't care about the way you present yourself.

15. Last, but not least, make a copy of every resume you ever turn in. You should be making a copy of everything you turn in to a department (application, resume, etc.) and keeping it in a file. Other relevant items to keep are the initial job flyer and any information you obtained in the process. Keeping a copy of your resume can jog your memory when you get that interview four years later (I was actually called by a department I had tested with four years prior, to see if I wanted to be considered for employment). I didn't go to the interview because I had already been hired in a "dream department." Imagine if I had gone to that interview and they had asked me "What have you done since the time you turned in the original application?" If I hadn't kept a copy of the application, I would have looked pretty stupid. If I had kept copies, I could have been able to say with confidence "Look what I have done since then," to show my motivation and drive towards becoming a firefighter.


That is about all I have to offer in regards to producing the best resume you can. Use what you feel might benefit you. That first 30 seconds or so when you walk through the door to greet the oral interview panel are some of the most valuable seconds you will ever have to make a first impression.

Already having produced a quality resume prior to the interview (and having turned it in with your application) will help set the stage for your entrance into the room since the interview panel usually reviews your application and resume prior to interviewing you. It will also start you out on a good note, thus leaving a positive first impression. Even if you turn in your first resume at the time of oral interview when you walk in the door, or you provide an updated resume at this time, it is still counted as part of your "first impression time."

The bottom line is that you always need to have a resume ready to go at any given time. Keep it on your computer (backed up on disc) so that you can change the objective for every test you take, and be able to easily add the achievements you have accomplished since the last time you updated the resume.


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

For additional articles by Capt. Prziborowski go to the link below.

# 2  Capt. Bob Smith


I had a candidate tell me he went to an interview wearing a tie, suspenders and no jacket. I asked him, "Who did you think you are, Larry King?" I asked him if they called him back for a chief's interview? No. The defense rests. McFly?

The strongest non-verbal statement you can make in the oral board is what you wear. It is time to step up and make the investment.

Men: Do wear a wool suit in dark blue or gray. Pinstripes are fine, but avoid brown, black, or high fashion brightly colored suits. Sport coats or blazers are out, so is polyester. Tie should be in a solid color such as navy, red, maroon, or yellow stripe, or paisley print. Wear a white or off white, or pale blue long sleeved shirt in cotton or a cotton blend. Starch it no matter what the instructions say. No patterned shirts!

Don't: wear casual or novelty watches, too much jewelry, monograms, religious, political, or fraternity affiliation accessories. Beards are out; mustaches are a gray area. When in doubt, shave it off.

Women: Do wear a tailored business-like suit or dress with a jacket not overly feminine. Choose suits in conservative solid colors such as gray, navy blue, black, beige, or camel with conservative hemlines. Natural fibers, such as wool or linen, are your best bets; most synthetic blends, not matter how attractive, give off a whiff of the bargain basement.

Always wear stockings in natural shades. Avoid dark colors with light colored shoes. Always carry a spare pair.

Don't: Wear anything flamboyant, trendy, faddish, low-cut, too tight or short, or otherwise provocative. You are not trying to make a fashion statement, but trying to get a badge! No heavy perfume, ankle bracelet, stockings with patterns, lace, bold colors, or seams; sandals, very high heels, unusual colors, or casual styles. Ladies: hair up; no bangs falling into your eyes or face.

Don't ever wear slacks, even pantsuits. I had a female who was a paramedic who had been trying for 5 years to get on the fire department. She just missed the cut at Contra Costa County. She was tired of being the bridesmaid. I asked her what she was going to wear.

She said she always wore a pants suit. I convinced her it was time to step up and make the investment. She showed up for coaching in a $650.00 tailored (Killer) wool suit.

I showed her in 10 minutes on the video the mistakes she was making in her presentations.

She called me two weeks later on her birthday, that she had received her notice that she nailed that job in Oakland. She now has the job of her dreams.

I've been coaching firefighter candidates for over 28years. You may have great credentials, but if you can't pass the job interview, you don't get the job.

For additional articles by Capt. Bob Smith covering the oral interview process go to the link below.

# 3   Don McNea Fire School (


As a test taker, you will be more skilled if you know how a test maker thinks.  Your test taking strategies must anticipate the test maker's strategies.  With multiple-choice questions, the problem for the test maker is to create three bad answers for every good answer.

To appreciate the test maker's problems and to improve your own ability as a test taker, you should practice making up a few questions yourself.  Here is some material to work with.  Below is a short reading passage from a Fire Academy training manual, followed by four answer choices.  As it appears below, all the answer choices are correct.  You should try to come up with some other answer choices that would be wrong, or make some little changes in these answer choices so that they are no longer correct.

    Sometimes it is necessary to cut holes in the roof or floors of a building to release bottled up heat and smoke.  During roof or floor cutting operations, everyone in the vicinity of a saw in operation shall observe, as near as possible and practical, a 20-foot radius Circle of Danger.  Only the Officer, the Operator and the Guide Man may enter this circle.  All persons directly to the rear of the operating saw blade must be warned away, as the saw may throw debris 20 feet or more.

    Side pressure or twisting of the blade when operating should be avoided.  The saw should never be forced.  If too much pressure is applied to the blade, the hazard of blade breakage (carbide tipped) or blade shattering (aluminum oxide or silicon carbide discs) is increased.  A blade that breaks or shatters during cutting may cause serious injury to the Operator or others in the area.

    Based on the information above, it would be most correct to say that:

      A) No one should be within 20 feet of the operating saw except the Officer, the Operator and the Guide Man.

      B) Even someone who is 20 feet away can be in danger if the person is directly behind the saw when it is operating.

      C) Carbide tipped blades will break, not shatter, if too much pressure is applied.

      D) Side pressure may cause shattering of the blade if the blade is an aluminum oxide or silicon carbon disc.

No doubt, you can think of many ways to make three of the above answer choices wrong.  But you probably would not want to make an answer choice so obviously wrong that no one would ever choose it.  There is no point making up answers if no one will choose them.  The idea is to make an answer wrong, but still give it some appeal so that it will be an effective "distractor" from the right answer.  Here are some test maker tactics for doing that:

    1. Overstate the point.  In the example, you could change 20 feet to 25 feet.  Or you could say that side pressure will definitely or always cause the blade to break or shatter.  Or you could insist rigidly on the 20-foot circle, forgetting that the rule says, "as near as possible and practical."  Of you could say that the Officer must be in the circle instead of that he may be in the circle.

    2. Ignore the fine points.  In the example, you could substitute something general like "a safe distance" for the exact rule of 20 feet.  Or you could ignore the detail that 20 feet may not be adequate for someone directly behind the saw.  Of you might overlook the fact that these rules apply only when the saw is actually in operation.

    3. Change just one detail.  In the example, you could switch "breaking" and "shattering" for the different kinds of blades.  Or you could switch the kinds of blades.  You could change the rule about people directly behind the saw to make it people directly in front of the saw.

    4. Provide some bait to make false answers attractive.  An easy way to do this is to keep some exact words from the "fact pattern" in the false answers.  Another way to do this is to make a two-part answer; start with something that is correct, then add something that is wrong.  For the example, you might say, "Other firefighters should remain at least 20 feet away when practical, and the Operator should especially warn anyone directly in front of him."

    5. Twist the meaning around.  In the example you could say that the saw operator must go at least 20 feet from other people instead of the rule that other people must keep 20 feet from the saw operator.  Or you might try saying that the saw cannot be used less than 20 feet from the edge of a roof.

            For additional articles by Don McNea Fire School go to the link below.


Taking a Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) exam in the future? Go to the link below for exam prep.

Taking a Firefighter Selection Examination (FSI) in the future? Go to the link below for exam prep.

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This Ultimate Firefighter Examination Package contains everything you need for the complete entry-level hiring process.  This package will increase your chances of gaining a fire department badge!


The upcoming LA City testing process is a golden opportunity to become a firefighter for one of the most sought after fire departments in the United States if not the World.

Captain Bob is offering a FREE, that's right FREE, several week e-mail course to give you a leg up on the competition.  Step by step we will guide you through the maze of the LA City testing process.  As soon as you sign up you will immediately receive the first e-mail with this important information. Go to the link below to find out more !!!

# 5  Exam Announcements.

 The following cities are currently taking applications or in the very near future.

The City of Austin, Texas.  Exam date: March 12, 2005

Note: Don McNea Fire School will be conducting a prep class for this exam. Dates and time of the class will be forthcoming in the next 2-3 weeks.  On Feb. 8th the city will be announcing complete registration information. Go to the link below for current info.

The City of Wooster, Ohio   Go to the link below for exam details

The City of St. Paul, Minnesota.   Go to the link below for exam details

Note: Don McNea Fire School may be conducting a prep class for this exam. Details will be forthcoming.

The City of Savannah, Georgia.   Go to the link below for exam details

The City of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Go to the link below for exam details

Note: Don McNea Fire School will be either conducting a prep seminar for this exam or an at home prep package. Details will be forthcoming

The California Department of Forestry.  Go to the link below for exam details

 # 6  Testimonials

"I purchased your Ultimate Preparatory Package three months ago to help me prepare for four examinations in my area that I identified as departments I wanted to be hired on. As a former Marine, I am using the words that George Bush recently stated, "Mission accomplished." I have finished in the top 5 on each of these examinations and would not have without your testing materials. When you said it covers every aspect of the examination, you were very correct. I highly, highly recommend anyone who is serious about doing well on not one, but all portions of the hiring process, to use the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package. Again, thank you!" Bill M.

I recently purchased your Encyclopedia of Firefighter Examinations for an upcoming exam I was taking. My roommate was also taking the exam but didn't purchase your book or do any preparation before the exam. I scored in the top 5% with a score of 96% - my roommate scored only an 82%. I am now into the next phase of the examination process and wouldn't have made it this far without your book."
Jack from New York.

Over the last three years, I have taken numerous fire examinations and your book contained every sample of a reading comprehension and math question that I have seen on these examinations. What really helped me was the step-by-step math instructional. Being able to review each math question and determine how to arrive at the answer has really increased my math scores. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is having difficulties with reading comprehension and mathematics. It has made a world of difference in my examination scores." Joe from Arizona.

Click here to purchase over $180 of preparatory products for only $99 (plus shipping/handling) and dramatically increase your chance of getting that coveted badge!


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