Station Visits - Making the Right Impression

18 July 2020
Chief Brent Collins, President,

Station Visits – Making the Right Impression

Why should you do a station visit?  It gives you a chance to meet the firefighters in the station and make contacts that you can follow-up with when you are going through the hiring process.  It gives you the opportunities to ask questions about the department.

A visit to a fire station in the department you wish to be hired by can either benefit you or it could be detrimental to your plans.  It all comes down to what type of impression you make to the other firefighters.

Don’t ever just stop in at a fire station and ask to visit.  Always call ahead and make an appointment.  You may need to call Fire Headquarters to get information.  They will generally take your information and get back in touch with you.  When someone does call you back, be extremely polite – use Sir, Ma’am, Please and Thank you.  If you make an appointment to visit, don’t be late!  Always arrive at least 20 minutes ahead of time.  

If the station visit appointment is for 30 minutes, make it 30 minutes.  Don’t try to extend your time there.  Be appreciative to them for the time they spent with you. 

Dress appropriately – business casual.  You don’t need a suit and tie but dress appropriately.  No shorts or tee-shirts.  A polo shirt or button-up shirt is good.  Nice shoes – no flip flops.  In addition, if you are already working full-time for another department, don’t wear your uniform.  Don’t look like you are trying to impress them by already being a firefighter but it will come off just the opposite way.  

Before you ever go on a station visit, do your research.  How many firefighters are there, how many calls do they go on, how many officers?  By doing this research, you can make the impression that you are a serious candidate who has invested extra time. 

Maybe there are some newly-hired firefighters that you can sit down and talk with about the hiring process.  How did they prepare to be hired?

Make sure you bring a notebook to take notes when you are talking to a firefighter.  It shows that you have an interest and you care.

Do you have set questions that you want to ask?  Don’t go in unprepared.    Some questions you may want to ask…

Is there is a written test? Is it pass or fail or scored?

  • Is there a physical agility, is that pass or fail? Is it the CPAT or a different exam?
  • Is there an oral interview process?
  • How long are the eligibility lists valid – one year, two years?
  • Are there certifications required to take the test – EMT, Paramedic, Certified Firefighter?
  • How many firefighters are anticipated to be hired in the next few years?
  • Is there someone else you would recommend that I talk to?
  • Is there a recruitment unit that could help answer any of my questions?
  • Do you know of any other fire departments in the surrounding area that will be hiring?

Never, ever ask about salary!  It makes it look like that is your focus.

Remember that when you arrive and introduce yourself, offer a firm handshake, look them in the eye, speak clearly, thank them for the opportunity to visit.

Introduce yourself to everyone you see.  You never know who will be in on an oral board in the future for that department.

Don’t try to be the big man/woman on campus.  Even if you are already a full-time firefighter in another department, don’t act like a know-it-all and don’t bore them with your experience.  They want to know that you are interested in their department.  Listen more than talk. 

Always bring a dessert!  If it can be homemade, great.  Brownies and chocolate chip cookies are always welcome at the firehouse.  Make sure you bring enough for everyone in the station.  Some departments have 4 firefighters at a station, some have 10.  Always bring more than expected.  Leftovers will be enjoyed by the next shift and your name will be mentioned to that shift as well.

If you go to the station and they are busy or on a run, you can sit and wait.  If an hour goes by and they haven’t returned, they may be at a fire or emergency.  Leave a note with your dessert expressing your thanks and understanding that they were busy, and that you will call to make another appointment. 

As you leave, thank everyone, shake their hand.  Leave a good impression.

After you’ve done a station visit, write a personal letter to the Chief and the officer or firefighter who conducted the tour.  Thank everyone involved for allowing you to come in and ask questions.  Emphasize that it is a great department and one that you can hopefully be a part of some day.

Remember that the entire time you are in the station, you are making an impression.  Make sure that it is a good one!  Are you personable, appreciative?

Good luck in your pursuit of the greatest job on the face of the earth!  Remember – luck goes to the prepared!