5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Firefighter Interview

firefighter on aerial masterstream

While you’re preparing for your firefighter panel interview, you have a lot to think about. What to wear, what to say, and how to say it, will likely comprise most of your preparation time. While it is important to focus on exactly what you SHOULD be doing in your interview, here is a list of five mistakes you’ll want to avoid in your next interview.

  1. Criticize your previous department/ employer

We’ve all heard the old expression, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. This couldn’t be any more relevant than in the context of your firefighter interview. Many of the questions you are asked will inevitably lead you into talking about an experience you have had with a previous job. If you’re not careful, you can quickly find yourself in the middle of a story that criticizes your previous employer. Doing so will only reflect poorly on you. No matter what, don’t badmouth your previous department/employer. 

  1. Pretend to be someone you’re not

We all know that first impressions are extremely important. Perhaps none more important than the one you will make during your firefighter interview. With that said, the most important part of that first impression is that it is genuine. Although this will likely be your first time meeting the people on your interview panel, it is almost a guarantee that they will be able to tell if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. The people on the panel are interviewing tons of candidates. More importantly, they have been chosen to be on the panel because the department believes that they are a good judge of character, and how that character relates to the values of their fire department. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. The panel wants to get to know YOU, the real YOU. Take the opportunity to show them, and you’ll be happy you did when  it earns you a job.

  1. Distracting Body Language

Focus is a very important trait  for firefighters to possess. Being a firefighter requires you to be able to focus on the task at hand no matter what is going on around you. One of the easiest ways to show the panel that you DON’T have focus is to fidget, shuffle your feet, crack your knuckles, check your phone, slouch, or break eye contact while speaking. All of these can quickly distract the panel from your interview answer. Once they notice that you can’t sit still, it’s only a matter of time until they all start to question whether or not you have the focus necessary to be a firefighter.

  1. Not Dressing Like a Professional

Being successful in your interview relies heavily on displaying yourself as a professional. Showing up to the interview wearing the proper attire is key to making a good first impression, and setting the tone for the rest of your interview. Follow the Firefighter Interview Prep dress code (within the course), to make sure you are ready for the most important interview of your life.

  1. Answering the Question without Answering the Question

This might sound like some sort of a riddle but I assure you it’s not. In a nutshell, this point comes down to proper preparation. If you are prepared for your interview, you’ll be calm, collected and ready to concisely answer any question the panel asks. On the other hand, if you’re unprepared, there is a very good chance that you’ll end up panicking, and then rambling your way through an interview by answering the question without actually saying anything important that really answers the question. High level interview answers are well thought out and tie in life experience, personal values, and a succinct conclusion that clearly shows the panel why you are a good fit for the department. Achieving this level of interview answer is no accident. It happens through well thought-out preparation. So take the time to prepare for your interview, and watch the job offers pour in.

The Takeaway

While this may not be a comprehensive list of every little thing to avoid in your interview, it does point out five of the most important things to stay away from so that you can move on through the hiring process. Steer clear of these mistakes and wait for the phone to ring with your job offer.