But I Don’t Have Any Experience…
Getting into the Fire Service can seem like a daunting task; especially if you don’t have any fire experience or know someone who does, that can point you in the right direction. Starting out is difficult. You need motivation and persistence just to figure out where to start. Once you figure out how to find job postings and put in applications, then the real work starts. Then you can start on your long journey of acquiring the proper certifications and classes you need in order to meet the minimum qualifications for an entry level Firefighter position. When you finally have all the certifications you need, then you can actually apply for jobs and begin taking written and physical tests. If you manage to pass those, then you’ll finally be in a position to prepare for your first firefighter interview. This is where you will likely start to have the thought: “What am I going to tell them in the interview? I don’t have any experience”.
Almost every person who is just starting out on the firefighter interview circuit has this thought. They finally get far enough along in the hiring process to be excited about getting an interview, but now they are nervous because they aren’t sure what they are going to say. That feeling comes from taking an honest account of your past experience and realizing that perhaps none of it is fire related.
Well fear not. I’m here to tell you that just because you don’t have any firefighting experience on your resume doesn’t mean that you are going to tank your interview. As someone who has been a part of interview panels and been a part of countless mock interviews, I can honestly say that you can stand out as the perfect candidate without any previous firefighting experience. When someone shows up for their interview, there are many things they can talk about, other than firefighting, that can help them show the panel that they possess the skills necessary to be a solid recruit.
Blue Collar Work
Any amount of experience that a candidate has from the trades is a great thing to talk about in the interview. Skills like plumbing, framing, welding, and general construction all translate directly to the fire service because firefighters are required to have a basic understanding of construction and mechanical aptitude. People who have a history in construction almost always translate well to firefighting. Aside from being able to show competency with hands-on work and tools, construction work also has an aspect of teamwork that is very similar to the fire service.
Every Fire Department is different, but they all incorporate aspects of the military into their culture and organizational hierarchy. If you have been in the military you understand very well how the chain of common works; something that is also utilized in the fire service. Moreover, you also understand what its like to be a member of a unit that is working together to accomplish a larger goal. It will serve you well to use any experience you have from the military in your panel interview.
Here’s something you can talk about in your interview that doesn’t revolve around work, but certainly helps highlight positive attributes you have. Traveling, especially alone, will help you develop skills that will aid you in your career as a firefighter. Interview panels also appreciate the candidate showcasing parts of their life that shed light on who they really are as a person; not just where they have been professionally. Tell the panel stories about trips you have been on and lessons learned from them, and watch the interviewers take notice.
Just because you don’t have any firefighting experience doesn’t mean that you don’t have the necessary experience to become a Firefighter. These are just a few examples of things you may have done that are just as valuable as fire experience. If you’re looking for more things to talk about in your interview, just look through the job posting for the department that you’re applying to and cross-reference the knowledge, skills, and abilities they list as “desirable traits”, with your previous jobs and experiences.