How Do I Become a Firefighter?: A Guide to the Firefighter Hiring Process
The firefighter hiring process can be long and involved. For those who are just starting out on their journey to become a firefighter, it can also be quite confusing. If that’s you, pay attention to this step by step guide so you can get started on your path to becoming a firefighter.
The job announcement is simply how and where the fire department posts that they are hiring for firefighter positions. They might utilize a number of different avenues to advertise the posting, including: the fire department website, internet subscription services, social media accounts, the newspaper, and certainly word of mouth. At this stage of the hiring process you have one decision to make: where do you want to work? Are you willing to move across the country for this job, or would you like to focus on a specific geographical area? Either way, make that decision and start looking for job announcements that fit your parameters.
Once you have found a job announcement that interests you, you’ll need to fill out an application. Most departments use an online application that you can fill out and submit electronically. However, some departments still chose to have candidates fill out a paper application. In either case, make sure you read the application instructions CAREFULLY. They will be specific about how to answer certain questions, what supplemental information you should attach, and the deadline for turning in your application. You will need to follow all of those directions if you want to have a shot at moving onto the next phase of the hiring process.
If you completed your application and submitted it on time, you should be expecting to receive an invitation to begin the testing portion of the hiring process. Testing usually consists of a written and a physical test. Often, the first test is the written component. Again, most departments will opt to have candidates complete the written test online, but some departments still use in-person written tests with pen and paper. Regardless, the written test is comprised of various disciplines, including: math, reading comprehension, spelling, grammar, mechanical aptitude, and situational decision making.
Once you earn a passing score on your written test, you will move on to the physical portion of the testing phase. Departments will either have candidates complete a standardized physical test through a third party company (like the CPAT), or they will host their own version of a physical test at a training facility. This information should have been posted in the job announcement or the application. Find out which type of test you will need to complete and make sure you are in shape.
Panel Interview Scheduled
After successfully completing the written and physical tests, you will be contacted to schedule a panel interview. You will need to prepare extensively before the interview so that you feel confident in your ability to concisely answer these questions.
Part of the preparation that you should be doing before your panel interview is to set up a station visit. This part of the hiring process is more of an insider tip. Call the fire department’s administration and ask to do a station visit. This is a great way to get into the firehouse and ask the firefighters who work there questions about the department. These questions should be aimed at better understanding the culture of the department, and challenges they are facing, and what goals they have in the next few years. Knowing this information will give you a huge leg up in the panel interview.
The panel interview is likely the first of two interviews that you will have before getting offered a job. The second interview, if you do well enough to move on, will be with the Fire Chief (more about that in the next section). The panel interview can be intimidating. You will be sitting across a table from 3-5 members from the fire department as they ask you a series of interview questions. These questions will be aimed at trying to get to know you. It is the panel’s job to determine whether or not you are a good fit for the department. If you get their stamp of approval you will be sent to a Chiefs interview.
The Chiefs interview is the final step of the hiring process. In some cases, you will be interviewing one-on-one with the Fire Chief. In others, you will be interviewing with the Chief, and one or two other chief level officers (Battalion Chief, Division Chief, etc.). This interview is less structured than the panel interview. Most likely there will not be a set list of questions that the Chief asks. Rather, in this interview the Chief will ask personal questions about you and your past in order to dig a little deeper and make sure that you are a quality candidate. The best advice for this interview is to be honest and extremely accountable.
That’s it! Now sit back, relax and wait for the phone to ring. When it does, it will be the Chief calling to offer you a job and let you know when the academy starts.