How To Answer The Most Common Firefighter Interview Question

person standing in front of fire

You’ve made it through the written and practical tests. You’re feeling great; full of excitement and enthusiasm about the ever-so-close prospect of your job as a firefighter. You look sharp as you walk into the room to meet the panel of interviewers. You shake everyones hand, sit down, take a deep breath, and wait for the first question. Then you hear it:


“So, tell us about yourself.”


The most common of all interview questions. Its aim is to uncover at least a small piece of who you really are, show the interviewers some of your personality, and set a tone for the rest of the interview.


But how should you answer this question? Off the cuff? Perhaps a prepared statement. Do you talk about your previous jobs, or should you focus on your values and traits? Maybe they want to hear about the sports you played growing up. Maybe they are more interested in your hobbies.

This seemingly simple question can lead you down a number of rabbit holes that will have you talking about everything from what you like to do in your free time, to who your freshman English teacher was. That is not what the panel wants to hear. This blog will explain exactly how to answer this common, yet complex question, and leave the interview panel engaged and ready to hear more about you.


In order to answer the “Tell us about yourself” question, follow these four guidelines:


  1. Brief summary of who you are and where you’re from.

Always keep in mind that there is a clock running during your interview. You don’t want to waste all of your time on the first question. So keep this part brief. Tell the panel a little bit about where you are from, what your family dynamic looks like, and what you are passionate about outside of work. Remember, you’re trying to help them get to know you so that they will want to hire you.


  1. What led you to want to be a Firefighter.

Again keep the clock on your mind, and make this part quick. This may be its own question later in the interview, but just in case it’s not, it’s worth talking about now. Think about exactly what moment you decided to start down the path of becoming a firefighter. What is driving you to accomplish this difficult goal? Explain to the panel WHY you want this job and what it means to you.


  1. Relate your personal traits and values with those found in the “Recommended knowledge, skills, and abilities” section of the job posting. 

This part of the answer should be where you spend the bulk of your time. It  explains why you are a good fit to be a firefighter. First you need to do some introspective work and identify what traits and values make you unique. Do you value honesty, awareness, integrity, courage, dedication…? Recognize which traits truly resonate with your personality. Then review the job posting from when you initially applied for the job. In the recommended Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities section, they will have listed numerous traits that they are looking for in a candidate. Cross reference your traits with the ones in this section. Find two or three and use them to describe how your personality perfectly matches up with that which the department is looking for. Do this through stories from your past experiences that highlight the traits you are listing.


  1. Wrap it up with a bow

That’s it. Now, briefly recap that you have told the panel who you are, where you’re from, why you want to be a firefighter, and why you are the perfect fit for the job. This may seem like a lot of information to talk about in one answer, but I promise, this is the time to say it. Putting it all out there up front (in a clear and concise manner) will build a solid base for the rest of the interview. While the panel continues to ask questions you will be able to confidently reference your answer to this question and elaborate on it in more detail. Doing so will make your other responses feel cohesive because they relate to a common theme that you established early on.


The Takeaway


Answering interview questions can be hard. But if you have a plan, and know what information you want to convey to the panel, it becomes so easy. Follow this guide when preparing for your next interview, and watch the expression of satisfaction shine through on the faces of the interview panel after you answer this common question.