Read The Room

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Interviews can feel difficult; especially when they aren’t going well. After going to a few interviews and not getting the job, it’s easy to start to wonder what the missing piece is that will help you be successful. Being successful in your firefighter interview really only relies on your ability to acknowledge one small detail:


Read the room.


Use your situational awareness in order to recognize what’s going on around you during the interview. This is easier said than done. For many candidates, nerves will heighten during the interview and it’s easy to get tunnel vision. That tunnel vision makes candidates black out in a sense. They revert to instinct, or whatever practice they may have done prior to the interview, and just quickly answer the questions and move along through the interview. While you do get some points just for answering questions, and completing the interview within the allotted time, true success in the interview depends on your ability to calm down and pay attention to your surroundings.


So let’s break down how to maximize your situational awareness during your interview.


Read the Room


Just like it sounds, take stock of everything around you. This will start from the moment you walk into the room with your interview panel. Acknowledge everyone and shake their hands while you greet them. Make mental notes of everything: who makes eye contact, who has a firm handshake, who smiles, who holds a straight face, etc… Keep this going while you answer the panel’s questions. If you are able to avoid the tunnel vision, you will be able to notice if they respond in a positive or negative fashion to something you say. Doing so will make the interview feel like more of a two sided interaction. This is a GOOD thing. Put yourself in the panel’s shoes. They are going through multiple interviews. If every candidate comes in and just regurgitates their rehearsed answers over and over, the panel is going to be so bored they are going to fall asleep. So be the person who breaks up the monotony for the panel. Answer the questions while facilitating a reciprocal environment. Be charismatic, yet humble. Show some personality and let your nonverbal cues invite the panel to resonate with your responses.


The Takeaway


Small details will make the difference between getting offered a job and going back to the job posting website to look for another application. Stay calm, don’t get tunnel vision, and have an organic interaction with the interview panel that leaves them wanting more. If you walk out of the room and leave them wanting to know more about you, I guarantee they will be calling you for a chief’s interview.