THE EXAMINATION PROCESS
The examination process to become a firefighter is usually as follows:
- Written Examination
- Physical Agility Examination
- Medical Examination
- Psychological Examination
- Oral Interview
You must score well on each of these areas in the hiring process to reach your goal of becoming a firefighter. Each of these sections will require intense preparation on your part to increase your chances of scoring higher on the eligibility list over your competition.
THE FIREFIGHTER'S WRITTEN EXAMINATION
Today's written examination commonly consists of approximately 150-200 multiple-choice questions. The subjects for the written examinations could include any of the testing subjects listed below:
- Reading Comprehension
- Human Relations
- Problem Solving
- Inductive Reasoning
- Deductive Reasoning
- Verbal & Listening Comprehension
- Verbal Reasoning
- Oral and Written Communication Information
The key to scoring well on the written examination is preparation. There are not many candidates who can walk into a written examination and score high on their first attempts without adequate preparation. You need to practice. What do we mean by practice? By taking practice examinations. It is like studying for any other test you have taken – you need to adequately study and prepare. The competition for a firefighter position is very competitive.
When you take a firefighter examination, you are ranked on the eligibility list from the higher score to the lowest score. Obviously, you want to be at the top to dramatically increase your chances of moving onto the other parts of the testing process. The more you study and prepare, the better your score. Like we said before, you have to want it, and wanting it means you will put the required time in to adequately studying and preparing. During your preparation, you need to fine tune the areas where you are consistently weak until you feel confident walking into an examination knowing that no one can beat you.
The key to your success on this portion of the hiring process will be how much time you put into preparing for this important first step. You can do it – you just have to want it! For those of you looking for written examination information, go to the “Encyclopedia of Firefighter Examinations” link to your left to help put you in the top percentage on the written examination.
PHYSICAL AGILITY PREPARATION
The physical agility test is a major part of the examination for the position of firefighter. Understanding this part of the examination and being prepared for it are critical factors for your success.
In physical terms, firefighting is an extremely demanding occupation. It requires agility, strength, and stamina. The firefighting environment is normally hazardous and constantly changing. Firefighting calls for the wearing of special protective clothing and breathing equipment and the use of tools that are often heavy. Because of the extremes encountered in the firefighting environment – hot and cold, wet and dry, night and day, clean and contaminated air – the protective clothing and equipment must be durable and effective. The need for these qualities has led to the development of equipment that is often heavy and cumbersome.
Given the demands of the occupation – saving life and property, the challenges of the environment, and the weight and constraint of the protective equipment, the need to ensure that firefighter recruits are physically capable of learning and performing the tasks required is obvious.
The physical agility examination is designed to evaluate the candidate's ability to perform firefighting activities. In the recent past, the courts have held that the physical agility examination must be related to the tasks that are actually performed by firefighters. Studies reveal that the firefighter must have a high level of aerobic energy, strength, and a significant ability to resist fatigue.
Top-scoring physical agility strategies can be found at the link to your left.
THE MEDICAL EXAMINATION
The medical exam itself is nothing to be afraid of. It will be just like any other thorough physical exam. The doctor may be on the staff of the hiring agency or someone outside the department with his or her own practice, just like your own doctor. Your blood pressure, temperature, weight, and so on will be measured; your heart and lungs will be listened to and your limbs examined. The doctor will peer into your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and conduct a thorough medical exam. You'll also have to donate some blood and urine. Because of these tests, you won't know the results of the physical exam right away. You'll probably be notified in writing in a few weeks, after the test results come in.
A test for use of illegal drugs can be administered before a conditional offer of employment. Because firefighters have to be in tiptop physical shape, and because they are in a position of public trust, the fire department expects you to be drug-free. Indeed, you may have to undergo drug testing periodically throughout your career as a firefighter.
PSYCHOLOGICAL EXAMINATION PREPARATION
In today's testing field, many departments are moving towards the direction of including psychological examinations not only during the last steps of the hiring process but during the initial testing phase. Some of these examinations are used to decrease the number of applicants taking the examination because of the costs involved in testing large numbers. When giving the psychological examination prior to the written test, it will significantly reduce the number of applicants, usually by a minimum of 40%. Some examiners are also including psychological questions in their written examination phase.
The number one cause of failure on these examinations is not knowing what information these psychological tests are trying to retrieve from the fire applicant. The questions used on psychological examinations are determined by identifying major personality traits and characteristics of a successful firefighter. Knowing what personality traits and characteristics are being sought will improve your chances of scoring well on these examinations. If you would like additional information on psychological examinations, go to the link “Psychological Exam Preparation.”
ORAL BOARD INTERVIEWS
The oral interview can come at the beginning of the testing process as a pass/fail portion that you must pass in order to take the written exam. More commonly, the top scorers on the written examination move on to the oral interview. Depending on the municipality, the oral exam can be pass/fail or graded.
Normally during the interview process, 3 officers of the department you are trying to become a member of interview you. The process can be a very nerve-wracking, grueling time for fire applications. This process will require that you practice your interviewing techniques repeatedly in order to impress the oral board and put you in hiring position.
Listed below are additional oral interview questions that can be disguised into 100 different scenario questions (additional information found on the “Capt. Bob’s Oral Interview Preparation” and “Oral Interview Strategies” links).
- 1. Tell us about yourself.
- 2. Why do you want to be a firefighter? When did you decide on this career?
- 3. What is the job of a firefighter? Are you qualified?
- 4. What have you done to prepare for this position?
- 5. What are you bringing to the job?
- 6. Why do you want to work for this city or agency?
- 7. What do you know about this city or agency?
- 8. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?
- 9. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
- 10. What would your employer say about you?
- 11. What are the attributes of a firefighter? What is the most important one to you?
- How would you handle the following scenarios?
- 12. Drinking or drugs on the job?
- 13. Stealing on the job?
- 14. Conflict with another employee?
- 15. Irate citizen?
- 16. An employee crisis at an emergency?
- 17. Sexual harassment?
- 18. Racial situation?
- 19. Conflicting orders at an emergency?
- 20. An order that could place you in great danger or be morally wrong?
- 21. What do you say when you don't know an answer to a question?
- 22. Are you on any other hiring lists? What would you do if another city called you?
- 23. When can you start if we offered you the job?
- 24. How far do you want to go in the fire service? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- 25. What are the quality traits of a firefighter? Which one is the most important to you?
- 26. Have you ever been in an emergency situation? Tell us what you did.
- 27. What word would best describe you in a positive way? A negative way?
- 28. How do you handle conflict?
- 29. Why would we select you over the other candidates?
- 30. Do you have anything to add?