Chief Guccione's Thoughts To Help Improve Your Success

Assessing Your Weaknesses

By Chief Dean Guccione -

Many times in your firefighter panel interview, you will be asked to discuss your weaknesses. Questions about weaknesses may also be disguised as other questions such as, what is the biggest criticism you’ve received from your previous boss?

Remember, that we all have weaknesses. Nobody is great at everything. The reason the interview panel asks these types of difficult questions is to see how you will react and to see if you’re able to take an honest look at yourself and work to improve those areas where you are weak, so you may actually turn a weakness into a solid strength over time.

The panel will also determine if your weakness will disqualify you from employment with their fire department. This is code for “you are not showing the panel you have a plan of improvement.” Or, your weakness is behavioral/personality based, which is much more difficult to improve and overcome.

The last thing fire departments want from a candidate is behavioral or personality issues and this questions weeds out many, many candidates.

Behavioral Vs. Skills Based Weaknesses

Anytime you discuss your weaknesses, you must only discuss skills based weaknesses. You never want to discuss a behavioral or personality based weakness.

In other words, if you tell the panel you tend to talk more than you listen, that is going to be a huge red flag in their eyes. Or, if you say you have a short fuse, again red flag in the eyes of the interview panel.

If you have any personality-based weakness, such as anger issues, listening issues, attention issues, control issues, etc., then I suggest you work to improve those first. Especially, anger issues, because all these weaknesses will come out during the psychological exam.

Skills based weaknesses are much easier to improve. Let’s say you’re not as good at writing as you are at math. This is a skill you can improve by taking a writing class or workshop, or do some volunteer work that involves writing, or get a mentor or tutor to help you with your writing skills.

There are also tons of tutorials on the internet that will help you improve your writing and grammar.

This is just one example of a skills based weakness. You know the areas where you need to improve. Just be honest with yourself, and look for ways you can improve and then set up a plan to make it happen.

You cannot just have a plan and then not execute it. Each week you must do something to improve your weakness. The panel will want specifics on how you are improving yourself.

Create a Plan for Improvement

As you look at the different skills that are required to be an effective firefighter, we know that we can’t be good at everything. So, pick a skill that you’re working to improve.

I discussed writing above, as a potential weakness, but you can make it anything you want.

If you don’t have a good understanding of building construction, or don’t have much mechanical experience, then set up a plan to help improve your knowledge and/or experience in those areas.

The plan you put in place, while showing your results, is much more important than the weakness itself.

So, don’t focus your weakness. Improvement and making your weakness a strength is the key in their eyes. This can be an example of being a continual learner.

The more you can better yourself, the more you learn, and the more you can bring to the job, the more valuable you will be to your future department.

The point being is that you want to be able to show the panel clear results of how you’ve improved, or results that show you are on your way to improving.

Final Thought

Someone who is honest with themselves and to the panel about their weaknesses, while showing the plan they have put in place for improvement, coupled with showing the panel members clear results of your success will help you score very well on this difficult question.

Always be looking for ways to continually be learning and improving your knowledge and experience by taking classes, getting training, volunteering, getting a coach or mentor, or finding tools to help correct your weaknesses.

If you’re committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement, the panel will recognize that, which will help you score higher than most of your competition.

You must also continue to work on and maintain your strengths as well. Just because you are good at something now, doesn’t mean you will perform that skill at a high level two years from now without continual practice and use.

It you don’t use it, you lose it. So, work on your weaknesses, while maintaining and nurturing your strengths, and you’ll be well on your way to earning a top score on your next firefighter oral interview.