Chief Guccione's Thoughts To Help Improve Your Success

Station Visits as Part of Your Preparation for Your Interview

By Chief Dean Guccione - 

As part of your panel interview, you will need to learn about the department for which you are testing. One of the best ways to learn about the department is to do at least one station visit. If you can do several visits and talk to several different firefighters, that would be optimal. Three considerations when you arrive for your station visit is to talk to a rookie firefighter, talk to a veteran firefighter, and ask smart questions. Getting the perspective from rookie and veteran firefighters while asking smart questions is the best way to get the most information you can use during your interview.

Speak with a Rookie Firefighter

Rookie firefighters, while fairly inexperienced in the job, will give you a great perspective on the hiring process, what to expect during probation, and their daily routine.

Although, many hiring processes are similar, they are not all the same. You can gain some knowledge of what they went through during the hiring process and what to expect along the way. Ask about the sequence of how the testing process works. Is there a Chief’s interview after the panel interview, or do they go right into backgrounds. Does the department do a psychological exam? Do they administer a polygraph exam? How long did the process take? How long did they wait after their panel interview to get notified they were moving on in the process?

Next, you’ll want to ask the rookie about their daily routine and daily responsibilities. Also ask about the areas they train on and study during probation. Also, ask about the probationary tests and skills exams. These types of questions will take some of the mystery out of the hiring process and expectations on probation.

Then, start with your smart questions about the department – number of stations, to uniformed personnel, number of engines, truck companies, rescues, hazmat units, etc. And don’t forget the number of total calls for service during the last year and staffing levels on their engines and truck companies.

Think of as many questions as you can ask about the department that you can’t get from doing a Google search. Rookies should also know the names of the Fire Chief and City Council members or county supervisors. Be sure to note any questions that the rookie firefighter doesn’t know, so you can ask the veteran firefighter.

Speak with a Veteran Firefighter

A veteran firefighter is any firefighter that has at least three to four years on the job. There is a huge difference between rookies and seasoned firefighters. Much of the time, the rookie is overwhelmed with the amount of material and information they have to learn, and are focused on the basic tasks of the job, while the three or four year firefighter has had more time to learn advanced firefighting skills, learn more about how the department functions, and learn more about the city as a whole.

The daily routine of a veteran firefighter also differs significantly because they aren’t tasked with studying and training most of the day. Once a rookie is off probation, they begin expanding their knowledge and involvement within the department in addition to their ongoing training and daily responsibilities.

Many times veteran firefighters are relief drivers who will act as Engineers or even Company Officers on an occasional basis. Many firefighters and firefighter/paramedics will be assigned projects or programs that help keep the department running. In small and mid-sized departments, it’s the firefighters, firefighter/paramedics, and engineers who maintain and purchase medical supplies, oxygen, station supplies, maintain strike team equipment, maintain mass casualty caches, maintain safety clothing, repair and test breathing apparatus and face pieces, and other equipment, plus a whole host of other programs and projects.

Once you learn the routine of the veteran firefighters, be sure to ask more in-depth questions that a rookie firefighter may not have known about the department, such as what are some of the target hazards your city and department must take into consideration regarding SOPs and training. Also, ask what charities and volunteer activities the firefighter’s association or union is involved in within the community. This will give you insights as to the community involvement of the department and its members.

Final Thought

The knowledge and information you gain by doing station visits can make or break your interview. Chances are a department is not going to give you a shot if you know nothing about the position or department you’re testing with.

Your goal is to give a strong answer when asked, “What can you tell us about our department?” Or, “What is the routine of a rookie firefighter?” Your station visit will give you all the information you need to answer these questions intelligently.

Many departments have suspended station visits due to COVID-19, but you can still call the agency you’re testing with and ask to speak to a couple of firefighters over the phone. While you can’t physically see the equipment and apparatus they have, you can certainly get a sense for the department and its personnel during a phone call.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to do at least one station visit before your interview. Ask if you can speak to a rookie firefighter and a veteran to get each of their perspectives about the job and their routines and responsibilities. Couple this by asking smart questions during your visit, and you’ll impress the panel because most candidates just talk about the basics of a department.

You’ll be amazed at what you learn, not only about the department, but about the people who work there.