I have had the pleasure of coaching hundreds of clients over the past six years to help them prepare for their final fire services panel interview across all states of Australia. This is extremely rewarding work and this summer has only reinforced why it is so important for our state fire services to be recruiting candidates who truly demonstrate some of their key competencies including resilience, leadership, initiative, stress management, teamwork and communication.
Over the past six years I have noted some key factors that seem to guarantee success in this final interview as outlined below:
1) Successful candidates can articulate an understanding of the role
Understanding the firefighter role sounds pretty straightforward but there is a huge volume of information to learn before your final interview. As most firefighter candidates are aware, firefighters are involved in many tasks when they are not putting out fires including delivering fire prevention programs to the community, inspecting hazardous sites, checking fire hydrants, training, maintenance & cleaning of equipment, community engagement and much more. Candidates need to demonstrate an understanding of the full firefighter role and have a good understanding of the programs and why they are important.
An understanding of the firefighter role also includes a knowledge and awareness of the challenges and stresses that are likely to be encountered when performing the firefighter role. This doesn’t just include a list of the different challenges and stresses but demonstrating to the panel that they have actually considered the potential downside of the role and have discussed it with partners, family etc and still made a conscious decision to apply.
2) Successful candidates demonstrate knowledge of the fire service
Successful firefighter candidates can also demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the fire service itself whether it is MFB, CFA, QFES, NSWFR etc. This includes a detailed knowledge of the fire service rank & structure, the fire recruitment program, community programs, diversity & inclusion policies and the specific values of that organisation.
This information on the fire service and the role of the firefighter is best obtained by talking to active firefighters and organising multiple station visits to gather as much information as possible.
3) Successful candidates show a high level of self-awareness
Most importantly I believe that successful candidates have a very good knowledge about themselves. They can clearly articulate to the panel what they are like as a person, what motivates them and the real reasons that they want to become a firefighter. They can describe their key strengths (and not just cookie-cutter strengths), key transferable skills, their attributes/ personal qualities and most importantly their personal values and how they demonstrate them in their current role.
4) Successful candidates use the ‘STAR’ method correctly
Fire services panel interviews require a solid understanding of behavioural interviewing and structuring responses to behavioural interview questions using the ‘STAR’ method. In my coaching I have worked with many clients who have been unsuccessful in past fire services interviews because they have not used this technique correctly. This is a tricky technique to learn, but once you understand the method and what the panel are listening out for in your responses then it just takes practise to succeed.
5) Successful candidates have taken their preparation seriously
In my experience coaching for these interviews, the successful candidates take their preparation very seriously and, in most cases, start their preparation long before the application process opens. They are organising station visits, practising aptitudes tests and starting to work on their interview technique months before the interview. These interviews are very difficult even for those with previous interview experience so if you are someone who has never interviewed previously or have not experienced preparing for behavioural interviews, then do yourself a favour and start early.
6) Successful candidates can read the panel
Every panel is different across the fire services and the interview varies across states. Final panel interviews need to be taken seriously and it is important that you take cues from the panel during the interview. If the panel is asking a lot of probing questions after your response, then you may need to provide further detail in your next responses. If the panel is cutting your responses off, then you are possibly rambling and going off on a tangent.
For assistance with your fire services interview:
If you are interested in working with an interview coach to help you start your fire services interview preparation, then contact me, Leah Lambart, Career & Interview Coach, through the Relaunch Me website to discuss how I may be able to assist you.