A firefighter’s life is rarely easy and it’s certainly not easy to get a job as a firefighter unless you’re well prepared for every step of the journey.
The interview for most firefighters can often seem very daunting but if you have a strong strategy to deal with the questions that you’re asked, it doesn’t have to be an impossible task.
We’ve rounded up the most common firefighter interview questions as well as the most important ones and, where possible, provided some example answers to get you thinking about your own.
Don’t memorize these answers, though, your answers need to be in your words and given from your point of view.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Also read: 15 Firefighter Interview Tips: Expectations and Preparation
Of course, before you start wading through interview questions, there are some simple things you can do to help prepare yourself.
- Check out the department website. Read the mission and values, work out what services they provide, see if there are any recent announcements you should be aware of. Having an idea of what they truely value as a department can really set you apart.
- Check out the department’s social media. This can be a great way to develop a feel for the culture of the place you’re going to be working in and, with a bit of luck, to learn a few names and faces too.
- Check out the tailoring method and STAR method of answering interview questions. These two techniques are essential when it comes to developing answers that serve the purpose you want them to in an interview situation.
- Think about the characteristics you want to highlight to your interviewer, such as: reliability, honesty, integrity, decision-making, communication, teamwork, staying calm in stressful situations, physical fitness, situational awareness, etc. and see where you can bring them to light.
Secret Sauce: The best advice I was ever given for excelling a the firefighter interview was to include a personal story or example (true story, not a made-up one) into every answer where it makes sense. If you know your resume and experience well, understand what each department is specifically looking for (department values and culture), and use that info to answer their questions, along with a personal story that shows you understand what they are looking for and that you have already proven yourself in a similar situation, you will do very well on the firefighter interviews.
If you are really serious about becoming a firefighter and want to get hired as fast as possible, I recommend TopScore Interview Coaching. There is nothing else like this training to prepare you for the hiring process.
This video has some general preparation tips as well:
5 Important Firefighter Interview Questions
These five questions, or mild variations of them, are likely to feature in every firefighter’s interview and while they might seem a little “frivolous”, they’re not.
You need to be able to confidently answer each of them, in order to have a strong chance of passing the interview.
1. Tell Me About Yourself?
We know, it’s the opening question for every job interview on the planet, but it’s a vital question too. Why? Because it’s your chance to set the scene and make a great first impression.
If you haven’t prepared for this simple question, what are the odds that you’ve done the work for the bigger questions?
Your interviewer would like to hear about the training, education, and experiences that you have that you feel make you a good fit for the job.
So, a good answer might sound like this:
“I’m [your name], I’ve recently graduated from college where I studied fire science, before that I qualified as a paramedic, and I’ve been volunteering for my local fire station to get some basic experience in the job.
In my spare time, I enjoy sports and learning about all things fire-related. I know, that might sound a little bit like I’m a “teacher’s pet” but really, I’m just fascinated by the work and want to learn all I can.”
Also read: What to Wear to a Firefighter Interview: Attire for Getting Hired
2. Why Do You Want To Work As A Firefighter?
This might sound trivial, after all, you’re in the interview, aren’t you? Isn’t it clear that you want to be a firefighter?
The thing is, it’s really important for an interviewer to understand your motivation to join the fire service.
This work is dangerous. You will be risking your life at times, why would you do that?
And what they don’t want to hear is that you “buzz of excitement”, that’s an adrenalin junkie, not a firefighter.
What they do want to know is that you’re going to be capable under pressure and reliable and trustworthy.
So, a good answer might be:
“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter ever since I was young. I am passionate about helping other people and would like to make the world a safer place for people in my community. Firefighters are there for others on the worst days of their lives.” If you can include a real, personal story, that will really set you apart.
Another good answer might be:
“When I was young, my family home caught fire, I was so impressed by the way that the fire department reacted and kept us safe that my heart was set on becoming a firefighter. I want to make sure other families are kept out of harm’s way, just like we were.”
Also read: How to Become a Firefighter: The Complete Guide
3. How Do You Ensure That You Stay Physically Fit?
Now, your interviewer doesn’t want to know every detail of your gym routine, but they do want to understand how you keep fit.
That’s because firefighting is a very physical role. You’re going to have to stay fit if you want to excel in your job and support your fellow crew effectively.
So, what you need is a simple overview that conveys that you understand how important fitness is to the department and your part within it.
A good answer might look like this:
“I’ve been working out for five days a week for the last year or two. I’ve been mixing up cardio with strength training to give me a good mix of strength and stamina. I think that’s what’s going to be needed when I’m tackling fires for potentially hours at a time. I also enjoy a bit of recreational soccer, this ensures that I’m developing my team working skills as well as my fitness.
When I’m hired, I’d be keen to join the fitness program here in the department as soon as possible. I think that’s going to be key to maintaining my performance on the job and it should help me to get to know my new team faster.”
Also read: The Fitness Requirements for a Firefighter – Explained
4. You See A Colleague Putting Something Valuable In Their Pocket? What Do You Do?
There are other variations on this theme too, you might be asked “what would you do if a colleague broke down in tears after a call?” or “a long-experienced crew member regularly becomes angry with you and members of the public, how do you handle it?”
The interviewer is looking to understand how you handle conflict from a professional perspective and it’s easy to get sidetracked and become too emotionally involved in the answer.
What you’re looking to do is focus on department processes and procedures and how you can use those with integrity.
So, a good answer might be:
“If a fellow firefighter had removed something from the scene in front of me, then I would look to follow your reporting guidelines. I know, it’s important that we establish trust as a crew and that we don’t look to rock the boat unnecessarily, but our objective is to help other people. Those people must be able to trust the department and the individuals associated with it and that must come first.”
5. What Does Diversity Mean To You?
You’re not likely to hear these words from a fellow firefighter but human resources are often involved in the interview process and this question is, probably, the most important to an HR specialist.
What they want to hear about is your understanding that a mixed group of people from all backgrounds, etc. are capable of producing better results than a group from a more uniform background.
If you are a member of a minority, of any kind, you may wish to refer to specific situations in your own life to help illustrate your answer, but otherwise, it’s best to keep the response to this question simple, it’s far too easy to overcomplicate this question and end up saying something offensive, otherwise.
A good answer could be:
“Diversity to me means a crew that is built to succeed. By bringing in a range of people from different backgrounds, we can draw on a wider range of human experience to better solve problems and to serve the community.”
Here are some more helpful firefighter interview questions and tips:
11 Common Firefighter Interview Questions
1. What Have You Done To Prepare For This Role Of Firefighter?
This should be easy, if you didn’t cover it during your opening statement then now’s the time to talk about the training, education, and experience that you have.
This should be one of your longest answers, as you don’t want to leave anything out. I prefer to cover everything in chronological order.
An example answer would include past jobs and experiences that are relevant, education, certifications, volunteer work, personal values, ride-a-longs, research into the profession/department, etc.
Also read: How To Prepare For The Fire Academy: 14 Insider Tips
2. What Do You Think You’re Likely To Do On A Day-To-Day Basis As A Firefighter?
If your answer here is just “fighting fires” then you’re unlikely to get too much further, the interviewer wants to see that you understand the job that you’ve applied for and have given it some real thought.
So a good answer might be; “I’d expect that you’d be doing some routine maintenance, training, drilling, and even working on other business such as medical emergencies and public education programs and, of course, fighting the occasional fire.”
Also read: 14 Things Firefighters Do All Day When Not Fighting Fires
3. Have You Thought About How You’re Going To Manage Your Schedule With Your Family?
This is a really important question and not just for the interview but also for your actual life as a firefighter. Shift work can be really stressful in family environments as it can mean you’re away from your partner and children for days at a time.
Your interviewer wants to see that there’s a plan in place to try and manage this stress because you’re going to need one.
So, you might say; “I’m lucky, my husband has been allowed to work from the house ever since Covid arrived and it seems he won’t have to transition back to the office full-time. So, he should be able to cover childcare while I’m at work and when I’m off work? He’ll be able to focus on his work.”
Also read: What Schedule Do Firefighters Work? Shift Schedules Compared
4. What Do You Think Is The Most Important Personality Trait Of A Firefighter?
There are plenty of good answers to this question as there are many essential traits of a good firefighter.
You need to be honest, dedicated, resilient, a team player, have a great attitude, physically and mentally fit, approach life with integrity, solve problems, and truly want to help others.
So, a good thing to say might be “A firefighter’s role is to serve their community and I don’t think you can serve effectively if you don’t act with integrity. It not only helps to build bridges with the people you work with and for, but it also promotes a positive view of the department to everyone involved.”
Also read: Why Firefighters Are So Important For The Community
5. What Is A Fire Department’s Most Important Role?
Now, this is not a trick question. And yes, for once, the answer ought to be fairly obvious, but it is very important that every recruit understands this and gets it right.
A fire department does many things and serves many roles but at its core, the most important thing is to preserve life and property (in that order).
You might say, “While the department does many important things from public education to assisting other services, the most important thing that it does is to protect the lives of people in the community and their property over everything else.”
6. Tell Me How You’d Improve Our Department’s Public Education Work?
This might not seem as important as some of the other questions, but it is.
A firefighter’s life is easier with fewer fires to fight, and public education helps instill a culture of fire prevention locally as well as building strong relationships with the community. Your interviewer wants to know that you’re going to be able to contribute to these programs and help them evolve to serve the community better.
A good answer might be “I first got introduced to the service through some public education outreach when I was at school. I’ve been thinking that, perhaps, this could be extended and we might be able to work with Scouts and Guides too, these are often organizations that appeal to kids that are homeschooled and who might otherwise miss out on their chance to learn about fire prevention.”
7. Over The Next Few Years, How Do You Think The Firefighter’s Work Will Change?
The fire service may have a long history, but it does not rest on its laurels. In fact, changes in the technological, political, or scientific environment can have a real impact on the way firefighting is carried out. If you can give a studied answer to this question, you’re showing that you’re interested in your future as a firefighter.
8. Why Have You Applied To This Particular Fire Department?
This is, of course, a big deal.
It should be clear by the time you get to this question that you want to be a firefighter and that you have the wherewithal to become one, but why have you applied here, rather than say, in California where they offer the country’s highest rate of pay for firefighters?
The interviewer wants to know that you understand the community you will serve and the department you will work in.
You could say “I’m a local boy and I know that this community is proud and hardworking and that there are parts of it that don’t always get the attention and service they deserve. I’m hoping to give back to the people who helped make me who I am today and help to better educate the underserved portions of the community so they can be safer.”
Also read: How Much Do Firefighters Make? Average Salaries By State 2022
9. Would You Ever Disobey A Direct Order From A Superior Officer? Why?
Firefighters are expected to follow orders, and, in many cases, they are expected to do so without question in the middle of an incident, to do otherwise, might cost lives.
However, there are also potential situations where it would be the correct thing to refuse an order. Your interviewer wants to know how you’re going to handle this in real life.
So, you might say “Yes. It’s not something I would want to do lightly but if I was given an order that clearly endangered the life or safety of someone else then I would push back. It’s possible that the person giving the order isn’t aware of that particular issue. You owe it to yourself and to the service to resist taking a harmful action if it should arise.”
Also read: Can Firefighters Refuse Unsafe Work? Risk Refusal
10. What Do You Do If You’re Asked To Do Something And You Don’t Know How?
Nobody expects a firefighter to be a mind reader or possessed of all the answers. Of course, you’re expected to know a lot about your job but there are going to be times when situations arise that you don’t have the answers for.
A good firefighter knows when to ask for help as much as when to take immediate action.
You could say, “If I’m unsure of what to do or how to get something done safely, I’d ask for help either from a fellow crew member or my superior. One of the benefits of working in a team is that sometimes, others will have experience and knowledge that you won’t and you can’t learn if you don’t ask for help.”
11. How Would You Cope With An Angry Member Of The Public?
This job involves working in highly stressful situations and while, most of the time, everyone is understanding and reasonably calm, sometimes people’s emotions get out of hand. You can’t always defuse a situation but you should know how to go about trying to do so.
So, you might say “Safety is, of course, the first thing that matters and it’s hard for someone to stay safe when they’re emotionally volatile. I would ensure that I moved the person or direct them out of harm’s way and then listen to what they had to say with respect. Then, if I could, I’d offer a solution or ask them to talk to my superior if not.”
Of course, there are plenty of other possible questions that you might face as a firefighter in an interview but once you’ve reviewed a few sample questions, you can quickly see what it is that an interviewer is looking for.
Then, you should be able to think on your feet and adapt to the question that is being asked of you.
Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Become A Firefighter? Firefighter Answers
Questions You Should Ask At Your Firefighter Interview
At the end of nearly every interview, the interviewer will turn over the stage to you and ask you if you want to ask some questions of your own.
This is an excellent opportunity to show that you care about the work, that you’ve listened carefully during your interview and to learn more about the department’s views on many subjects.
However, if you’ve reached this point and you don’t feel that any obvious questions have arisen from the interview, it is best to say that you have no questions and leave it at that.
However, if you must, you can always fall back on these tried and tested questions:
- “When you joined the department, was there anything you wish that someone had told you before you started?”
- “How does the leadership of the department help to build a strong crew, are there any specific team-building activities, for example?”
- “In terms of learning new skills and improving myself as a firefighter, does the department offer any education programs to help to gain that education?”
- “If you were to put your best firefighters together in a room, what is are the things that you would say that they all had in common?”
Make sure to ask strong questions and if the answers bring up further questions in your mind, follow them up.
This is your last chance to make a great impression on your interviewer, don’t waste it.
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