What Disqualifies You From Being a Firefighter? Insider Look

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If you want to become a firefighter, then you should be aware that the recruitment process is tough and competitive (though fair). There are plenty of good reasons that a prospective firefighter might be hired by the fire department that they’ve applied to but are there also reasons that you are going to be automatically rejected or which can affect your application? 

You can be disqualified from becoming a firefighter if you are not physically fit, you have substance abuse issues, you have a criminal record, a poor driving record, or have been expelled from the military. However, there are other reasons that a fire department can use to decide to eliminate you from the recruitment process.

In this article, we will take a look at what those disqualifying factors may be, as well as some tips to make the hiring process as smooth as possible. Keep reading.

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Also read: Can You Be a Firefighter with a Criminal Record? (Felony, Misdemeanor, 5150)

What Disqualifies You From Being A Firefighter?

firefighter with hoseline

We’ve broken down the reasons that you will be disqualified into two sections. 

The first is the guaranteed reasons lists – if you don’t meet these criteria, the department will almost always (possible rare exceptions) not hire you.

The second is a longer list of reasons that you might be rejected.

Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Become A Firefighter? Firefighter Answers

Reasons For Firefighter Disqualification (Guaranteed)

There are certain parts of the process that are set in stone. If you don’t meet these requirements, you simply cannot be a firefighter. There’s no discretion for the interviewer on these, either you have what it takes, or you don’t.

The guaranteed reasons for rejection/disqualification during firefighter recruitment are:

  1. You’re not fit enough. Look, firefighting is an intensely physical job, you need to wear heavy safety gear and may be required to run up and down stairs in that gear while carrying heavy equipment. If you get the job, you’re going to be encouraged to work out on a daily basis. You will be required to undertake a Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) and if you fail it, you’re not getting in. You must also disclose any potential fitness and physical problems that might interfere with your ability to get the job done. 
  2. You can’t stay sober. A track record of illegal drugs whether you have been caught in the past or not is going to disqualify you from service. There’s no doubt that you simply can’t turn up for work under the influence, you could get someone else killed or yourself killed. You will face drug screening on recruitment and at regular intervals during your employment, fail and you’re gone. Past convictions involving drugs or alcohol may get you disqualified too. There may be some leeway regarding minor incidents with marijuana (due to changing public attitudes) but otherwise? It’s usually a guaranteed no-no.
  3. You used to be a career criminal. Any adult conviction on a serious misdemeanor or felony is going to see most applicants disqualified, a pattern of conviction will see all applicants disqualified. Some fire services even visit your juvenile record and will disqualify based on that too. You can also be disqualified if you have committed a crime that you have not been convicted for – you may be subject to a polygraph as part of the selection process. You will also be disqualified if there are any arrest warrants or legal indictments against you when you apply.
  4. You think driving properly is something for other people. You’re not going to be disqualified for getting a single parking ticket in college but if you have a poor driving record then you’re going to find that you’re disqualified from service, at least, until you have shown that you can clean up your act (typically a 2-year period of no offenses) and a DUI is going to really put off your hiring manager. Even what you might think of as a “trivial” driving matter such as not having proper insurance can disqualify you from the job.
  5. You were thrown out of the military. The fire service loves people who have served their country in other branches of service and it’s a huge advantage to be an ex-serviceperson in the recruitment process. That is, unless you were dishonorably discharged. Then, the odds are pretty good that the fire service won’t want to hire you. 

On the topic of criminal history, there may be some changes in the future, take a look at this video:

Also read: Do Firefighters Get Drug Tested? How and When

Possible Firefighter Diqualifiers

wildland firefighters

OK, so we’ve looked at the mandatory reasons that you might not get that job in the fire service, but that’s not the end of things. 

Recruiters for firefighters have huge leeway when it comes to being able to reject candidates who might be OK on paper but who, in real life, don’t seem suited to the job. 

And here’s a list of reasons, why you might tick all the boxes but still get rejected anyway:

  1. You arrived late to some or all phases of the interview process – you can’t turn up late to the scene of a fire. This shows that you simply don’t care enough to do what’s expected of you.
  2. You didn’t show up to a phase of the process – look, it’s fine to call and say “Hi, I’m in hospital. Can we reschedule?” but there are no guarantees that it is possible to reschedule, and you had better have a really good reason for asking or you’re likely to find your recruitment process terminated on the spot. 
  3. You don’t listen to your interviewer – you’re going to be given a lot of instructions on the job, if you can’t listen? You can’t follow those instructions and you’re a liability. 
  4. Your school record is terrible – the fire service is not just about brawn, it’s also about brains and someone who isn’t fully engaged at school might not be fully engaged on the job and that’s a very big risk to take.
  5. You don’t have or can’t communicate your goals and long-term plan – fire fighting is not a career you take up for a year or two and then move on to something else, for most, it’s a lifetime commitment and the recruiter will want to know your plans for your career, or they may opt to find someone with plans, instead. 
  6. You keep talking about money – nobody becomes a firefighter to get rich or for the incredible benefits package, the interviewer wants to understand your motivation to help others and serve not to pick up some cash each month.
  7. You show no real interest in the department and its history – if you get the job, you’re going to be spending almost all your time in the department, if you have no interest in that? You’re applying for the wrong job.
  8. Your communication skills aren’t great – communication is the essential part of successful teamwork if you can’t get your message over to others, you’re going to be dangerous in an emergency. 
  9. You don’t dress properly – this is a big deal, you should be dressed like a professional throughout the process, you should have neat hair, etc. too. This job involves dealing with the public and they have confidence in professionalism and if you look like a hobo, they’re not going to respect that. 
  10. You are immature or lack confidence – again, you have to inspire respect and trust in colleagues and members of the public, sometimes, your personality won’t be ready for this challenge. 
  11. You have a poor work history – this may also include poor references from previous employers. What you’ve done before the fire service is often a good guide to what you will do in the future too. 
  12. You clearly don’t fit the local workplace culture – you have to fit in in the fire service, it’s bigger than all of us. 
  13. You can’t follow instructions – it should be pretty clear why this is a bad thing.
  14. You have a mental or medical condition that suggests it would be a bad idea to hire you – the potential list of such conditions is endless and it’s something that will come up during the physical and medical stage of recruitment. 
  15. You made a terrible first impression – research shows that first impressions count and that you only have a few seconds to make one. If your first impression is bad, it, often, can never be undone. You have to impress an interviewer or assessor for them to approve your hiring. 

Can I Become A Firefighter With A Criminal Record?

It is possible to become a firefighter if you have a criminal record, however, any serious offense as an adult is likely to disqualify you automatically and even a juvenile record can impact your chances of getting hired. 

Read this article for a much clearer picture of this issue: Can You Be a Firefighter with a Criminal Record? (Felony, Misdemeanor, 5150)

Can You Be A Firefighter If You Have Anxiety?

It’s fair to say that as firefighting is a high-stress profession, anxiety is a medical condition that is highly likely to lead to disqualification as a firefighter unless you can demonstrate that it is managed and completely under control. 

I wrote another article that goes into this more in-depth, if you are interested, read: Can You Be a Firefighter with Mental Illness? (Anxiety/Depression)


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