It’s taken years of determination, drive, time away from family and friends, not to mention a whole lot of cash, but you have finally got all your required certifications!
Your first aid and CPR are all up to date.
You even picked up your heavy truck license, working at heights certificate, WHMIS, and have your professional firefighter resume ready.
So why aren’t the interviews coming? Or you’re missing out on your top service? What’s missing?
Firefighter certifications are mandatory, but personal relationships can be the secret key to unlocking your future career.
It may seem like the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” isn’t fair, but there is some validity to the statement.
After all, people naturally what to be with people they know and like.
There are several ways to build personal relationships with your local fire service that can increase your chance of getting hired.
In addition to protecting the public in a wide variety of emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, and chemical spills firefighters also devote a lot of time to community involvement and charities. Emergency personnel are proud of the work they do and typically enjoy speaking to others who want to join their ranks. Casual conversations with local fire personnel while participating in a charity run for cancer prevention or volunteering at a community event are a great way to start to build relationships.
Follow the service that you want to join on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Fire services will post updates about local community events, food drives, open houses or drop in events that they will be involved in. Even a quick chat while dropping off a food donation is a good way to get your face recognized. As well, fire services often post current causes, education and training programs. Social media feeds also provide you information about major events or incidents to which the service has responded so you can ask informed, intelligent questions when you visit the fire hall.
Your first fire hall visit can be a bit intimidating, but if have done some research and are prepared it will be immensely valuable.
Let’s first talk about what your goals should be, going in you.
- Gives them a chance to get to know you
Repeat appearances at the fire station over time will help to cultivate personal relationships with the firefighters you hope to soon be working with. If they feel the fit is right, there is an excellent chance that they will advocate for you. Eventually, that will reach someone with influence within the department.
- Create contacts
It’s a massive investment for municipalities to hire someone. Having someone on “the inside” to vouch for you can be that one extra thing the hiring team needs to choose you over all the other candidates. We all know about bias–familiarity with your face and name will create that advantage for you. Familiarity creates a connection; connection creates recognition and comfort; comfort creates preference. It’s simple, and it works!
- To educate yourself/prepare for the interview
Explaining that you went above and beyond by visiting the fire halls and familiarising yourself with the service and firefighters in person is a great answer to the common question “how did you prepare for this interview”.
Before you leave
- Pick a time when you think they’ll be less busy. Avoid shift change times or when you know something big is happening in the area that could create a higher volume of calls.
- Wear something respectable. Leave your graphic tees at home. You don’t have to wear a suit, but some khakis and a collared shirt will make a decent impression.
- Bring several copies of your resume. If you don’t have your resume finalized yet, click here for information on how to create a professional firefighting resume.
- Bring a notepad with a list of intelligent questions based on your research.
When you pull up
- Watch where you park.
As soon as you pull up, you’re going to be making an impression. There’s no worse way to start off than by parking in the Chief’s spot. Another big no-no:, parking in front of the bay doors.
- Be open to any advice
A common complaint of established firefighters of new recruits is ‘They come in here thinking they know it all…don’t even ask questions’. This is not a time to show off; this is a time to pay attention and learn.
- Never go empty-handed
When you are visiting a Fire Station, remember the Firefighters are on duty. They are taking time out of their day to visit with you and give you advice on the Fire Department. Never underestimate the power of a simple gift like coffee and doughnuts.
- Read the room
If you get a sense that the crew are tired, unengaged, or not welcoming, thank them and make your exit. Respect the mood and come back another day. This does not mean they did not connect with you. More likely, they had a rough call/shift/incident before your arrival and need a pass that day.
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