So you want to become a Firefighter? But having a hard time?
Your resume might be what's holding you back.
Writing resumes suck. There is no doubt about it.
Moreover, in today’s competitive market, it can be an especially daunting task to try and stand out from the crowd.
It’s great that you meet the minimum requirements, but you want to put your best foot forward; show off your best self on a couple of pieces of paper.
This article is the HOW-TO to do just that. Since it is such an in-depth breakdown of what makes an entry level firefighter resume stand out, we have included a table of contents to navigate the article more easily:
IMPORTANT: Before you go any further… there are two essential steps you must take.
1. Read the job posting carefully
This might seem obvious, but there’s nothing worse than spending hours refining your cover letter and resume only to find out you do not meet all the requirements.
Check through every point; do you meet all the criteria (NFPA 1001, first aid with an up-to-date CPR certification, any other required testing)?
If you don’t, now is a great time to book yourself in for these courses or tests. They can fill up fast as there are hundreds of others all vying for the same, limited number of spots. Consider, also, that this process can be an expensive undertaking that you must budget for.
2. Research the service
It’s wise to do some research on the service you’re applying to.
Why? This is not only going to help you complete your cover letter and resume by presenting yourself as a compatible, desirable candidate but will also prepare you for the interview stage where questions regarding the service itself and your potential place in it are highly likely to come up.
Google the service; browse extensively on their official website, Facebook page, or Twitter accounts. A lot of what you’ll need to know will be right there, out in the open. Why is this essential? Because you need to know what it takes to fit in with that particular service. It will make tailoring your resume for the service much more manageable.
- Is this a service I want to work for?
- If so, what stands out about them?
- What draws me to them (e., do their values reflect my own? Have they impacted my life somehow?).
Write down, or save, 1-2 points.
This only needs to take 10-15 minutes and is going to give you a head start in building your resume. Jotting this down can also potentially help you in the interview.
3. The Three ‘Gates’ You Must Unlock
Note: If you’re looking to add a fantastic cover letter to your resume, visit our article on how to create an awesome firefighter cover letter.
For your resume to get from the pile and into the hands of decision makers, it commonly has to pass through 3 steps:
- Gate 1. Score high with the keyword software they’re using;
- Gate 2. Impress a quick-scanning human eye, and;
- Gate 3. Show how qualified you are by highlighting your hard and soft skills.
We’ll go into more details on how to MAXIMIZE your chances of passing all three.
4. Professional Summary (aka mission statement or objective)
Many people still write this as an objective statement.
It’s usually something along the lines of: ‘Looking to gain employment as a firefighter in a great city.’
Just like the game ‘Pong,’ objective statements are out. (Sorry to the lovers of pong)
Instead, we’re going to write a summary paragraph.
As the name implies, this should be a summary of what YOU have to offer the service.
This summary should be 2-4 sentences long, using keywords from the job posting (more on this later):
- What you have been doing (e.g., your years of experience using a safety-first approach);
- What your main strengths are (e.g., expert leader and strategic planner, with exceptional quick-thinking abilities and calm attitude in challenging situations);
- What you are looking to do (e.g., grow and positively impact community) and;
- How you will do it (e.g., by applying multiple training certificates and proven methods of success).
5. Essential Skills & Qualifications
Using bullet points, include everything that is mandatory (i.e., NFPA 1001 FIRE I & II, 472 Ops, Pleasure Craft Operator Card, community service involvement, etc.).
Commonly, especially with smaller services, a human will sift through all the resumes to ensure you meet the minimum requirements. Let’s make it easy for them! This is to ensure you gracefully pass through the Second Gate: a Hiring Manager’s Eye.
If there’s room left over, include any additional qualifications that you meet and that will make you stand out (multilingual skills, tech level certifications, etc.).
NOTE: To be extra cautious, write these in the EXACT same way they appear on the job posting.
I.E.: NFPA 1001 FIRE I & II vs NFPA 1001 FIRE 1 & 2, “problem–solving” vs. “problem solving” (without the dash), and so on…
Often, there could be upwards of 100’s or 1000’s of other candidates bidding for the same handful of positions. With so many applicants, Human Resource departments have resorted to using ATS Software (a.k.a. keyword software) to filter a the pile of resumes down to a more manageable size.
This concept is the same regardless of the industry. Unfortunately, the sad part about this is that people who are fully qualified yet unaware of this process aren’t getting their point across to show the potential employer they have what it takes to be successful in the job.
It’s crucial for your resume to get past this stage.
So… how do you do this?
Comb back through the specific job posting you’re applying to and pick out all of the soft and hard skills that you see. Once you have that list, include them naturally in your resume and give sound evidence of how you demonstrate the specific skill you are including. We’ll give you examples shortly.
For your reference, here is a general list of the most common hard and soft skills found in firefighter job postings:
Most Common Firefighter Soft Skills
- Team Work
- Effective Leadership
- Communication Skills
- Superior Interpersonal Skills
- Follow Instructions
- Problem Solving
- Effective Listening
Most Common Firefighter Hard Skills
- Routine Maintenance
- Safety Training
- Analytical Skills
- Computer Skills
- Valid Driver’s License
- Hazardous Materials
- Crisis Intervention
- Report Writing
These are some of the most common keywords used in job postings taken from an estimated 3,672 fire departments in Canada.
Now, let’s talk about how to properly use them.
7. Firefighter Job Descriptions for Resume
The firefighting profession attracts people from all walks of life. Whether you have a background as a Volunteer Firefighter, Mechanic, Electrician or Professional Athlete, the job descriptions you write should relate back to how it can benefit the fire service.
No matter what your background is, you can bring value to this profession. Having an organization equipped with individuals who possess a wide array of skills only serves to strengthen it.
Sometimes, you have to be a bit creative about it. We recently had a client who had a background in marketing. We were able to show how his customer service and analytical skills were relevant to the firefighting industry. Plus, most departments run their own Facebook and/or Twitter pages; who better to help with the online public outreach than this client?
Want Us to Write Your Resume AND Cover Letter for You?
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We also recently fixed up a resume for a gentleman with Heavy Equipment Operator experience. His original job descriptions were:
- Read site drawings and surveys for custom homes and subdivisions.
- Operate excavator, backhoe, bulldozer, dump truck, skid steer and rock truck.
- Install septic systems, sewer, water and storm drains for residential homes.
- Chainsaw operations and maintenance using proper PPE for tree cutting.
These are just okay, but we’re looking for ones that will capture the attention of our audience AND include keywords naturally.
Going back up to our list of the most common keywords, we can easily include the following keywords into these descriptions: Construction, Team Work, Safety Training, Routine Maintenance, Communication Skills, and Follow Instructions.
Let’s break each bullet point down one-by-one.
Read site drawings and surveys for custom homes and subdivisions.
Demonstrate excellent communication skills daily by examining blueprints and surveys. Save time and money by confirming all details regarding the location before excavating.
Rationale: We see this one a lot from those in the trades. It usually starts like this ‘read blueprints…’. We revamped it to include WHY this is important and how it benefits the overall operation.
Operate excavator, backhoe, bulldozer, dump truck, skid steer and rock truck.
Over 4,000 hours of safely operating a diverse range of heavy construction equipment in confined and dynamic workspaces.
Now, this is the bullet point we should start off with, but it needs some work. After speaking with our client on the phone for an hour, we learned that he has spent 2 years in this full-time position.
Rationale: This highlights the fact that he’s operated with safety at the forefront of his mind and it shows, in hard numbers, how much experience he has. This is a fantastic introductory bullet point. If someone were to read this, they would already have a good idea of his experience. We’ve also naturally included one of the keywords – making sure we’re one step closer to getting noticed.
Install septic systems, sewer, water and storm drains.
Follow instructions when installing septic systems, sewer, water and storm drains for residential homes
Rationale: Added another one of our keywords. Also, further expands on his duties in the company.
Chainsaw operations and maintenance using proper PPE for tree cutting.
Use team work during chainsaw operations to measure clearance of falling trees while using the appropriate PPE.
Rationale: Adding the keyword while showing WHY the team work was necessary.
Avoid delays by performing routine maintenance on all equipment including oil changes, greasing, and replacing teeth on buckets.
Maintain a perfect safety record from staying up-to-date with new safety training
Rationale: Let’s get more of those keywords in there while making sure we add to his credibility.
After Total (Summary of Changes)
- Over 4,000 hours of safely operating a diverse range of heavy construction equipment in confined and dynamic workspaces.
- Demonstrate excellent communication skills daily by examining blueprints and surveys. Save time and money by confirming all details regarding the location before excavating.
- Follow instructions when installing septic systems, sewer, water and storm drains for residential homes.
- Avoid delays by performing routine maintenance on all equipment including oil changes, greasing, and replacing teeth on buckets.
- Maintain a perfect safety record from staying up-to-date with new safety training
8. Sample Job Descriptions
Let’s examine this a little further with sample resumes for the Emergency Services.
If you live within the range of a volunteer fire station, one of the best ways to get into the field is to take a Volunteer Firefighter position. This will give you some practical hands-on training for a position as a firefighter.
Mechanic job description sample
- Utilized a strong mechanical aptitude to conduct vehicle maintenance using related tools to check oil and coolant levels, tire pressure, and transmission fluid on approximately 8-10 vehicles daily.
Intensive research into the electrical hazards that firefighters face on almost every call has shown that, in recent years, more injuries have occurred due to electric shock. Having the experience and knowledge of the electrical trade could prove beneficial in knowing how to work around electricity, assessing the conditions and understanding how to safely shut off electricity.
Electrician job description sample
- Used electrical expertise to respond to up to 4 service calls on a daily basis, ensuring a high degree of safety when dealing with electrical hazards within commercial sites.
Another key component of being involved in the Firefighting field is maintaining a high degree of physical fitness. Professional athletes carry at least two key skills to become a successful Firefighter. First, they possess good physical fitness and second, most athletes are proficient team players.
Professional Athlete job description sample
- Maintained excellent physical fitness and proven to be a strong team player demonstrated through 4 years in the NHL, playing in 262 games with the Oilers, Flames and Red Wings.
When writing out your responsibilities include 3-5 points in your job descriptions highlighting to potential employers how each skill is used within the duties performed. Including more keywords throughout your resume will ultimately increase your ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) score. Specialized keyword software is used by most fire services to screen applicants. At Emergency Resumes our professional firefighter resume templates are built to cater to this software, consequently giving your resume the best chance of being seen.
Make your resume stand out with these four tips:
- Tailor your resume to the service you’re applying for.
- Use appropriate keywords from the job posting.
- Show how you used your skills.
- Add a cover letter to truly stand out.
Emergency Resumes will address each of these steps in a well-crafted professional firefighter resume aimed at getting better responses.
Each resume we create is designed to be unique and personable, telling your story. Are you ready to enter a rewarding career in the Emergency Services field? Let us help by giving you a head start on the track to success.