Out of My Mind: Prepping for the Interview and Promotion

By Rich Marinucci

Throughout the years I have done countless interviews of candidates for my own department and other organizations. This has been for all ranks from entry-level firefighter to fire chief. One thing that is often frustrating is the lack of preparation by those looking for a job or promotion. They think they can just “wing it” and don’t realize that they would score much better with just a little preparation. I have seen many cases where one or two points overall would have changed the outcome and a different individual would have been selected for the position. I am not sure why many think they don’t need to practice and prepare. I would guess that more don’t do anything than those who come in ready to go. Some just bring in their resume, and I can only guess they think that should carry them through the interview. I strongly encourage individuals looking for a job or promotion to spend some time getting ready for this step in the selection process. They should be able to anticipate questions and have access to the Internet for suggestions. Just Google interview questions and see what you find. If you give the first impression that you are prepared and you show the confidence that you are ready, you may get those couple extra points that you need to move up the list. You should also ask for help in your preparation. There are many people in your network who would be willing to assist. As someone who does interviews, it is very refreshing to find people ready to go, and it makes it easier to give a higher score. If you are looking for a good career and/or promotion, do your homework and get the extra points that will put you over the top.

When a person joins the fire service, he has (or should have) the desire to be the very best. In order to do this in today’s world, there needs to be much more study, education, and training. This continues to get more complex every year as the world around the fire service is changing at a very rapid rate. Not too long ago there was a very simple approach to being a firefighter that required physical ability and mechanical aptitude. Increased involvement in EMS added to the workload along with the necessary knowledge to be competent. The fire side of the work continues to expand. Consider the difference in building construction and the constant evolution of how building materials are made and how structures are erected. If firefighters consider the buildings in which they work their office, they have an ever-changing workstation and must continually study its make-up. Then there is the knowledge needed about today’s vehicles. In the not too distant past, vehicles were propelled by gasoline or diesel fuel. There are a lot more ways to propel cars today. These are just a few examples of how complex this job has gotten and for those aspiring to the top of the profession, there is so much more that needs to be learned. Constant study is required, and this is on top of the need to keep current skills sharp with repetition and practice.

The fire service is in a good time with respect to gaining additional information from science and research that can be very helpful in improving service across the industry. Through FEMA grants and others, (notably UL, NIST, various colleges, and universities), we are learning more about this profession that not only aides in service delivery but can help in making firefighter health and wellness better—physically and mentally. One such program is a method to measure a fire department’s safety culture, which is a good indicator of future accident and injury rates. The research is being done by Drexel University and its FIRST center through a partnership with the FDSOA and funded by a FEMA grant. There are still opportunities to participate, and departments are encouraged to visit www.drexel.edu/dornsife/first for more information.

Finally, I was discussing what I perceived to be an issue with another fire service professional who I respect. The topic was fire training in general and conferences and workshops more specifically. With few exceptions, many state and local conferences are not seeing the same level of participation as they once did. We were discussing whether it was the economy, staffing issues, or a change in interest by those entering the fire service. We didn’t come to any conclusions, but were leaning to a belief that firefighters today have so much going on in their lives that they don’t want extra activities. If they do go, they want take-aways that help with career advancement. Regardless of the reasons, the decline in participation has an effect on the overall advancement of the service. At some point this trend needs to be reversed. If anyone has any thought on this or suggestions, please send them along. It will be appreciated.

RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.

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