This from oral board rater David White

  1. I have been a volunteer firefighter for 3 years now. I only began seeking employment as a career firefighter 1 year ago so that I could finish my Bachelor’s Degree.  I have never had any problem passing written and physical exams, but am getting eliminated after oral boards.  I am at a loss of what to do here. I feel that when I walk into the room, I am well prepared for my interview. Just recently though, I was thrown for a loop by a new oral board question I had never heard before.  It was a series of question but I only had 30 seconds to respond. After that, I was cut off and read the next question. These questions ranged from how do you feel about working for a female lieutenant, to tell us what you know about our department. I fear that I lost points here because I could not get everything I knew out of my mouth in 30 seconds.  I have studied everything about the departments that I am interviewing with, yet still seem to fall short to get called back for further testing. Can anyone give me some advice on what I need to do to improve myself in this area? I would really appreciate it,
  2. You’re not alone here.  Many tell me they fell like they have hit a wall and don’t know what to do next.

David White
Fire Captain/EMS Coordinator
Culver City Fire Department

I have sat as a rater on many many oral boards.  Sometimes a candidate will have good answers but the answers don’t seem to be sincere.  What I mean is that the answers don’t seem to fit the candidate.  Raters will hear the same canned answers over and over again.  Sincerity (your words and feelings) is a dimension that though hard to quantify definitely comes into play when evaluated.  Do your answers jive with your demeanor and application/resume?

There will always be a question you were not expecting.  This is not deliberate – it just is. Know this from the start and don’t be surprised when it happens.  All raters have seen a candidate that was surprised by a certain question go into a high speed wobble and never recover.

If there are conditions to a question (30 seconds to answer a series) you are expected to meet them. You need to adapt.  Be flexible and adapt. The answers need to be brief enough to meet the time allotted.  If you don’t then you will not score as well as those who did. Dave

 As one candidate wrote:

I didn’t realize how incredibly dead in the water I was until I realized that what I thought was unique in my oral boards was truly another fine example of a clone candidate.

Sadly, I know that there are thousands of other candidates shooting themselves in the foot, being difficult on themselves, telling themselves that they aren’t cut out for the job because they’ve tested so many places and keep getting low on the list…or not getting on the list at all.

I FINALLY figured it out and got a job in a busy, full-time mid western town.  All of my dreams have instantly come true. Paul

The secret is to personalize your answers so they represent you not a canned clone answer of someone else that’s not you.

A. I’m assuming you are practicing with a tape recorder as Rob suggested.

It is unusual to have a format of answering a series of questions in 30 seconds.  But if you had your base line of answers down you could easily condense the high points down to 30 seconds.  What too many candidates do is try to answer the questions with a blue print when we just need a sketch. Try to give us a dump truck when we just need a trailer.

Yes, you can plan on being asked curve ball questions.  It’s sad to see candidates die a slow
death when this happens.  Often, it’s a question you already have an answer for but it is disguised in one of a hundred different ways.  Being able to remove the disguise, know what the question relates to, delivering your answer and a personalized life experience story of how you have already lived it.

You should seriously consider getting a coaching session.  More on coaching here:

“Nothing counts ’til you have the badge . . . Nothing!”

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