Navigating the Background Appeal

Even after working with firefighter candidates, we usually hear from them. From time to time, a candidate will call or email when things are good, and when things are not. We are happy to help. Read what situation our friend, John D., ran across.

Dear Captain Rob,

Once again, I need some advice. About 10 years ago, I got in trouble for having a fake ID. The result was a gross misdemeanor. Because of this, I was recently removed from a hiring process in Washington State. I received a letter from the department that stated I have 4 weeks to appeal.

I am currently a firefighter with FFI. I have a clean record aside from that incident. Do you know of any lawyers that are familiar with the appeals process? If so, can you please send me the information? I am desperate.
Thank You.

John D.

Here is Captain Rob’s reply:

John D.,

I am sorry to hear about this. But, let me ask you a question. If you did not list this incident, how did they find out?  Who knows this happened besides you? 

From John D.

Captain Rob,

I told the investigator. I wanted to be honest so it would not come up down the line. I told the investigator that this happened when I was young, immature, and long before I wanted to become a firefighter. I told him I would never make such a bad decision again.

This does not appear on my DOJ criminal report. It was never a problem with my current FD. I have not had any problem with the law since.

John D. 

Here is Captain Rob’s reply:


I am sorry to hear this.  This is a perfect example of the importance of not creating trails were not needed.  I wish we had talked about your background.  

I always believe that honesty is the best policy. But, candidates who are honest to a fault, in an instance like this, can ruin their chances of getting hired.  If you had not listed this, you would not be in a DQ situation now.  If by some strange act this ancient situation did surface, you could claim amnesia stating you were a kid when this happened.

As far as an attorney goes, hiring one might not be the way to go. Once you go down that path, it could aggravate the department heads. You could have an attorney help you structure the appeal and send it in yourself.  

In the end, the background investigator is just trying to cover all the bases and do his job. Make sure you offer a reasonable explanation of what happened.

My approach would be this:

  • Only answer the charges related to your DQ.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Stress nothing like this has happened before or since this incident. 
  • Emphasize that what happened was a stupid kid thing.
  • Let them know that you have been working as a firefighter for 2 years with an excellent record. 
  • Demonstrate how you conduct my life now.  List positive areas and qualities you possess that demonstrate you’re a viable candidate.

Captain Rob

Lesson learned here – DO not go into any portion of the firefighter testing process without doing the work necessary to get prepared. Working with comes with the NUGGETS to get you what you want.  – without creating trails.

Captain Rob