Don Hewitt, one of the pioneers of television news and the creator of CBS’s “60 Minutes” said, “The key to my success is four words that every child in the world knows.  Tell me a story.  Learn how to tell a story and you will be a success.” It’s the same with getting a firefighter badge!

The toughest thing for candidates to do in an oral is to be themselves on purpose. Your stories establish a natural bridge between you and the panel. When you’re yourself, you become conversational because you are on your own turf. This alone can lower the stress and the butterflies.  Everyone has butterflies.  The trick is to get all the butterflies to all fly in the same formation than can make the difference.

We encourage candidates to lace their answers with personal life experiences. Since no one else can tell a candidate’s life experience stories they can’t be placed in the mold of a profile. They become unique, fresh and convincing. In a recent fire academy half the recruits were candidates who went through our program. You couldn’t tell one from the other in the oral board because they were using their own stuff. Not a profile robot “clone” of everyone else.

Those are your “Nugget” signature story no one else can tell. Once you have the board hooked into listening to you, you can use those other “Clone” answers to caboose your answer.

Stories are more than facts. If you can recreate the excitement, emotion, the color and magic to relive the actual event, you will capture the interest and a top score on that question. A big part of getting this job is convincing the oral board that you can do the job before you get it. Stories are convincing and can demonstrate your experience, even if they’re not fire related.

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”—Joseph Pulitzer, (1847-1911) American journalist.

One reason stories work effectively is because they go directly to the brain and entertain. They do not require the mental processing of more formal nonfiction writing. Stories have heart and ring true.

Collect illustrative stories as you are collecting facts, quotations and other information for your signature stories.

Practice those stories with a smart phone recorder. Condense them down to a couple of minutes or less. Don’t go on a journey. The oral board is not packed for the trip. You won’t have time and it’s not appropriate to use a signature story for every answer. Tell the story. Make the point. Move on. Once you answer an oral board with a signature story, you can marry the rest of your answer with those clone answers you have been using. Try it and see the amazing difference.

“You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

The proof is in the badges!