Hiring and Screening Process
How to become a firefighter is a very common question from many seeking to make firefighting a career. Below is a hiring and screening process used by many fire departments. Some departments will use them all, and some may use only a few. At a minimum, a firefighter recruit can expect to be evaluated on their responses on the application, their physical conditioning, their background history, their ability to answer personal and situational scenarios on their oral interview assessment, and their medical and drug screening evaluations.
- Application – usually step #1 on any hiring and screening process. You want to answer each and every question honestly. Do not leave any unanswered questions. Ensure that your handwriting is legible. Provide any and all related documents that are requested. The application is lengthy and there are many documents that the applicant must provide.
- Written Exam – this could be a civil service exam, could be an entry-level firefighting, could be a basic or advanced life support exam, or it could be a audio/visual exam. Applicants who meet the minimum requirements will be invited to take a written exam. A written exam is designed to assess your skills in firefighting or EMS, or to assess cognitive, reading comprehension, mathematical reasoning, situational decision-making and problem solving, map interpretation, and spatial reasoning.
- EMS Practical Exam – if the department hires EMT’s and/or paramedics, they may test your emergency medical skills, knowledge, and abilities with an EMT or paramedic hands-on practical scenario.
- Background Check – this is a comprehensive background check conducted on applicant’s to establish evidence of good moral character. Departments could check your driving record, credit history, criminal background (if any), past employment, references, military background (if served), and speak with your neighbors.
- Physical Ability Test (PAT) or the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) – One or the other physical fitness assessment will be given to evaluate the applicant’s physical conditioning and cardiovascular fitness. The assessment is designed to identify applicants who have the physical abilities to perform the duties of a firefighter. Review the Firefighter Combat Challenge for an understanding on the most commonly used physical assessment .
- Oral Interview – Applicant’s will meet with a panel of interviewers, usually comprised of Fire Administrators, Fire Officers, Firefighters, and/or Human Resource Personnel. Questions can be about getting to know the applicant, firefighting job knowledge, agency knowledge, fire service knowledge, and situational interpersonal relations, teamwork, ethical, and authority problems .
- Psychological Evaluation – Applicants will be professionally evaluated by a psychologist to determine if the applicant is suitable and emotionally stable to perform the duties of a successful firefighter. This is a comprehensive evaluation that includes an approximately 600 question personality assessment, biographical data, and an one to two hour interview with the psychologist.
- Polygraph – Applicants will submit to a polygraph (pneumo, cardio, sweat or voice stress) to determine completeness, accuracy, and truthfulness of all information provided to the department. This is done to confirm that the applicants meet the hiring moral standard.
- Drug Screening – Applicants will be administered a pre-employment drug screening, that may include testing for anabolic steroids. Hair samples could be used for the drug screening .
- Medical Screening – Applicants must complete and pass a comprehensive medical examination. Tests could include blood work, pulmonary functions, EKG, spinal assessment, etc. Applicants are also required to undergo a full medical evaluation that includes a review of the applicant’s medical history.
- Interview with the Police/Fire Chief – Applicant will meet with the Department Chief for a one-on-one question and answer session. If you made it this step, you are one of the many who applied that are receiving strong consideration for a job offer.
- Orientation – Congratulations, you’ve been hired. But work hard and keep your mouth shut. During this one-year probationary period, you can fired for any reason. The recruit will be trained in department protocols, policies, procedures, and operational duties. The recruit will participate in a very in-depth and intense academic and physical program. Punctuality, a positive attitude, good working relationships and a strong work ethic are critical to success.