Do You Need to Take a Psychological Evaluation to Become a Firefighter?

The answer to this question is not exactly simple, but for the most part yes, you can expect to take a psychological exam when prepping to become firefighter.  Most cities and municipalities are starting to incorporate a psychological exam and/or interview with their hiring process.  At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what kind of training you have if you can’t pass the psychological part of the exam.  The fortunate thing is that you have tools that you can use to prep for it.  Let’s first start by taking a look at the written component of the Psychological Exam.

The written part of the exam is designed to test your written responses to figure out what kind of personality type you have and what kind of person you are.  There are tons of questions here that really aren’t that hard to answer if you answer them truthfully.  Where people get into trouble is by overthinking the questions.  If the test asks you if you’ve “ever had a disagreement with a superior” don’t lie about it by trying to be viewed as the “good” candidate and say “no.”  You and I both know that every person out there, whether it’s a professional, a laborer, a student or a child, at some point has disagreed with their boss, parent or significant other.  Answering the people pleasing route to this question will not only make you look like you are trying too hard, but also put you in a poor position because you’ve pretty much singled yourself out as someone that’s not truthful.  It’s natural to have some small conflict at some level, so you need to make sure you are being honest about your past history.

Here are a couple other tips to help you get through the written part of the psychological exam:

  • Don’t stress out.  The worst possible thing you can do during a test is freak out and get severe test anxiety.  You function better in common sense testing when you are cool and collected.
  • Be Honest.  Again, while this might be redundant, I can’t stress enough that your answers need to reflect the utmost honesty.
  • None of us are perfect, so don’t pretend to be.  Don’t answer the question the way you “think” someone else would want you to answer it.  Just because you think someone wants you to be a boy or girl scout, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the case.
  • Get Plenty of Sleep and Eat before the Exam.  It’s impossible to focus with hunger gnawing at your stomach or your eyelids drooping closed because you were out partying the night before.  Call it early and make sure you are physically prepped for the exam as well as mentally.

Now that we’ve covered the written part of the psychological exam, let’s touch on the next portion, which is the oral psychological exam.  This part is a little more interesting, and it’s more designed around testing your stress thresholds.  You will get asked questions that pertain to how you’d react in certain situations and may even get asked questions that aggravate you or cause you some uneasiness about the process.  This is normal.  The whole point of this is to make sure you are mentally adept at handling whatever stress comes your way at the mental level so you need to make sure you are being truthful and honest.

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Here are some additional tips for the oral part of this exam:

  • Stay Calm and Collected.  Notice a theme here?  If you need some time to answer a question, ask for it.  Don’t be shy if you need a moment to think about something.  While some people might view hesitation as a bad thing, it could also be the deciding factor between losing a life in an emergency situation and not.  Don’t freak out.  It won’t help anything.
  • Maintain Eye Contact.  Looking away a lot during any type of interview isn’t good.  It indicates you aren’t being truthful and it will throw up red flags for the interviewer.
  • Answer your question and be done.  A lot of times when a question is asked, the interviewer might leave gaps of silence in between questions.  Don’t go into too much detail – answer the question and move on, or your interviewer might attempt to drag out more information since you decided to offer it.

Now that you’ve had some good tips to help you with the oral portion of the Psychological interview, go and practice them!  Get your spouse, significant other or best friend to pull some sample tests that you can find online and have them ask you the questions so you can prepare your answer.  Don’t script everything, but practicing will never hurt, no matter your objective.

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