Firefighting Qualifications

So you might be asking yourself – What are the “ideal” qualifications to be a firefighter?  Yes, you have already read the basics and our detailed hiring tips, but you might not know exactly what the intangibles are that hiring officers might be looking for when trying to find the best candidate.  While we’ve covered the steps that you need to take to become a firefighter, we haven’t really looked at some of the other things that do go a long way for hiring officers.  The problem is that with some of this criteria, you aren’t going to find it on paper.  The only way you will find out the “behind the scenes qualities” that the fire chief is looking for is to ask.  Or you can keep reading and we will give you an idea of what these qualities are, so you can once again set yourself up for success!

Here are some of the basic personality qualities and other areas that are usually looked at:

  • Personality Type:  Most firefighters tend to be more introverted and typically have a very good analytical mindset.  They are usually not extroverted and they do not act impulsively.  That’s not to say that an extrovert won’t make a good firefighter, but this is usually part of the psychological test as well.
  • Character:  When I say character, I’m referring to your “moral compass.”  Typically to be a firefighter you need to have outstanding character and be a good model citizen.  You need to be kind and courteous to others, and absolutely must respect your elders.  There are a lot of veteran firefighters out there that will lose patience with rookies that don’t have respect for senior firefighters.
  • Honesty:  While you could argue that this definitely falls in line with character, it’s still absolutely worth mentioning.  Have you been honest and up front with every piece of information that you’ve been asked to provide?  If something came up unexpected on your background check did you admit to it or lie about it?  Government employees have ways of researching your background that private industries do not.  It will not payoff to not be truthful about anything that pops up that needs a little bit more of an explanation.
  • Background:  Is your background clean?  I’m not referring to the curfew violation you had when you were 16.  Yes, you might get questioned about a situation like that if it comes up, but more than anything we are talking about if you have ever had any problems with a criminal past, specifically DUI’s or other felony activity.  None of that will bode well for you as a firefighter.
  • Drug Use:  Have you used drugs in the past and were you honest about it to the interviewer?  It’s one thing to have experimented with certain banned or illegal substances when you were younger, but it’s another thing to use them continuously or have used them in recent years.  This can be an automatic disqualifier if you have used any hard substances within the last 5 years.
  • Credit Check:  How’s your credit?  Are you paying your bills on time?  Do you have any severe delinquencies?  Do you have problems with not paying unsecured credit card debt or have you had a car repossessed in the past?  Do you have any medical collections accounts and are you behind on any federal student loans?  You will want to make sure that if any of this applies to you, do your best to take care of it and clean it up.  You might not be able to get a foreclosure removed from your credit report, but it will be a lot more likely that your interviewer can move past it if you have a really good explanation for any discrepancies that might pop up, and some demonstrated effort to clear up any problems you may have had in the past with paying your bills on time.
  • Who do you know?  Do you know someone in the firefighting industry that has referred you?  A lot of times a vote of confidence from someone will go much further than anything else we’ve talked about in this article.  Getting a nod from a senior firefighter can give you a nod over a vast majority of other candidates as well as any small potential character flaws.

Now that we’ve given you a better understanding of what you should keep your eyes open for, now is the time to act.  You need to get out there and do what’s necessary to make sure that you are keeping yourself clean and holding yourself in the best light possible.  If you do everything here the right way, or at least attempt to make sure any discrepancies are addressed, it will go a long way in launching your firefighting career.

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