This step is often overlooked by many applicants and, in reality, is the first thing you should do in preparation for the firefighter selection process. You should find out as much as you possibly can about the Berkeley Fire Department and the job of a firefighter. The best way to obtain this information is to visit local fire stations during normal business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)., it is reccomended that you call ahead and find out the best time to arrive. The Fire Department encourages everyone to spend some time talking to firefighters, because they know, and are willing to explain what the job is about. Ask them questions about their training, their duties, how they perform them, and how working 24-hour shifts affects their lives. In short, ask them any questions that will help you understand what being a firefighter is really like.
In addition, ask questions regarding the department expectations of it's firefighters, the Fire Department’s organizational structure, wages, different assignments, etc. This information will help you convince the interview panels that you have the ability and a real interest in a career as a City of Berkeley Firefighter.
Each interview is your opportunity to “sell yourself” and demonstrate to the panel that you have the ability and desire to become a firefighter.
The interviews usually measure interpersonal relations, oral communication skills, judgment and analytical ability, and motivation to be a firefighter. The panel will be impressed if you are well groomed and wear business attire. Casual clothes are fine for the physical ability test, but are not appropriate for the oral interview. For the interview, it is important to be on time, honest, poised, confident, and polite. Remember, the interview panel will be evaluating communication skills; therefore, it is important to listen carefully and respond clearly and precisely. It is important to use good grammar and to avoid slang during the interview.
The panel will usually ask open-ended questions. For example, to evaluate the candidate’s motivation to be a firefighter, you may be asked, “Why do you want to be a firefighter?” Examine your own personal reasons for wanting to be a firefighter and present them sincerely. If the response does not sound sincere, it will not be well received.
Other questions which may be asked are:
- Give an example that shows how you work as part of a team.
- Give an example of your being a responsible person.
- What would you do if you arrived at a fire and the residents in the building were yelling obscenities at you?
- What is your biggest strength/weakness?
- Give us an example of when you demonstrated problem-solving skills with a co-worker.