Character and the Firefighter Background Investigation

By Battalion Chief Dean Guccione

Beverly Hills Fire Dept. (Ret.)

Founder, Tomorrow’s Firefighter


Character and the Firefighter Background Investigation

One of the most important traits a firefighter candidate must possess is character. Your character is going to be evaluated throughout the testing/hiring process, as well as during your probationary period. I can’t stress how important your background (your decisions and actions up to this point in your life) is in relation to being offered that dream job.

I’m sure you’ve been told you must be honest throughout the entire hiring process and that starts with your application. If you lie on your application, you will be finished before you start. If you omit a previous job on your application, you will be disqualified. And no matter how well you score on the written exam, or in your interview, everything in your past will be scrutinized during the background investigation. If you aren’t truthful or you omit certain areas of your past, it will be exposed and you will suddenly stop receiving calls from the investigator. A few weeks later you’ll receive a letter from HR saying you are no longer being considered for the position of firefighter.

Defining Character

Character is the cornerstone trait a firefighter candidate must possess, that includes honesty, integrity, work ethic, responsibility, maturity, good judgment, good decision making, trustworthiness and always doing what is right. If you don’t possess allof these character traits, you will have a huge uphill climb to make yourself equal to those candidates who already possess these traits. Top firefighter candidates possess all of these traits, so you must start living your life now, with the character of a firefighter.

how to pass the firefighter background investigationYou’ll Need to Prove You Possess These Traits

You also need to have strong examples and experiences that you can articulate to the panel, that prove you do possess these character traits. So, be sure to think ahead and come up with different examples that show your honesty, integrity, work ethic, responsibility, maturity, good judgement, good decision making, and trustworthiness, as you prepare. You always want to have personal experiences to share with the panel, not only in your answers that involve character, but when responding to all questions during the interview.

It’s easy for anyone to say they have character during an interview, but top candidates actually talk about experiences where their honesty was in question and how they did the right thing, especially when nobody was around. Or, when their trustworthiness was in question, and they give an example of being honest, reliable, and dependable. Or, when their judgment was in question, and they showed they could make good decisions that affected others and themselves in a positive and ethical way. Being able to effectively talk about your experiences and how they relate to the question being asked is what help give you a top score.

Consciously Think About Your Daily Decisions

If you’re always thinking about how the decisions you make in everyday life will affect your ability to become a firefighter, you are giving yourself a better chance of earning that badge. Nothing is more important than your character, your judgement, who you are as a person, and your values reflecting those that the fire service is looking for in a candidate.

Everybody is human, and everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has a temporary lapse in judgement and that’s okay. Departments know you aren’t perfect. But they have an innate ability to figure out if you’re right for the fire service. So, always ask yourself: Is this decision good for me, my family or the fire service? Will this decision affect others in a positive way? Will this decision help me in becoming a firefighter or hurt my chances? If you can’tanswer yes to allof these questions, then it’s probably a bad decision.

A Final Thought

If you model yourself after the tips I’ve outlined in this article, you will increase your chances of landing your dream job. I’ve typically failed between 50% and 70% of candidates from the background process because of one or more inconsistencies that were revealed during the hiring process.

As you continue preparing for a career as a firefighter, continue to develop your character in a way that is not only good for the fire service, but good for you as a person. If you make good conscious decisions every day that demonstrate your honesty, integrity, maturity, responsibility, trustworthiness, and good judgment, you will be on the path to becoming a top candidate. So, keep the momentum going and soon you could be offered that dream job you’ve been working towards.

About the Author

Chief Dean Guccione has over 32 years of fire service experience, and just retired as a Battalion Chief, in charge of the Personnel Division for the Beverly Hills Fire Department, after 29 years. He was the Chief Officer assigned to the entry level firefighter interview panel and was responsible for writing and administering the entire entry level exam process, including writing the oral interview questions. He was also responsible for writing and administering all promotional exams for Engineer, Captain, and Battalion Chief for the BHFD, as well as being a rater for Captain and Battalion Chief’s exams for dozens of California Fire Departments.

For the last 20 of his 29 years at the BHFD, Chief Guccione has assisted countless entry level firefighters prepare for their interviews and backgrounds, with a very high success rate. He has interviewed hundreds and hundreds of firefighter candidates throughout his career, so he fully understands what departments and the fire service in general, are looking for in a candidate. Additionally, he has also helped coach and mentor dozens of firefighters prepare for Engineer, Captain and Battalion Chief promotional exams, also with a 98+% success rate.

Chief Guccione is also an accomplished classic Camaro restorer who has won several best of show trophies for his work. He also enjoys riding his Harley, surfing, golfing, and playing guitar and drums. He currently resides in the City of Norco, CA with his wife Lacy.

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