By Battalion Chief Dean Guccione
Beverly Hills Fire Dept. (Ret.)
Founder, Tomorrow’s Firefighter
The Likeability Factor
As you study and prepare for your oral interview, there is one element of presenting yourself to the interview panel that can give you an advantage over your competition; and that is the Likeability Factor. How many times have you met somebody for the first time and you liked them right off the bat? Maybe they were friendly. Maybe it was the tone of their voice or body language that conveyed respect or caring. Maybe they were an infectiously happy person that made you smile just to be around them. Or, maybe they exuded an honesty and passion about them that you could feel energizing you. Maybe you had something in common with them, so they could relate to you and felt more comfortable because of it. Maybe they had a quiet confidence about them that let you know that they could handle anything. Or, maybe they just had a refreshingly great attitude about life, in general, that even made you optimistic.
These characteristics draw us to other people and if you can display some or most of these characteristics, the panel will be drawn to you as well. This is one aspect of influence you’ll need over the panel to convince them that you will be their next rookie firefighter.
Learn to Become Likeable
You will need to learn or refine your ability to be a likeable person to the interview panel. If the panel likes you, there is no question that you are going to score higher, but only if you are prepared going into your interview. Your Likeability Factor means nothing if you’re not prepared. You simply cannot get hired on charm, a good attitude, and friendliness alone. It doesn’t work that way. But, they are looking for those candidates who will fit into the culture of their department. And that starts with how you present yourself to the panel.
What I am saying is you have a better chance in increasing your score if the panel likes you. That doesn’t mean pretending to be someone you’re not. It means that you need to become this kind of person. The fire service is looking for people who can turn an otherwise negative or adverse situation into a positive. That is why any answer you give to a negative question must be turned around into a positive answer.
This again, is part of evaluating your ability to work through the adversities firefighters face on a daily basis. If you have a positive attitude and can see the good in every-day life by demonstrating those characteristics I list above, then you’ll be off to a good start in gaining a high score in your interview.
Learning to Listen is Key
There is another key to creating the Likeability Factor, and that is having great listening skills. The average person’s listening skills are probably the weakest skill we possess as humans. We all want to be heard way more than we want to listen. I think it’s just human nature. Listening is one of most critical skills you will need to master in order to be a successful firefighter. It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we listen twice as much as we talk.
During your interview you have to really listen to what the panel is asking you. If you can demonstrate to them that you’re a good listener and you answer every part of the question they are asking, you will score higher; not only for the quality of your answer, but your ability to listen, understand and follow directions. And this will translate into them liking you more. They know that to be a good firefighter you need good listening skills. Listening shows that you are trainable and they not only want, but need, trainable people.
Your Body Language Says a Lot About You
Don’t forget your body language as well. Slouching conveys disrespect, laziness and disinterest. Sit up straight and lean forward a bit. Engage with each panel member by making eye contact with each of them as you answer your questions. Don’t forget to smile once in a while, at the appropriate times. This conveys self-confidence and a good attitude and passion for the job. It lets them know you can handle stressful situations with a comforting disposition. This is really important when putting someone at ease who is having a bad day, like one of the many people you’ll meet on a medical call.
Your body language includes your posture, you facial expressions and the energy you exude, so build awareness of your body language so you can refine it for your interview.
They Will Like You Because You’re Prepared
Your answers must be succinct, concise and to the point. If they see you rambling or your answers are disorganized, you are going to lose them quickly. Your goal is to give the maximum amount of information about yourself and how you’ve prepared, in a minimal amount of time. If you can do that, they will see that you’re prepared and you will score higher, which also increases your Likeability Factor.
As you continue your oral interview preparation, I hope you’ll keep the Likeability Factor in the forefront of your mind. As you answer questions about yourself, you may connect to the panel through common interests, or hobbies, and that will give you an advantage. But, if you remember to also be friendly, respectful, display humble confidence, are a great listener, and make sure to have the proper body language, you’ll do even better and your score will reflect that.
Finally, if you are tied with another candidate, or multiple candidates, they will give the higher score to the candidate that they like the most. So, work on your Likeability Factor, as well, and you’ll see that the candidate at the top could be you!
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.
If you liked the content in this article, please check out additional entry level firefighter information at TomorrowsFirefighter.com