Canadian Firefighter Magazine

It comes down to the interview

Beth McKay   

Features Employment and hiring

Potential firefighters who attended a career expo Saturday in Mississauga found out what fire chiefs and human resources managers look for when they are hiring.

The interview is the critical element in the process, according to chief fire officers from Vaughan Fire & Rescue Service; the school, or the type of course has little relevance, candidates were told.

Interestingly, some of the 60 participants in the day-long Firefighter Career Expo, hosted by Canadian Firefighter magazine and the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI), said they were drawn to in-class learning as opposed to online. They believe that classroom-style programs will give them an edge in the hiring process, although there is no evidence to support this assumption. Some attendees referred to online courses as risky, and thought fire departments preferred candidates who had taken in-class programs.

In Ontario, many departments hire through the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs standardized testing service (CTS), which means all candidates must pass a series of aptitude, interpersonal and firefighting skills tests; the decision however, comes down to the interview.

Although Vaughan Fire & Rescue Service is not part of CTS, Chief Larry Bentley and Deputy Chief Deryn Rizzi said that small details during the interview, such as knowing a potential employer’s mission statement, demonstrates the applicant has taken the time align his or her values with the department’s.

Deputy Chief Dave Lane with the Toronto Pearson Fire and Emergency Services spoke about the programs FESTI offers, and how hands-on learning, coupled with in-class courses, work to educate up-and-coming firefighters.

An attendee asked Lane to compare in-class and online course work, and whether one is more beneficial to the hiring process. Lane explained that some students need the in-class structure that FESTI offers, while others gravitate towards online-learning for work and family reasons. He added, however, that online coursework could be looked upon negatively by some hiring departments due to a traditionalist mindset.

Jason Loyd, training manager for Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX), had a different perspective.

“Online doesn’t affect [firefighter candidates],” he said “Back in the day, maybe it did when online was new, but the Internet is not going away and employers know that.”

Loyd used a video presentation to demonstrate how TEEX’s program combines three months of online coursework (from any location that has Internet connection), with three weeks of hands-on training in College Station, Texas. He noted that the TEEX program frequently trains numerous Canadian students –  some were even in the audience.

To conclude the Career Expo, members from the Vaughan Fire & Rescue Service held a mock interview session with brave volunteer audience members, to further emphasize the importance of the interview process, and show students how to put their in-class or online training to use in a professional setting.

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