In the Fire Service it is important that we recruit the best possible candidates to join our ranks. We spend entire careers building and improving departments. We instill traditions and mold the department into something we’re proud of. Many times, there are family members who also spent a career shaping the department. There is also the trust that has been built with the community. It’s important that we give our best to the city we serve and just as important that the city knows it. That level of trust allows us to treat sick children and go into people’s homes without them worrying. We want people to feel like their worries are over when we arrive. We know we can’t always help, but the citizens should know if we couldn’t no one could. With everything we have put into the department, we should be hesitant to just let anybody in. We need to be sure that everyone coming into our great department deserves to wear our patch.
A lot of times though, departments find themselves with more vacancies than applications. With a limited applicant pool you get cornered into bringing on possibly subpar Firemen or tanking next year’s budget with overtime. It’s a tough spot, but there are some ways to drastically improve your recruiting pool.
A good place to start is by promoting your department. There fire departments across the country, both large and small, that most Firemen immediately recognize. Make your department one of those departments. Build a social media following and allow your Firemen to create a great culture in the department & show it off.
Social media is a great recruiting tool. I personally do not have a Facebook, Twitter, or anything like that, but most of my generation does. So, this is somewhere we need to be active. Post everything your department is doing. Fill your department Facebook page up with promotions, pictures & videos of incidents, new equipment, training, etc. Have your department Twitter be a live feed of calls. It doesn’t have to list specifics. Have it post time, incident type, and units dispatched. Create a YouTube channel where you can post videos of ceremonies, major incidents, training, and a “year in review” type video. All of this will get your departments name out there. It will let people see what a great department you are. It also allows interested applicants to get a good picture of your department. The more active you are, the more people will start wanting to know when you’re hiring next.
Good Firemen love being Firemen. We love everything about it. We are obsessed with the pride, honor, and tradition of the Fire Service. So, we naturally look for places that allow us to promote that culture and it’s a good thing. It’s the small things that build that sense of ownership in our department. Allowing the use of personal equipment such as helmets, suspenders, or gloves is one that works great. Allowing your Firemen to have company shirts, paint the company logo on the bay wall, and putting a company sticker on the rig also builds that pride. If your guys have a lot of pride in their department, other people will want to join to feel that pride.
The only way for anyone to know the pride in your department is by letting your guys show it off. Letting them take pictures after fires to post on their Facebook or record and post fires on YouTube with helmet cameras is a great way to accomplish this. This ties the department’s culture and social media together. Obviously there has to be rules. You can’t have people posting patient information or pictures of dead bodies. But this is most certainly one of the first things done when a young Fireman is thinking about applying to a department. He YouTubes the department. Firemen want to go to a department where they get to do a lot of work. The more he sees videos of Firemen doing work the more likely he is to apply.
After you have a strong presence on social media and an attractive departmental culture start posting your testing cycles across the country. There are many places that have more Firemen than openings, so these guys are chomping at the bit to get on a department, especially one as great as yours. Obviously post the positions on your social media outlets, but there are many websites that post Firefighter openings that can also be used. A great way to let everyone know your testing is to build a flyer that lists all of your statistics, pay, benefits, and the application process. You want the statistics to list your call volume, stations, employees, apparatus, & population served, at minimum. While your benefits should list every single one offered. Once you have a great looking and informative flyer send it to every technical school or community college that has a fire academy. Almost all of them have a board where they post openings.
All of this together should greatly increase your applicant pool. The more you do in letting your department be seen and known, in a positive manor, the more candidates you will have to choose from. You’ve spent a lot of time dedicated to your department, make sure the next guy doesn’t mess it up.