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Preparing for Promotion; The Interview

Assistant Chief Nicholas Christensen, CFO, MPA


The time has come to submit for promotion. While always an exciting opportunity, some prepare more than others, and this always shows to a promotion board. Here is some food for thought from experience on both sides of the table:


First and foremost, come in with a purpose and dress to impress. If no uniform is outlined for your board, that means show up in your Class-A. Although you already submitted a resume when you applied, bring copies of your resume for the board members to review. Shake each board members hand and introduce yourself when you come in the room. Speak like a true professional and own the room with the confidence that you want and deserve to be there!


Don’t have a sense of entitlement. Your years of service are respected without a doubt, but they do not automatically entitle you to a promotion. You may have 15 years on the job (as an example) and feel you’re entitled to promote based upon that reason alone. However, you’re not. You could be a first-year firefighter for 15 years or a firefighter with 15 years of experience progressing and preparing for this promotion. There is a difference. You have to be able to articulate what you have done in your years of service that brought you to this promotion board today.


Understand what the roles and responsibilities are of the position you are seeking. Be able to relate your personal experience to that role if you can. Be able to elaborate on those roles and responsibilities. Why are those roles important? How would you conduct them if selected?


The common question of “why are you the best candidate” is the opportunity to set yourself apart and shine. What have you done to improve the department, your crew, and yourself? Do you have experience in all of your agency’s scopes of service / specialties? Talk about that. What job related certifications have you completed? Speak to those. What programs or additional duties do you manage? Discuss that. Have you or are you pursuing a college degree? Share that. Have you or are you in pursuit of becoming credentialed? Also noteworthy to mention. These are the things that set you apart and come across to the board much better than “I’ve been doing this for 15 years so I’m ready”.


Never tell a promotion board that you are not the best candidate. Ever. It’s great that you have respect for your peers who are also competing for promotion. But you have applied, prepared, and shown up to sit in front of your superiors to demonstrate you are the best candidate for the position, right? This is the time to show why that is, not the time to be humble. By saying you’re not the best candidate, you are essentially sliding that promotion badge right back across the table to be considered for someone else. Sell your contributions and accomplishments!


Know your primary governing instructions and policies, why they exist, and why it is important to follow them. This is twofold. You of course need to know them so that you are familiar with the how’s and why’s of agency business. However, you are also seeking a promotion. If selected, you could be in a position of instructing and mentoring your subordinates on these instructions and policies. You can’t do a very good job of that when you don’t know what they are about. You must know what they are and why they exist. Not only for yourself, but for those you could soon be teaching and mentoring.


Know your tactics and strategies. Say you are going up for a Captain’s position and you’re given a tactical scenario during your board with initial resources to operate with, for a structure fire scenario for example. You need to know how you would conduct that operation effectively. Completing your arrival report, establishing command, upgrading the incident if needed based upon the situation, ensuring water supply is established, conducting a 360 size-up, utilizing the RECEOVS or SLICERS models to conduct your operation efficiently. Have you deployed attack and backup lines? Is two-in two-out established? Are utilities able to be quickly disconnected? Have you assigned a Safety Officer? Have you properly assigned personnel for rescue, fire attack, backup, RIC, and ventilation operations with the resources you have available? Do you have accountability of personnel? These are all critical tasks as a first arriving company officer that must be considered.


In closing, if given the chance to provide a closing statement, don’t leave it empty. That is your chance to circle back on areas you may have forgotten to mention during the interview, as well as an opportunity to re-emphasize to the board why you are the best candidate for the job. At the end of the day, you have prepared for years for this opportunity. Come in motivated, confident, be ready, and own it.

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