Oral Interview Prep

CHECKLIST FOR PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW

  • Read this pamphlet carefully.
  • Make a list of your good points and think of concrete examples that demonstrate them.
  • Review your completed application and the examination announcement.
  • Make sure you know the exact date, time, and place of your interview.
  • Bring the interview notice with you. You may bring a resume (no certificates or letters of recognition) to update any information that has changed since your application was filed.
  • Have enough money for parking.
  • Leave home in time to arrive at least 15 minutes before the appointed time.
  • Present a neat businesslike appearance for your job interview.

DOING YOUR BEST ON THE FIREFIGHTER INTERVIEW

There are three aspects to every job interview. Each part is important.

THE JOB is the duties and responsibilities that are to be performed.

THE INTERVIEW BOARD makes a judgment on how well your qualifications match the requirements of the job. The interview board compares you with the job.

YOUR QUALIFICATIONS are your aptitudes, abilities and other personal characteristics. You must show the interview board how well your qualifications fit the job of Firefighter.

The interview board that conducts your Firefighter interview will be composed of two to three members. Interview panels may include a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department, a Personnel Department staff member and/or a member of the Community.

Before the interview, the Personnel Department Examination Analyst will train the raters. That person will describe the guidelines used in interviewing and evaluating candidates' qualifications. The duties of a Firefighter and the qualifications, which are desirable for the position, will also be discussed. The Analyst will provide the interviewers with rating sheets and will discuss with them the evaluating criteria to be used. In evaluating candidates, the emphasis is on how well they are likely to perform, after appropriate training, in Firefighter functions. The Examination Analyst will also instruct the board members regarding the areas they should not consider in the interview; areas that are not related to job performance, such as race, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual preference, age, political affiliations, marital status, or number of children.

To avoid any bias, favorable or otherwise toward any candidate, it is the practice of the Personnel Department to avoid using raters who are likely to know some candidates. Interviewers are instructed to disqualify themselves from interviewing any candidate whom they believe they cannot rate objectively because of prior knowledge about the candidate.

If an interviewer does not disqualify himself or herself from examining a candidate who the interviewer knows, it is the candidate's right, if he or she wishes, to have the interview with another board.

The names, titles and affiliations of the interviewers on all interview boards will be posted in the waiting area. Check the list to see who your interviewers are. If you recognize one of the interviewers and believe that you could not receive a fair evaluation from the person, tell the receptionist. These requests occur occasionally and do not reflect adversely on the candidates involved.

All interviews are conducted at the Personnel Department Building and are tape-recorded.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

The job interview is one of the most important events in the average person's experience, since the relatively short time spent in the interview may determine his or her future career. Yet, it is amazing how many applicants come to job interviews without any preparation. Since the interview will determine your final grade, you should spend some time preparing for the interview.

Some applicants assume they will qualify for a job because they meet "The Requirements" described in the examination announcement. This is not true. By meeting these requirements, you are qualified only to compete in the written examination, which measures other important qualifications for the job. If you are successful in passing all parts of the examination, including the interview, you may then be considered for a job.

Be aware of the exact date, time and place of your interview. Enter this information on your personal calendar so that you stay aware of your exact interview schedule. This may sound almost too basic to mention, but it's an unfortunate candidate who assumes that the interview is to be held in a certain place, and then discovers shortly before the interview that the appointment is somewhere else. Equally unfortunate is the candidate who arrives at the right place and time, only to find that the appointment is tomorrow or worse, yesterday. Keep the interview notice with your other important business documents and bring it with you to your interview. Do not rely on your memory.

Plan to arrive for your interview at least 15 minutes early. A few extra minutes will help to take care of unexpected emergencies. It is frequently difficult to find a parking place quickly in the Personnel Department Building area. Late arrival for an interview is seldom excusable.

If you are not able to keep your interview appointment you should notify the Public Safety Bureau immediately at (213) 473-9060. Sometimes it may be possible to reschedule your interview.

You should present a neat, businesslike appearance for your job interview. It is appropriate for you to dress as you would for an office job. Look your best.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

Just as you are about to enter the interview room, the receptionist will tell you the name of the chairperson. The chairperson will introduce you to the other board members and ask you to sit down.

YOUR CONDUCT

Your courtesy, alertness, and self-confidence are important; so, you should try to speak in a self-assured tone of voice; smile occasionally; look the interviewers in the eye as you listen and talk. Sit erect, but be relaxed.

The board members realize that it is normal for people to feel nervous in this situation; interviewers will discount a certain amount of nervousness. If you are prepared to answer the questions, you will probably find that you will not be as nervous as when you are unprepared.

THE QUESTIONS

The interview board will be trying to measure your potential for doing effective work as a Firefighter. Remember that the interview board will be trying to measure your qualifications based on the information about the job and the evaluation criteria provided by the Personnel Department examiner. They are instructed not to measure just your ability to handle an interview.

You should not bring letters of recommendation, work samples, or similar material to the interview. Due to the limited interview time, the board will not have time to review such material.

The interview board will be exploring and evaluating those qualities, which have not been fully measured by prior parts of the examination (such as any written test or performance tests you may take).

The interview is a behavior-based review of your personal history, providing evaluation of your practical problem-solving ability, initiative in learning, service orientation, job motivation, teamwork and respect for diversity, role adaptability, and communication skills. The interview board will review your application just prior to the time that you enter the room.

Remember, the appearance, completeness and accuracy of your application is reflective of you. You should be able to draw on your experience to answer questions such as:

  • Will you tell us how your previous work or volunteer experience has prepared you for this job?
  • What training or educational experience has best prepared you for this, and why?

In answering the questions, you may refer to your current or prior job experience (including in the military), experiences in educational or training situations, volunteer work experiences, or just experiences in everyday life.

You are not expected to have had previous training or experience in firefighting. The interviewers will be concerned mainly with how you have responded to previous jobs, educational opportunities, and other life experiences you have had. The Fire Department provides full training in firefighting, so the interviewers will not be looking for any direct connection between the kinds of work you have done and firefighting.

By discussing the areas listed above, your interview board will be able to measure your suitability for firefighting work. Keep in mind that you will be evaluated competitively with all other candidates on these factors.

A review of a copy of your application and the examination announcement should help you to answer these and other questions as they relate to the job of Firefighter. You should review them immediately before the interview to make sure they are fresh in your mind.

YOUR ANSWERS

Most interviews follow a simple question-and-answer formula.

Your ability to answer promptly and accurately is very important, but don't rush yourself if it will hurt your ability to answer questions well. If your answers are confused or contradictory, you will not do well.

The best prevention against giving contradictory answers is the plain truth. A frank answer, even if it seems unfavorable to you, is better than an exaggeration or misrepresentation, which may confuse you in the next question. Being friendly, honest, and sincere is always the best policy.

Don't answer just "yes" or "no" to any question. Expand on your answer at least a little. Volunteering information is often helpful in showing how you qualify for the position, but be completely honest, because you will almost always be asked more about your answer.

It is also important to know when to stop answering a question. You should avoid repeating yourself or talking too much on any one point. And be sure that all information you provide is responsive to the questions asked of you.

Ask the interviewers to repeat or explain any questions you do not understand. Even if you feel uncomfortable doing this, remember, it is better than answering the wrong question.

Be certain your employment application is complete and accurate in all respects before presentation to the interview board. False or incomplete statements made during the selection process may be cause for disqualification or dismissal at a later date.

If something went wrong on a previous job, explain the circumstances and accept the blame if it was your own. Negative experiences can be turned into an asset for you, if you can show how you have changed or improved yourself after recognizing your mistakes.

Make sure that your good points get across to the interviewers, but try to be factual and sincere, not conceited. If you are describing your best qualities, be concrete. Give examples of how these qualities have helped you and others. This is where your preparation will pay off. Remember that you have known yourself all of your life. The interviewers, however, have only a short period of time to get to know you and to recognize your capabilities. Be sure to help them all you can by giving them the information they need to properly evaluate you.

Toward the end of the interview, you will be asked if you would like to add anything. If you believe that there is something in your background the interviewers should know that hasn't been mentioned, this is your chance. This is also a good time to briefly sum up what you believe makes you a good candidate for the job of Firefighter.

Sometimes candidates protest their interviews after receiving their scores, with the claim that the interview board did not ask them about experience, training or other background, which the candidate believes, is important. Interviewers don't have time to ask enough questions to bring out all the qualifications a candidate may possess. That is the reason we instruct boards to ask all candidates if they have anything they would like to add; and such protests as the one mentioned above are not valid since candidates who take advantage of this opportunity by answering the last question fully will avoid this complaint.

Try, however, to make your final statements or your answer to the closing question concise because the interview board has a schedule to keep and there are other candidates waiting. The chairperson will indicate the end of the interview by thanking you for coming in.

Thank the interviewers for their time and consideration.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

The results of your examination will be mailed to you.

The Personnel Department makes every effort to assure that all candidates receive a fair interview and that the persons who serve on interview boards are competent and well briefed on the job of Firefighter. Candidates who receive low scores frequently disagree with the judgment of the interview board. The Civil Service Commission, however, does not consider a difference of opinion between the candidate and the interviewers regarding the candidate's qualifications as valid grounds for protest.

During the two working days following your interview, you may file a protest on the conduct of your interview and/or the competency of the interviewers. This review period is the only time protests will be accepted about:

  • the conduct of the interview,
  • the questions asked by the interviewers,
  • and the interviewers' qualifications.

Protests must be in writing and must state the reasons for the protest, including what happened and what remedy you believe would be appropriate. Clear evidence of an impropriety is required. If you do not support your concerns or if you submit your concerns after the two-day time limit, they will not be reviewed.

All too frequently when we do poorly, we blame someone else. The wise thing is to reflect upon the interview and determine how to better prepare and thus improve in future interviews. It is hoped that the information contained in this pamphlet provides you with insight on the City of Los Angeles interview testing process and how to do your best on your job interview.