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against all odds

My husband has been trying to get on a dept. for about 4 years now and he will be turning 35 this February. He would honestly be a model firefighter, however, I am wondering if his age is hurting him as well as the fact that he runs a landscaping business which he plans to keep on the side. Another obstacle is the fact that he had a suspended license for an unpaid speeding ticket 5 years ago and it still shows up on a background check. Does he still have a chance with all of these odds against him? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

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I'm 38 and starting to apply now. I have a buddy who is older than me and he got hired last year.


If your sweetie is in good shape and can make it through an academy, he should be ok.
I went through my third academy at age 35 and I was neck and neck with the youngsters.

In order to fully concentrate on passing probation, your husband should have nothing else on his mind but passing probation. He needs to have no distractions during an academy and during his probation. Perhaps he can hand off the business to someone else during his probation.

If he is a quality firefighter candidate, the unpaid speeding ticket/suspended license still can be a problem. However, you know that a background investigator is going to need to hear a mitigating reason why the ticket wasn't paid. The more time the better between the suspended license and now. How did he manage to not pay the ticket and why was his license suspended?

What is he doing now to prepare himself to be a firefighter?

Best wishes
Best wishes
This message was edited by tomdeltazulu on 10-13-07 @ 8:56 PM

He graduated from Firefighter I and II back in 2002, and obtained his paramedic license in 2003 and continues to go through the interviewing process with various local fire departments, but still does not get hired. I do think he could study more to increase his written score, but even when he is one of the top 5 five candidates, he gets passed over. I seem to think it is either because of the suspended license (which is he has not had since 1999, and it is off his driving record), but the investigators can still see it on his background check, or how his orals are going. If anyone can tell me what the departments are looking for when it comes to oral exams that would be so helpful.

Hi Jennie,

I posted this back in april of this year but figured it may help your husband. Take care.


After recently sitting through hundreds of oral board interviews, I thought I?d offer up some of my personal observations to hopefully help those of you still testing. Most of it has been covered by the regulars on here before, but I thought I?d give you my own perspective as well:

Use Your Time Wisely: I was truly amazed at how fast some candidates completed their board. Our department has two boards and the candidate gets 15 minutes with each panel. We had a candidate who finished ours in 2:35 and the other in about 5 min. He couldn?t wait to get out of there. We obviously had a really hard time scoring him well with such brief answers. This is your time, we are only here for you, use all of it well.

Think Before You Speak: Take time to digest the question being asked of you. It will seem like an eternity to you, but just a few seconds of thought can help set the framework of a great answer. Though the eyes staring back at you might seem unnerving, you will have a second to think about it, form your answer, and speak well, thought out sentences.

Look Ready and Shake Hands: Not everyone came in wearing a suit, and you know what, that was ok. I understand that not everyone can afford or possibly borrow one. But if they came in looking prepared and confident, something you either have or don?t, that?s what makes you look ready. And always approach the panel and shake hands, even if they tell you to please have a seat. It builds on your confidence and it comes across professional to us.

Own Your Answers: Of the hundreds we interviewed I truthfully forgot most of what everyone said a few minutes after they left the room, unless they truly owned their answers?Those I remembered, and still do! Yes you need to say all the standard answers that a board needs to hear, but back them up with something unique to you. Help solidify those traits and desires with something you?ve done or experienced, something unique that only you can own. No one else has lived your life. There have got to be some great stories that made you who you are, so don?t come in their sounding like you?ve lived everyone else?s plain vanilla one either.

And lastly, smile! I know you?re nervous, and that?s expected, but with plenty of practice and preparation you can ease those nerves and let your enthusiasm for the job come through.

Good luck and best wishes,


nice post Reed

Thank you for your insight. I showed your message to my husband and I think it will help him going further with his orals. One particular question I have about the "chain of command" during firefighting. If a candidate is asked during an interview, "What would you do if the Chief in command told you to jump into the fire knowing you would most likely die?" My husband always believed that you do what you are told by your commanding officer when fighting a fire because it could mean life or death if orders are not followed, so he answered he would follow direction no matter what. But during this question, it was repeated over and over until he got my husband to say, "well, I guess I would have to question that authority if he told me to jump directly into the fire." It was very confusing, and he wonders if he should have stuck to his answer. Any thoughts? I know all departments are not the same.


While you are to be commended for helping your husband in the quest for a badge, he should consider private coaching. That is something he has to do for himself.

Posting answers to interview questions in this bullentin board leads to clone answers. Interview coaching can help him create his own answer. I also suggest the purchase of Captain Bob's books and Chief Lepore's books available through PFC. Understanding standard interview questions will help.

If your husband is local to Southern California, or, can make the trip, there is an upcoming interview seminar on Dec 8, 2008. Got five bucks?

Best wishes
This message was edited by tomdeltazulu on 10-29-07 @ 8:40 AM

Thank you so much for your advice. We just found out that he is doing fine on his interviews, but that it is his lack of fire fighting experience that's holding him back. He received an 86% on one of his oral exams, but one of the chiefs met with him (because he liked him a lot) and told him his lack of exp. is what he keeps getting marked down on. He does have paramedic experience, but only a few months with a local ambulance company.

We are finding it difficult living in a small town that does not offer volunteer or paid-on-call fire fighting for him to get experience locally. We would literally have to move to another town for him to work volunteer. And this housing market will probably not let us sell our home for at least a year. Do you find many fire departments giving those without experience a chance?


The fact that a Chief met with your husband and spoke with him is a good sign. You know that in the future, if your husband has experience under his belt and interviews with that same Chief, his score will go up. As the months go by, the medic experience will come so that isn't a problem. So, now knowing that, your husband must find a way to get some experience.

Big city departments don't mind unexperienced firefighter candidates. Having experience, or not having experience can be a problem or a blessing depending on the department.
Those small town departments usually want experience because they can afford to run their own fire acadamies. However, there may be exceptions to the rule. The hard part is finding those exceptions and that takes time and money that not everyone has or can afford. As one of my mentors likes to say, "It's a sh*t sandwich." I say, try to only eat the bread!
What does "only eat the bread" mean?

I suggest that your husband find a volunteer, seasonal or reserve, auxillary or PFC firefighter program where he can commit to one shift a week (or so)in order to get experience. (This is the bread I have had to eat and so have a lot of other people.) If he has to do some driving to make that happen, then do the driving.
A second suggestion (if driving is not possible) is to make a pitch to a local department to volunteer in any way shape or form. If that means answering the office phones, or doing inspections with the prevention section or teaching fire safety, or most anything else that needs to be done, do it. In smaller "home-town" departments, everyone wears many hats and must perform many different functions that that guys and gals in the big city departments don't have responsiblilty for.

I am pleased to see that you are sticking with your husband on this and that both teams of horses are pulling in the same direction.

Best wishes
This message was edited by tomdeltazulu on 11-7-07 @ 3:46 PM

I'm hired as a FF/PM this last August....just finished up the State Fire Academy November 2nd.
My past isn't stellar either (worse than what you've posted)....a little further back.....and nothing felony.

It's not about your distant past - it's about what you have to offer the potential position you seek.

When he lands the position.....have no, none, zero, nada distractions during his probation......focus on the career and what he needs to absorb/understand in the first year is crucial.