During a recent Captain oral interview I sat in on, I witnessed a relatively simple interview question get botched by two candidates. I thought I would share the question here, with a few ideas on how to answer it.

You have been tasked with developing a training plan for a probationary firefighter who is having trouble with some of the skills required to do the job. Please give the panel a brief outline of what your plan would look like.

This question is simple, yet I watched two candidates sink themselves trying to answer it. They both essentially said “I will train him all day if necessary until he learns the skills”. While their dedication to training is admirable, I personally liked the third candidates response. He essentially answered the question like this:

“As a Captain it is my responsibility to ensure that every firefighter under my command is trained to the highest levels. All people are individuals with different learning abilities. Some people like observing while others are hands on. I would ask to have this probationary firefighter assigned to me for a period of two months or more. During that time I would evaluate his strengths and weaknesses. It might even be advantageous to have the firefighter take a “learning style test” to determine the most effective way to instruct him. I would develop a personalized plan that fits his learning style. If he learns best by being hands on, then we will give him hands on training each day. I will shore up his weaknesses and continue to build on his strengths.”

I was pretty impressed by this candidates answer. It shows a deeper level of thought and open mindedness to finding out of the box solutions to problems. His Fire Chief even commented on this by saying, “Fires are dynamic, problems are never the same, this guy seems to be a problem solver.”

We have added this question to our Fire Officer Interview Questions guide.