The application is the first step in your journey to become a firefighter. It is also one of the most critical. You application is the first impression the fire departments has of you. Up until this point, you don’t even exist as far as they are concerned. Most applications are anywhere from five to fifteen pages long. They are going to want all sorts of detailed information about you. Here are some of the details that you will need to be prepared to provide:
- Current employers name, address, contact information, and job description.
- Previous employers name, address, contact information, and job description for the past ten years.
- Current and previous home addresses for the past ten years.
- A minimum of three personal references, preferably five, to include name, contact information, address, and relationship.
- Complete educational records to include high school diploma or GED, college transcripts and degrees, and certificates or other related educational documents.
- Birth certificate or proof of citizenship.
- Military records to include DD214.
- Any medical certificates or licenses such as a EMT-B certificate, Paramedic License, or National Registry.
- Driving record to include any tickets or accidents.
- Background information such if you have been arrested or charged with a crime.
As you can see, before you can even start the process of becoming a firefighter, you have quite a bit of work ahead of you. If you are truly serious about becoming a firefighter, start gathering this information now. It takes time to get it all together, and you don’t want to wait until you actually have the application in hand.
Which brings me to my next important point when it comes to applications. Some application periods only last a few days to a week or two. Some times a department will need to move quickly to get new recruits to fill a new station that may be opening, or to cover gaps from a large retirement. You want to be able to get the application, sit down and fill it all out in one session.
Nowadays, most applications are posted online at the city’s Human Resources website. Usually it is in a PDF format that you print and fill out. Some applications are all web based, you fill it out all online and submit it online. Most departments have moved away from the days of guys camping out all night in front of the HR department to make sure they were first to get their application the morning the application period opened. Some departments do still require you to come in and get an actual hardcopy application and fill it out by hand.
It is up to you to make sure you know how each fire department makes their applications available. You need to know the exact day they are available, what format they will be in, how you are expected to turn them in, and what documentation is required with the application. Be warned, some departments will only open up the application period until they reach a certain number of applicants, such as 500. Then they stop accepting applications. On bigger departments, you may only have a few hours to get your application.
Once you have your application, I recommend either printing out a second copy, or making a copy of the application you picked up. Fill the copy out completely, taking care to read every single line and pay very close attention to detail. Now is not the time to get sloppy and careless! This is the fire department’s first exposure to you. You want your application to be correct, professional, neat, and legible. Failure to fill out a application correctly can get you automatically disqualified from the testing procedure. Most fire departments only run tests every few years, so if you make a mistake on your application, it could cause you to have to wait several years just to apply for that department again!
Once you have your rough draft filled out, proof read it and then have someone else proof read it. Make sure everything that needs to be filled out is, all appropriate boxes are checked, and the spelling and grammar are correct. Then reread the instructions that came with the application and make sure you have all the required documents ready to turn in. Some applications want a resume, some want more documentation to accompany the application, and some just want the application and nothing else.
When are you are absolutely positive that you have the application filled out with ZERO mistakes, and you have all the required documentation, it is time to turn it in to the Human Resources department. If you take the application in personally, I would suggest dressing nicely, maybe business casual such as kahki pants and a nice polo. You never know who you will meet at the HR office. When I was turning in my application for my current department, there was two full engine company crews there getting new fire department ID’s. One of the captains was on the union executive board. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good impression! Thankfully I was clean shaven and dressed nice. Imagine their impression of me had I had a four day beard, shorts and flip flops on. People talk. You have to treat it as if every single person you come in contact with will be reporting back directly to the chief about you, and it many cases they really will.
If you are required to email, fax, or submit and online application, once you actually have submitted it, I would highly recommend that you call and confirm with the HR department that they received your application. People make mistakes, faxes don’t go through and computer crash. Do not assume that they received your application! I know many applicants who thought they sent their application in and never confirmed, only to find out later it was never received and they were out of the process.
By preparing ahead of time, you can save yourself a lot of headache and trouble when it comes time to fill out your first application. You will save a lot of time that could be better used for things such as studying for the firefighter exam.