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«Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement By Steve Prziborowski The Opening Statement The opening statement of an ...»

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Copyright 2015 – Steve Prziborowski – (408) 205-9006 – www.code3firetraining.com 9 Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement

2. You can just ramble on, repeat things you’ve already said, and sound disorganized and unprepared (most candidates utilize this method).

3. You can have a strong, powerful, jaw-dropping closing statement that has been prepared and rehearsed (very few candidates utilize this method – and I think this is the best way to handle the closing statement).

HOW LONG SHOULD A CLOSING STATEMENT BE?

In a perfect world, it should be anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds. Any more than that and you’re going to bore them to death and have them contemplate reducing your overall score you have tried so hard to do your best at.

WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD YOUR CLOSING STATEMENT CONTAIN?

Your closing statement is not, I repeat not, an opportunity to repeat everything you have said in your opening statement and in your interview. While it can be true that people learn through repetition, and also remember things through repetition, the goals of your

closing statement are to:

1. Include things you may have left out in your opening statement (important accomplishments, knowledge, skills, and / or abilities).

2. Let the oral board know that you really want the position you are applying for (surprisingly enough, many candidates fail to let the oral panel know that they really want the position they are applying for and that they really want to work for the agency they are applying for.

3. Leave the oral board wanting to hear more about you (as opposed to the opposite – their wanting you to leave the room as fast as you humanly possible).

Does every agency allow candidates to have a closing statement? No; but it is better prepared to have one than not have one. If they don’t allow you the opportunity to make a closing statement, you better hope you were able to cover all of the bases in your previous questions. Since some departments do not permit closing statements, this is why I feel it is important to state all of your key accomplishments, your pertinent knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as your desire and motivation to become a member of that agency you are applying for in your opening statement and in your other questions you are answering.

When I was testing for the position of entry-level firefighter, I quickly learned I had to have a closing statement that would just drive home the fact to the oral board that I was the best candidate for the position. I also learned I would have to provide some form of “shock-value” to my interview. When I say shock-value, I mean it in a positive way.

Virtually every candidate has something positive and unique to offer the fire department Copyright 2015 – Steve Prziborowski – (408) 205-9006 – www.code3firetraining.com 10 Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement in the way of knowledge, skills, and / or abilities. However, most of the candidates typically do not know how to make themselves stand out and be remembered in a positive way.

When I have to participate in an oral board (as an interviewee), I know that one of the best ways to have the oral board remember me is to have strong opening and closing statements. I also know another way is to provide some form of “shock-value” so that they will remember me for at least the rest of the time the oral boards are in existence.

Why is this so important? Well, oral boards are expected to be non-biased and objective, and are not supposed to judge one candidate to another candidate. They are supposed to objectively grade candidates against a pre-determined and standardized rating form. Well, I think we all can agree it is virtually impossible to do this, because we all are biased in one form or another. Even if the oral board members are briefed and trained in advance to help reduce bias and subjectivity, it is still impossible for them to not be influenced by you in some form or fashion; that is human nature and something you should try to work on to go in your favor. Now providing “shock-value” is nothing that is illegal, immoral, or unethical. It is providing the oral board with information that will hopefully show them how UNIQUE you are as compared to other candidates.

For example, when I first started testing to become a firefighter, I was working full-time at a retail drug store chain. I was getting paid a decent wage (so I thought at the time) and was having fun working there. However, I soon realized it was not the career for me to continue in for the next 30 years. When I made the decision to put as much time as I could into becoming a firefighter, I knew I would probably have to go back to part-time status so that I could have more time to take tests, educate myself, go to paramedic school, perform volunteer work, etc. Going part-time was going to cost me about $20,000 per year in lost wages, but I knew it was going to be worth it in the long run.

I ended up packaging that into my closing statement as a form of “shock-value” to prove to the oral boards that I was motivated and dedicated to becoming a firefighter, and that I was willing to make sacrifices to get into the fire service.





SAMPLE CLOSING STATEMENT #1:

Here is the closing statement I used when I was testing for entry-level firefighter:

I would like to first thank the members of the oral board for your time and for allowing me to be here today. In the short time we have been together, I hope I have shown you how much I want to become a firefighter for the _______ fire department. Becoming a firefighter is something I have wanted since I was a little kid. I realize that sounds cliché, but it is true. At a young age, I was visiting fire stations on a regular basis, I was a subscriber to firehouse magazine in it’s first year of existence, I was listening to the local fire departments on my scanner, and I was talking about a career as a firefighter with a couple of family Copyright 2015 – Steve Prziborowski – (408) 205-9006 – www.code3firetraining.com 11 Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement friends who had worked for the San Leandro Fire Department – one is now a captain and the other is a deputy chief. Both of those officers have helped me realize that I want a career in the fire service.

Lastly, I hope I have been able to show you all how motivated and dedicated I am to becoming a firefighter. I have been testing now for the last few years; I have been driving around the state taking firefighter examinations and participating in fire related educational and training opportunities so that I can best prepare myself for the career of my dreams. However I am ready to settle down and get on with my career.

I have also made many sacrifices to become a firefighter, the biggest one being the $20,000 pay cut when I stepped down from my management position at Longs Drugs to a part-time position, so that I could have more time to take tests, further my education, and better prepare for a career in the fire service.

Becoming a firefighter with the ________ fire department would be a dream come true; please give me the opportunity to work for the ______fire department and I will do my best to be an asset to the department!

If you were on the oral board and you heard a closing statement similar to the one above, do you think you would remember the candidate? You bet you would. Would that closing statement help you stand out above the other candidates? You bet it would!

Shortly after I mentioned that I took a $20,000 a year pay cut to better prepare myself for a career in the fire service, it was not uncommon to see the jaws of the oral board members hit the table (or so it appeared) and see them start smiling and showing some enthusiasm? Why would they act this way? Partly because they could maybe relate and/or appreciate what I was doing, partly because I had maybe shown them truly how motivated and dedicated I was at becoming a firefighter, and partly because they had probably not heard many great closing statements in their time on the panel.

Think about that. The same oral board is interviewing candidates for two weeks straight, for eight hours each day, and seeing new candidates every 30 minutes. Is it tough for the oral board to remain focused and motivated? Of course it is. Besides being hard work for them to have to sit and stay focused and objective, it doesn’t help when the majority of the candidates come through their panel sounding like each other (clone answers, unenthusiastic, boring, unprepared, unmotivated, unable to validate what they say, unorganized, etc.). Do what you can to be the candidate that is the one that stands out for the day (and the entire length of the panel) so that you make them compare you against the other candidates.

SAMPLE CLOSING STATEMENT #2:

Here is the closing statement I used when I took the captain’s test:

Copyright 2015 – Steve Prziborowski – (408) 205-9006 – www.code3firetraining.com 12 Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement First of all, I would like to thank you, the members of the board, for your time and your effort. Second, I hope I have been able to show that I have the knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position of Fire Captain and how my education, training, and experience have prepared me for the position of Fire Captain.

Something I have believe that sets me apart from the other well qualified candidates is my motivation, dedication, desire, and most of all, enthusiasm in becoming a fire Captain for the Department. A promotion to Fire Captain would be a dream come true for me.

My preparation began even before I was hired here as an entry-level Firefighter/Engineer. I figure I have spent over 1500 hours taking classes anywhere throughout the state from Chico down to San Bernardino. While the department pays for the tuition, I have spent thousands of dollars, out of my own pocket, on motel rooms, have driven thousands of miles in my car, and have spent countless hours away from my wife (I’m very lucky that she supports me 100% and also works in the fire service). All of this just to prepare me to be the best fire officer I can be. I have made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am at today. Give me the chance and you can count on me to continue my motivation, dedication, desire, and enthusiasm to the fire service, to the community, to the Department, and to the position of fire captain. When the going gets tough, I plan to be the Captain that my Battalion Chief has to worry about the least. I have prepared myself to be the best that I can be so that I can provide the best possible service to the members of the department and the citizens that are served by the Department. Thank you very much!

The closing statement above must have worked; I scored 100% on the oral interview and came out number one in the assessment center!

SUMMARY:

The key thing to remember about the closing statement is that you want to leave the board wanting to hear more and to have them smiling and talking about you (in a positive way) after you have left the room. Correlate a closing statement to the music world. When a band has finished their main set, they say goodbye to the audience and the lights go down. “San Jose – you’ve been great! We’ll see you soon! At this point, the lights go down and the audience will usually start clapping for an encore (typically one, two, or three additional songs). If you have ever been to a concert, you can appreciate the energy in the air when the band is ready to do an encore and when they have finished their encore. If the band did their jobs, you left the concert feeling great and with a very positive feeling of the band, and you usually talk about the concert the next day at work or at school to your friends. This is no different from someone in an oral board.

The oral board wants everyone to succeed and they want to hear and see everyone at their best. However, since nobody is perfect, the oral board usually sees people from Copyright 2015 – Steve Prziborowski – (408) 205-9006 – www.code3firetraining.com 13 Oral Interview Preparation Tips The Opening Statement & The Closing Statement their best to their worst; and most people are at their average. Use the closing statement to your advantage and strive to be one of those candidates that the oral board is talking about for days after the interview (in a positive way – there are enough candidates oral board members talk about that were not at their best performance level – try not to fall in that category).

Take the time to write out your closing statement and to put it on your computer (just like I suggested doing with your opening statement). That way you can modify it as necessary and also print it out to review with your opening statement while you are waiting to be called in to the oral board. Most candidates come across as average candidates – that is why it is so critical for you to have a strong closing statement; it is an additional tool for you to use when you are in an oral board interview to help score the most points you can so that you don’t have to take another test in your career!

About the Author:

Steve Prziborowski has over 20 years of fire service experience, currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Administrative Services for the Santa Clara County (Los Gatos, CA) Fire Department where he has worked since 1995. Steve is also an instructor for the Chabot College (Hayward, CA) Fire Technology Program, where he has been instructing fire technology and EMS classes since 1993. Four and a half years at Chabot were also spent as the Fire Technology Coordinator, and seven years as the EMT Program Director and Primary Instructor. Steve was named the 2008 California Fire Instructor of the year, is a current Board Member of the California Fire Chiefs Association serving as the Area 5 North Director, and is a Former President of the Northern California Training Officers Association. Steve is a state-certified Chief Officer and Master Instructor and has earned a Master’s degree in Emergency Services Administration, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and an Associate’s Degree in Fire Service Technology.



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