Four Components of the Firefighter Promotion Process


A lot goes into getting promoted in the fire service, it is not as simple as just reading the books on the study list for your department. There are several other components that you must prepare for during your firefighter promotional exam prep. Take a look at the following breakdown of what is involved with the process of promoting in the fire service. 


1. Written Test

The written test is a closed book, timed, multiple choice scantron test that is generally administered in a classroom setting. Depending on the rank of position you are trying to promote to, there may be more added to this portion. There could potentially be a short answer portion, essay portion, and/or a situational judgement test section added to the multiple choice test. The entire written portion of the test could be a situational judgment test so be prepared for that. Additional testing portions are more likely the higher the rank. Know what your department’s written portion of the test is composed of so you can be ready and properly prepare for it.  


2. Performance Evaluation/Records Review

Some fire departments include a performance evaluation that will look back at your overall performance as long as you have been in the fire service and a review of your past accomplishments. Almost all departments have a minimum experience requirement that varies depending on what position you are promoting to. If your department is not strict on annual performance evaluations, it is a great idea to ask your current supervisor for an evaluation before the promotion process starts. Having a recent evaluation completed in your record will help the Fire Chief when it comes time to make a decision for a promotion.

The first thing they are looking to confirm is that you meet the minimum requirements established by the department you are applying to. If your department requires an application for the promoted position you are testing for, be sure to correctly fill out the application and include all required documentation. 

Once it has been established that you meet the minimum requirements, the department will check to see if you have any negative records that would disqualify you for promotion or put you lower on the list of candidates. Lastly, they want to see what positive things you have on your file like awards and extra certifications. Some departments will grant additional points to you if you hold specific certifications, completed task books or even seniority based points. 


3. Tactical Exercise/Assessment Center

The tactical exercise or assessment center portion of your firefighter promotional testing process gives your superiors the opportunity to see you in action and see if you are able to handle the pressure of the job. For a driver/operator test this would include a hands on test operating the types of fire apparatus your department includes. If testing for a fire company officer position this portion of the test could include an assessment center for you to demonstrate how you would mitigate different fire or hazmat situations by running through scenarios. Conflict resolution or personnel management scenarios may be used if you are testing for a supervisor role. These could include different personnel scenarios that are used to demonstrate how you would handle and resolve the conflict in your new role. This is an important element to your promotion because they show your testers how you perform under pressure and also give you a great opportunity to demonstrate your leadership abilities and technical skills. 


4. Chief’s Interview

The chief’s interview is exactly as it sounds, you will be interviewed by the chief or his designee of the fire department you are hoping to promote to. This is an opportunity to tell them about your background and experience, demonstrate your leadership abilities, and give them any other additional information about yourself that may not have come through in the other aspects of the promotional process. This is an opportunity to represent yourself in a way that cannot be done on a piece of paper. Do your research about your fire chief and his organizational priorities so you can blow him away with your answers. Is your fire chief big on charity work? Then be sure to highlight what charity work you have done. Does he or she love training? Then propose a training class that you have been wanting to implement for the department. As with all interviews you need to practice interviewing with a friend or coworker, come to the interview with questions, and have confidence in yourself and you will excel. 


Final Thoughts

The firefighter promotional process is a long, multi-step process, not just a written exam. Each department makes each of the above criteria a certain percentage of your overall promotion score. It is important that you check with your department or the department you are applying for to find out the specific steps you will have to take to get promoted to ensure you are on the right track and ready for all that is expected of you. And remember, start your firefighter promotional exam prep study guides early so you don’t end up cramming at the last minute.