Thursday, October 18, 2007

Identify the Basics, I’ll Train Them on the Rest…

Many years ago a fire chief reported to me that his academy was “filled with ‘book smart’ recruits who could explain every part of the chainsaw -- forward and backwards -- but ask them to turn it on and use it and they couldn’t...” His point was well-taken. In times when police and firefighter preparatory guides, practice tests, and training courses are universally available promising to improve test scores and help the candidates pass the oral boards process, etc., the result is a group of savvy test-takers who are skilled at passing entry-level firefighter and police officer tests, but may lack basic human relation competencies.

There is a consensus within the fire and police industries that "just about anybody" can be trained to be a good firefighter or police officer so long as the person possesses some basic critical traits. Long gone are the days of hiring for brawn or sheer strength and stamina. With police and fire academies now staffed with skilled instructors to provide training and programs necessary to ensure that recruits can perform the physical aspects of the job, departments are most interested in ensuring that candidates posses basic aptitudes and feel confident that they can train the rest. Many of these traits are specific to human relation skills critical to thriving in a station environment and for serving the public (e.g., stress-tolerance, decision-making skills, mechanical aptitudes, etc.).

There are a number of options available to ensure that fire and police departments are measuring the critical skills and abilities required for the entry-level firefighter or police officer position. Many of these skills can be measured in basic paper-and-pencil written tests, through personality inventories, and in a structured interview process. The easiest way to identify which skills and abilities to measure in the recruitment process is to first identify the skills and abilities that make a “good firefighter or officer” a “great firefighter or officer.”

Many would agree that it’s a blend of skills and abilities that contribute to successful job performance. Pictures these skills in a pie chart and select those abilities that a candidate should possess at the time of hire, prior to any training by the department. Those abilities that are identified as the most critical to the firefighter/police officer position without YOUR department and which can be measured in a recruitment process are the abilities to focus on. Listed below is a sample chart based upon data from one of our clients.

Evaluate these critical skills and abilities with your human resource personnel and select a firefighter and police officer test vendor who can provide you with job-related and validated pre-employment testing instruments to administer at your next recruitment process. Remember, the firefighter or police officer position is a dynamic position and one that requires various skills and abilities, take advantage of the innovative testing options available to ensure that you have a well-balanced assessment!