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Comment: June 2018


May 18, 2018
By Laura Aiken


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Finding candidates that are a good fit for the department is a universal challenge. As psychologist Dr. Lori Gray, said during her seminar at May’s OAFC 2018 show: “The wrong hire can have profound implications for you as a service.” Personal experience is probably bringing a few of these implications to mind now. In addition, she continued, you are not doing justice to candidates by hiring them for a job they are not suited for.

I attended her session titled “Psychological Screening in the Fire and Emergency Services” with rapt curiosity as her extensive biography spoke to highly credible expertise and the subject matter pointed to the larger challenge of hiring right as a department and finding the right career as an individual.

Her presentation centred on tools available to departments in the form of clinician administered testing to qualify the individual’s ability to perform the role at the current time and deem whether candidates are well suited to the stress they will experience.

Over the course of her session, one audience member questioned whether this type of screening could be instituted at the training level. Gray agreed that it would be an ideal approach but identified the challenge for schools who come from the thinking that everyone has a right to an education — it is not in their wheelhouse to accept or deny students based on their psychological aptitude for the future career. It was discussed whether, rather than part of admission criteria, screening be available for students to optionally learn their aptitude for themselves. In another area of her talk Gray recommended that the screening feedback be withheld from candidates in a hiring process because they may try changing their approach if they are re-tested in the future. It could be extrapolated that giving students the same kind of insight might impact their strategies for self-presentation in an interview. Bottom line: how do people figure out whether they are a fit for the career they want? It would sure save everyone a lot of time and effort on all ends of the spectrum if people weren’t pursuing jobs that they are inherently a bad fit for.

One challenge is that people are hugely capable of pursing dreams via self-efficacy. Look no further than American Idol auditions. At some point, someone weeds the ill-suited out of the pack, infrequently be it the ill-suited. In the fire service, the wrong hire can have extraordinarily detrimental consequences. Professionally administered testing designed to disallow an individual to hide from themselves could have tremendous value to your department should budget and time permit. Fire Fighting in Canada will be exploring her talk in-depth in upcoming OAFC 2018 coverage. In the meantime, food for thought!