Post-secondary education is also a preference, more than 100 potential firefighters learned at a career expo Saturday.
"We are looking for people who want to do more than just show up for work," Mississauga Assistant Chief Shawn Matheson told the audience at Fire Fighting in Canada's spring Firefighter Career Expo at the Garry W. Morden Centre.
Richard Boyes, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, told participants that with more and more municipalities adopting the standardized candidate testing service (CTS), how a potential recruit fits in with a department is more important than ever.
"If you've all had to pass the same standard, there is no banner over any candidate coming in," Boyes said. "Now, what else are you bringing? We need a wide range of skill sets, because you cannot have any organization [full] of one type of person."
Seventeen municipalities have adopted CTS since it launched in April 2014, including Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga. About 1,900 candidates are in the CTS system, Boyes said. Almost half of the audience members in the room indicated that they had been through the CTS process.
Mississauga Chief Tim Beckett said in an interview during the expo that CTS has streamlined his department's hiring process, and the standardized system gives him a broader, more diverse range of candidates.
"From a candidates' perspective," Beckett said, "it limits the amount of money that they continue to lay out time after time applying for all the departments."
Beckett and Matheson told expo participants that post-secondary education and leadership skills stand out in candidates.
"For me, some of it has to do with succession planning," Beckett said.
Expo participants received advice about every stage of the hiring process, from what to (and what not to) include in their resumes to how to prepare for interviews.
Brampton Fire and Emergency Services Platoon Chief Ed Davis and firefighter Chris Peterson spoke about recruitment trends in career departments, explained where recruits often go wrong – from typos on resumes to first-impression faux pas – and what can help them get noticed.
Chris Bedwell from Testreadypro gave firefighter test writing tips, and strategies for first-time, repeat, and second-career candidates. Bedwell stressed the importance of being prepared by researching each test.
Dave Gillespie and Shawn Cooligan from Firefighterinterviews.com once again moderated the mock interview exercise, asking for three volunteers from the audience to answer three frequently asked questions. Five chief officers – Beckett, Boyes, Davis, Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Debbie Higgins, and Barrie Fire and Emergency Service Chief Bill Boyes – sat on the interview panel and gently (or bluntly, depending on the chief) pointed out how candidates could improve their answers.
For Beckett, the expo, as a whole, allowed him to share a message with potential firefighters about diversity.
"There's a shifting culture [in the fire service] and that's where we are heading," Beckett said. "Diversity is going to play a huge role in this and it's not about quotas, it's really about quality and excellence."
The 2016 fall Firefighter Career Expo is scheduled for Sept. 11 at Toronto's Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute.
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