Before a potential employer ever sees your face or shakes your hand, they see your resume.  Your resume is quite often the first impression you’ll make to hiring fire department.  You may show up to your interview in a spiffy suit, fresh from interview practice with friends, brand new Fire Technology degree in your hands, hot from the academy and all fired up (no pun intended); but if you’ve already ruined your image with a crummy looking resume, you’re beginning behind the 8-ball.

The purpose of a resume is to say “This is who I am!” in 30-60 seconds.  That’s it!  That’s all you get!  Long winded explanations how you did your job and why you were so great are best saved for the interview.  The resume should highlight the path you’ve taken up until now, you’re educational achievements and any other forms of skills or successes you’ve had.

When writing any kind of resume, but especially a firefighters resume, you want to punctuate the most applicable and relevant items first.  This means just what I said – “first”, as in put them at the top.  If you take a look at my resume (link removed for personal privacy) you’ll see that while I have no experience directly relevant to firefighting, I am enrolled in the Fire Academy and with the academy I’ll be completing my degree in Fire Technology.  For this reason, I put my education at the top of my resume.

Being that I am 32 (33 in three weeks though), I followed Education with Experience because the Captains and Chiefs reading my resume are going to want to know what I’ve been up to.  This won’t be quite the same for a early to mid-twenties person who’s been going to school.  If that’s you, you might want to consider other skills you may have.  Anything technical or mechanical is highly appreciated by hiring fire departments.

Do you work on cars, know a trade like plumbing or carpentry, or just enjoy fixing things?  Find a way to highlight that and put in a skills section closer to the top of the resume.  You don’t have to make it sound so formal or stuffy.  Just tell them what you do.  Remember, a Hobbies category on your resume is perfectly acceptable, especially if you’re younger!

On my resume I have an Objective statement and a Summary.  Both of these are optional, but a good idea to include if you can fit it.  If you have an objective statement, make sure to customize it specifically for the department you’re applying to.  (i.e. To gain employment as a professional Firefighter with the San Francisco Fire Department).  This means modifying your resume every time you apply somewhere.  On that note, make sure to keep your resumes in a folder of their own and figure out a good way to keep organized.  I almost never delete old resumes, but I maintain an organized and methodical filing system for them.

In truth, while your resume speaks volumes about you, and usually is your first impression on an interview panel, resumes are unfortunately not held to the standard that corporations and other business hold them.  This is because firefighting is a government job and the interview process for firefighters is frequently standardized.  This can result in less attention being paid to your resume.  I know this sounds contrary to what I’ve been telling you, but it does not lessen the degree to which having a strong resume can help you.

Your resume is a paper representation of you.  Make it as good as it can be.

Also check out my post with downloadable firefighter resume templates.

Contact me if you have any questions, and be sure to check out the list of fire interview questions!