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EMS job interview tips: 5 things you need to know to get hired

Impress your potential employers with your knowledge, preparation and alignment with the requirements of the job by using these five success tips

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Before you interview for a new EMS job, understand the department or service.

Greg Friese

You’ve worked hard to graduate from EMT or paramedic school and have been invited to interview for the job of your dreams. Here are five ways to ensure you’ll impress your potential employer and leave the interview with a smile on your face and, hopefully, with a job offer in hand.

1. Do your research

Whether applying for a job with a fire department or a private ambulance service, study up on the agency to know such things as its history, management team, the target hazards (e.g. highways, railroad tracks, rivers) in their response zone, receiving hospitals, the call volume and types of calls and in what areas the agency hopes to grow in the future.

You can find this information in the annual report most agencies publish, which is often available on their website. During your interview, sprinkle this information in your answers where it is appropriate and you will impress your potential employers with the depth of your preparedness and with your interest in them.

Also, don’t forget to schedule a few ride-alongs or station visits before your interview to meet the crew. Talk to friends you might have who are already working at the agency to collect additional information.

2. Ready for duty

Your potential employers must be able to envision you in the role in order to hire you. Therefore, walk into the interview room and demonstrate the same kind of command presence that you would display on a 911 call. Be confident, look everyone in the eye and address each one with a firm handshake.

Regarding dress, wear a suit and tie for the interview, but also don’t be afraid to dress the same way you would on an ambulance for a skills test. My testing outfit was a blue pair of 5.11 tactical pants, duty boots and a black golf shirt. Along with looking the part, I also felt like I was on-shift and running a call so my skills and scenarios were more focused.

3. Have your answers ready

After many interviews for both fire department and private ambulance jobs, I’ve noticed many interviewers ask the same basic questions. You’re often asked to start with a quick two-minute introduction about yourself and what goals you have for the future. Following this, be prepared to answer such questions as:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What have you done to prepare?
  • Why are you the best candidate?
  • What is your greatest strength? One of your weaknesses?
  • Describe a time when you handled a difficult situation.

Have your answers ready with real examples from your life to show your words in action. Remember to relate each answer back to the specific agency and job for which you’re applying. Try to choose some stories that show other aspects of your life outside of fire and EMS, such as community service involvement, your family or being a member of a team.

Many employers especially value past work experiences which involved manual labor, challenging or austere work conditions or being part of a family business. If you grew up on a farm, led wilderness expeditions, worked in a restaurant kitchen or as a construction laborer make sure to relate the lessons you learned from those physically-demanding jobs. If you are a military veteran, make sure to relate those experiences to the job.

4. Ask questions

When the employer asks you if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to pipe up. Find out what the agency’s hiring timeline is. How many people do they expect to hire? What type of person would their ideal candidate be?

When they tell you specifically what they’re looking for, succinctly restate your strengths that address their needs and how you’d be the perfect candidate for the job. The key is to present yourself as a confident and knowledgeable candidate who would be a wonderful addition to their team.

5. Follow up

After the interview, send an email to the hiring manager and to everyone with whom you met on the interview board to thank them for their time and consideration. Close the email by restating your interest in the job and your qualifications. If you really want to set yourself apart from the competition, send a handwritten note to each member of the interview committee.

An action such as this will distinguish you from the other candidates and their follow-up email will likely begin with the word “Congratulations.”

I want to hear about your job interview success tips. Share your best ideas and recommendations in the comments.

Kevin Grange works as a paramedic with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and is the author of the new memoir about paramedic school, titled “Lights and Sirens: The Education of a Paramedic.”