There are several steps in the initial application process, including obtaining and completing an application, submitting a résumé if requested, obtaining necessary information about a scheduled examination, and determining if special circumstances apply to you.

Obtain and Complete an Application

Applications for the job of firefighter are obtained in many different ways, depending on the jurisdiction in which you reside. Some municipalities make the application available on their governmental Web site, where it can be downloaded, completed, and mailed in to the agency coordinating the candidate process. Modern methods may allow candidates to fill out their application online. Follow the directions carefully on how it should be submitted. If mailing in the application, consider having it certified with a return receipt requested in order to document its transmittal and receipt.

In other areas, applications may be acquired by visiting fire department headquarters, the local fire station, or a designated municipal office building. Always read the directions for completion of the application carefully before you attempt to fill in the required information. Should you use pen or pencil to fill out the form? Does the application need to be notarized? Is additional documentation (birth certificate, driver's license, résumé, etc.) required to be submitted with the application? And, finally, make sure you place the correct amount of postage on the envelope containing all the forms.

Provide a Résumé, Cover Letter, and References

If a résumé is required as part of the application process, it should be one or two pages summarizing your contact information, main objective, education, military history, work background, job-related life experiences, and pertinent activities, hobbies, and interests. It should always be sent along with a cover letter. The cover letter should be geared to the particular needs and requirements of the fire service position you are seeking. A cover letter allows you to focus the reader's attention on your specific strengths and accomplishments, which are summarized in the résumé.

Cover Letter

Always include a cover letter when sending your résumé. It can be just as important as your résumé. The cover letter is organized into several main parts-heading, body, complimentary close, signature, and indication of any enclosures-as follows:


Contact Information-Standard contact information should include your name (in bold letters), legal address, and home and work telephone numbers. This information should come first at the top.

Date of Letter-Spell out the month of the year, as in January 10, 2007.

Recipient Information-Give the name of the person to whom you are addressing the letter and the name and address of the organization.

Salutation-Use the title and last name of the addressee, if available. If you do not have a specific person or office to address, use "To Whom It May Concern" as a salutation. Examples: Dear Employment Director, Dear Mr. Fulton, Dear Chief of Personnel Cummings.


Initial Paragraph-Tell the reader why you are submitting your résumé (why are you interested in becoming a firefighter?), state the name of the position you are applying for, and include why you think you would be a good candidate for the job.

Second Paragraph-Describe your major (not all) strengths and how they are applicable to the position you are seeking. Demonstrate how your skills can be a positive addition to the organization you wish to join. Provide the reader with one or two examples of your qualifications and state that this, as well as additional pertinent information, can be found in your enclosed résumé.

Final Paragraph-Reiterate your interest in becoming a member of the fire service and state your eagerness to hear from or meet with the reader in the near future to discuss a possible future with the organization. State also that you appreciate the opportunity to submit your résumé for consideration.

Complimentary Close

Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Best regards-One of these closings should appear two lines below the final paragraph.

Signature-Use blue or black ink.

Identification Line-Beneath your signature, type your name.

Enclosure-Type "Enclosure:" or "Encl:" and the word "Résumé," Example: Enclosure: Résumé


The résumé needs to be formatted in a uniform and concise manner. It should be self-promoting, by focusing on your positive assets and demonstrating that you are an attractive candidate to be a firefighter. One word of warning: don't put anything that is untrue or fabricated on your résumé; false information can be easily identified by fire department fact checkers and interviewers and will result in your disqualification.

Content and Organization

A résumé should be organized as follows:

Contact Information-Provide your standard contact information-name (avoid nicknames), legal address, telephone numbers (home, cellular, and work), and e-mail address, if applicable-at the top of your résumé.

Main Objective-Provide a clear, positive statement about your commitment to become a firefighter.

Education-List your educational information, starting with the most recent. Include college or postgraduate degrees earned, the year the degree was obtained, the name of the learning institution, and the area of concentrated study (major/minor). Include your grade point average (GPA) if it reflects high academic achievement (B+ or higher) and note academic honors. If a degree was not earned, include the number of college credits earned.

Military History-Provide the dates of enlistment and honorable discharge (if applicable), branch of service, assigned location, rank designation, duties and responsibilities, training certificates, campaign service (e.g., Desert Storm) and awards, citations, and achievements.

Work Background-Provide employment history in reverse chronological order (last job first). If you have a wide array of work experience, confine your listing to activities that relate in some way to the work performed by firefighters (communications dispatcher, fire guard, fire safety director, peace officer/security, lifeguard, park ranger, truck/tractor-trailer driver, automotive mechanic, construction trades). For each position listed, include the name of the employer, location, job title and responsibilities, and dates of employment.

Job-Related Life Experience-Highlight special skills, competencies, and achievements (e.g., certified scuba diver, crane operator license) that may make you a valuable asset to the organization you wish to join. Also include any volunteer work that relates to the duties of a first responder and community service personnel (e.g., volunteer firefighter, volunteer nursing, Peace Corps, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Activities, Hobbies, Interests-Include membership in civic and fraternal Organizations, as well as pertinent hobbies, interests, and sports activities that may be considered as a positive reflection of your abilities to perform as a firefighter (e.g., ham radio operation, mountain/rock climbing).

References-At the end of your résumé you may want to include the words, "References available on request."

Note: Do not include your reference information on your résumé unless specifically asked to provide it on the notice of examination or job application. Before providing the names of references to prospective employers, be sure that the persons you name have a knowledgeable understanding of you and that they are recognized as upstanding citizens of the community in which they live.

Tips on Preparing a Résumé

To make your résumé easier to read and understand, try to adhere to some of the tips listed below:

  • Limit your résumé to one or two pages.
  • Avoid folding or stapling your résumé.
  • Use white or off-white paper only.
  • Use quality bond 8 1/2 × 11-inch paper.
  • Use only one side of the paper.
  • Use a plain typeface.
  • Use only one typeface.
  • Don't use italics.
  • Use easy to read font sizes (between 10 and 14 point).
  • Use no more than two font sizes.
  • Keep margins within the 0.75- to 1.5-inch range.
  • Spell and grammar check your résumé.
  • If mailing, use a large (9 × 12-inch) envelope to protect your résumé.
  • If mailing, consider Priority/Certified Mail options.
  • Follow up mailing with a phone call to confirm delivery.

Sample Résumé

George West 18 Harper Avenue Bronx, NY 10473 718-342-8890

Objective: A position of firefighter in the New York City Fire Department.


Bachelor of Arts Degree in Health Education, 2004, Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Summa cum laude. Summer research work at Jacobi Medical Center Bronx, New York 2004.

Military History United States Naval Reserves Airman. Honorable Discharge, 2000.

Work Background Jacobi Medical Center Ambulance Corps. 2004-present. Nutritionist, Wellness Gym. Yonkers, NY. 2000-2004.

Job-Related Life Experience Volunteer Firefighter, Aviation Volunteer Fire Department, Bronx, NY. 2002-present.

Activities College Health Fair Coordinator, 2003-2004. Intramural swimming, 2000-2002.

References: Supplied upon request


Generally, references are not included on your résumé. It is common, however, for fire service applicants to be required to furnish a list of personal and professional references. These people will have to either submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf or be available to provide meaningful information (work history, work ethics, personality, interpersonal relationships, technical abilities, life experience, ambition, education, moral character, leadership qualities, communication skills, dependability, punctuality, managerial capabilities, etc.) concerning you, either in person or over the phone. Be prepared to supply between three and five references in each category. Do not include blood relations on your list of references. A good reference is a nonrelative, who has known you for at least three years and who will substantiate what you have submitted in your résumé. Good references include past and present employers, former teachers or college professors, athletic coaches, clergy and religious associates, work and volunteer-related associates, former schoolmates, neighbors held in high esteem in the community, etc.

Once you have chosen your references be sure to notify them individually to verify that they are willing to provide the reference. Give each individual a copy of your résumé personally and review with them your accomplishments and strengths, relating them to the duties of a firefighter. Talking to your references before they write or speak to the fire department will allow you to confirm what positive feedback will be generated on your behalf. Let them know that you are really interested in the position of firefighter and why you want to join the fire service. Thank them for agreeing to be a reference and for the time and effort required to complete the task.

Personal References

Provide your reference's name, home address, and phone number. If the reference has a relationship with first responder services, provide the person's job title or affiliation with the pertinent organization.

Professional References

Include your reference's name, job title, company address and phone number, and e-mail address, if acceptable to your reference. Try to select professional references from positions in emergency service (fire and police departments, forest service, homeland security, nursing, ambulance service, etc.).

Obtain a Notice of Examination

The notice of examination (NOE) is an informational summary of the minimum qualifications and requirements concerning the firefighter examination you will be taking in your jurisdiction. It is normally formatted and published by the civil service commission or fire department personnel office of the city conducting the exam. An NOE can commonly be accessed and reviewed in person at either of these two places or on their Web sites. Firehouses, post offices, libraries, and civic group agencies are other possible places to find this important initial document regarding the firefighter exam.

General information provided by the NOE is as follows:

Name of Exam: Firefighter

Type of Exam: Phases of the exam-written test, physical ability exam, oral interview, etc.

Exam Number

When to Apply/File for the Examination

How to Apply/File for the Examination

Cancellation Information

Online Web site Information

Written Exam Study Guide: Format and sample questions

Physical Ability Test Preparation Guide and Training Site(s) Information: Overview of testing process and training locations

Civil Rights Protections: Information concerning detrimental practices based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protections: Information about discrimination for qualified candidates with disabilities

Protest Protocols

Special Test Accommodations: Alternate exam dates for disability or religious beliefs

Military Veteran Preference Points

Application Fee: Amount and fee payment (cash, check, credit card, etc.)

Test Date

DUI/DWAI/DWI Stipulations

Illegal Drug Activity/Use Stipulations

List Promulgation

Eligibility List

Exceptions: Age, education, disqualification, etc.

List Termination

Job Functions: Controlling and extinguishing fires, hazardous material incident mitigation, pre-hospital emergency medical care provider, maintenance of firehouse, apparatus, tools, and equipment, enforcement of local fire prevention laws and ordinances, fire safety educational activities, water supply and hydrant inspections, driving and operating fire apparatus, participation in training exercises and drills, etc.

Work Schedule: Normally long work week hours and varied shifts.

Salary and Benefits: Base salaries generally range between $25,000 and $35,000 for probationary firefighters. Benefits may include pension, life insurance, medical and dental coverage, prescription drug plan, paid vacation and holidays, deferred compensation plan incentives, etc.

Probationary Period: Generally 12 months.

Apply for Special Considerations, if Applicable

Some applicants for a position as a firefighter may have unusual circumstances that qualify them for special consideration in taking the written or other exams or in other aspects of the application and approval process. These special considerations may apply to the religious observances of applicants, to applicants with disabilities, to veterans, and to those who may have had a change of address problem. All fire departments have procedures for handling these circumstances and usually publish a special consideration form.