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What Really Matters in Department Promotional Processes?


Recently I have completed my 2nd promotional process for the fire department I work for and once again I was unsuccessful in obtaining my goal which is a promotion to Fire Lieutenant.   My department boasts a “Transparent, equal, and fair” process but what really matters when you go through a process of this magnitude.

Now I am not a fire department “prodigy” by all means but I consider myself very well-educated, passionate, and knowledgeable about the profession and the “lifestyle”.   But this doesn’t seem to be good enough.  I have worked for my department for about 6 and half years and I took my 1st process back in 2008 with only about 4 years of service, no college degree, an average amount of state fire classes, and was not involved in many departments “extra curricular activities” such as committees and etc.   So even though I scored well in all events and made it to the Fire Chiefs hiring interview I was not promoted and was passed over twice. 

This led me to rethink my strategy and I took it upon myself to make myself a better candidate I enrolled in an online fire science college and got my Bachelors Degree in Fire Science, I completed Fire Officer III and IV, became an even more dedicated student of the profession and joined several departmental committees.  I was ready for the next process!!!!

Our next process began with the written test on September 2010, everyone studied hard for several months leading up to the test that was consisted of 50 departmental policy questions and 50 situational judgment questions.  When I got my test score back I thought I was well on my way to a great process by being tied for 19th highest score out of 65 or so applicants.  The assessment center was next which was a long 4 day process with 1 event each day.  I was scored as “Superior” but my test score which was worth 20% dropped me down into the “Well Qualified” category and I still got to move on to the next step which was a panel interview with 4 Chiefs within the department.  After this step I was ranked 26th out of 50 or so candidates and qualified me for a 3rd Fire Chief hiring interview.   

Out of 26 candidates who got interviews there were 17 white males, 1 white female, and 8 black males.  Out of those types experience levels varied from 4 years to 30 years of time in the department and all levels of involvement and education.  So when the promotions were announced who got the jobs…..7 black males, 1 white female and 5 white males. 

*I am not trying to make this a racial issue.  I am only stating the facts as to who got promoted and who didn’t.  In no way shape or form does it mean that those who got promoted were not qualified for the job.* 

Now here lies the question what does your department look for in promoting new officers.  Is it diversity? Is it education? Is it experience? Training? What is the key to promotion????

To the naked eye this may just be me venting my frustration for being passed over for the 3rd time but how does one decide where to go next?  One would think someone like me would be a perfect candidate and I feel if I were to go outside my department I would be viewed as one. 

How and what standards does your department apply when promoting officers? What are YOUR Chiefs looking for?

Thanks for reading!

Editors Note: This is a very thought-provoking post, I have often thought departments look at the wrong things when promoting Company Officers. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

About Danny Owens