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Five Simple Changes to Improve Your Recruitment Effort

Recruiting emergency responders requires a plan and effort. As I work with fire and EMS departments across the Midwest, a few things that may hamper their recruitment success stand out. Here are a few simple changes I recommend to improve your hiring plan.

1. Remove VOLUNTEER from your hiring materials.

  • The term "volunteer" describes the rate you intend to pay the candidate. In most cases, there is some compensation for their time working with you. The pay could be in the form of free training, experience, and job skills. We don't want to talk about pay in our advertising. Leave that for the one-on-one meetings.

  • In Minnesota, State Law defines the firefighter as full-time or volunteer. A full-time firefighter is not a volunteer, and a volunteer is not full-time. Within the definition of a volunteer, however, there is part-time, paid-on-call, paid on-premises, duty crew, and more. The "pay" is rarely the same from one city to the next.

2. Do not call your recruitment events Open Houses.

  • When the community hears of an open house at the fire station, they think of bringing the kids and having hotdogs with the firefighters. I want you to be more specific about your intent. You have an Information Session to learn how to become a firefighter with ABCD fire department. List the time you are meeting and be prepared to give those who attend a presentation on the essential duties of a responder and the time commitment it will take.

3. Consider reducing the candidate's training time during the first year.

  • If you send new hires to training for firefighter 1, 2, Hazmat Ops, and EMR/T in their first year, they are burning out. Consider sending them to firefighter 1 and hazmat awareness first. Bring them back into the station so they can apply their new lessons to the equipment, policies, and culture they signed up for. It will help you get firefighters on the floor sooner and allow you to evaluate their skills.

  • I am a huge advocate for training, but I can see the challenges new hires are having in the first year, and it scares them away. The family experiences a lot of time drawn from their time bank in the first year, so they naturally believe it will stay that way.

  • Consider the first year to include: Firefighter I and Hazmat Awareness. CPR/AED. The Second year can be EMR or EMT, and the Third year can be Firefighter II. The training program is your call.

4. Improve your marketing effort using social platforms and target marketing.

  • Social media platforms add a lot of value to your marketing campaign. With most of the population using flat-screen devices, it is the perfect way to get media of your event in front of them. Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular. I would recommend you focus on. Each platform has millions of users from a wide range of demographics. They also allow you to pay for ads at a reasonable rate.

  • Build a social media platform that allows the community to see the great things you do daily. Don’t just market your job openings. Make them want to join your team.

5. Appoint a Recruitment Coordinator for your team.

  • Find someone in your department or the community who loves to meet people and market your job openings. It should be a constant effort to RETAIN your current firefighters and recruit new ones. Appointing someone will relieve the Chief of the role and offer someone an important job they can have fun doing.

Finding recruits will require you to establish a plan and find strategic ways to get your job openings in front of potential candidates. This includes holding recruitment sessions, target marketing, displays, and partnering with your local business community. If you are not succeeding, contact us at for more information.

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