[IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

Dennis Doverspike dd1 at uakron.edu
Thu Dec 10 11:29:06 EST 2009


There are consulting firms and cities that do already offer such an
approach. Over 30 years ago, Gerald Barrett successfully engaged in such an
approach for entry level hiring (you could make the same argument as you
have, individuals have to go through training so train them for the

The problem is that such an approach can be quite costly. As you note, at
some point if everyone passes training you still have to make selection
decisions, and those selection decisions may still have adverse impact.

Your argument about time to proficiency is interesting. Given the age at
which most firefighters become lieutenants, and your anticipate 10 years to
proficiency, it would seem that most lieutenants would retire before they
become proficient.

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP
Professor of Psychology
Director, Center for Organizational Research
Senior Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology
Psychology Department
University of Akron
Akron, Ohio 44325-4301
330-972-8372 (Office)
330-972-5174 (Office Fax)
ddoverspike at uakron.edu

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-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org]
On Behalf Of Joel Wiesen
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:11 AM
To: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: [IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

The recent thread on Ricci prompts this email on an idea that has
intrigued me for years.

We (and the fire service) might consider reconceptualizing fire
promotional exams. I see promise for improving
productivity/effectiveness and reducing adverse impact.

Consider the job of Fire Lieutenant. The current promotional exam
process is designed to select people who can do the job of Lieutenant
immediately on appointment.

Typically, the only entrance requirement for a promotional exam is
several years experience in the next lower title (e.g., as a Firefighter
for the job of Lieutenant).

To the extent that promotional exams test supervisory KSAPs, the current
promotional exam system leaves firefighters largely or completely to
their own devices to learn the job of Lieutenant. (Yes, often there is
a published reading list, however, the books do not address the
complexities and range of application of strategy and tactics seen in
firefighting, perhaps because real-world fire situations are so varied
and complex.)

There might be alternative promotional exam systems that would have less
adverse impact while maintaining or improving overall job performance of
Lieutenants, especially new Lieutenants (say for the first 5 or 10 years
on the job). For example, the fire department might offer training
classes for promotion to Lieutenant, designed so that successful
completion of the classes could serve as an entrance requirement for the
promotional exam. It may well be that all students would master the
material, as is typically seen in fire recruit training programs. The
promotional exam might then focus on past job performance (reliability,
customer service, cautiousness, judgment, etc.)

Any thoughts?


P.S. I suggest Fire Lieutenants might take 5-10 years to master
strategy and tactics because there are so few fires in most
municipalities (due to improvements in the building codes over past
generations). One Fire Chief told me he sends new Lieutenants to a
nearby large city to get experience fighting fires, as there are so few
fires in his community.

Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
Applied Personnel Research
62 Candlewood Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
(617) 244-8859

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