Psychological Interview Preperation
August 26, 2009 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow I have to take psychological testing for a firefighter job. If anyone has been through anything similar I'd appreciate any advice.

The first part of is a written test. I'm fairly sure it will be the MMPI-2 and I'm not too worried about that. The second part is an interview with a psychologist. I know some of the questions can be pretty simple like "How is your relationship with your mother?" But, I've also heard that they try some sneaky tricks during the interview. For example they might say something like "well you didn't do very well on the IQ portion of the test," to get a reaction from you. Of course there is no IQ portion. Or they might insist that you answered a question one way when in fact you didn't, to see if you'll stand your ground. The craziest thing I heard is that one psychologist excused himself for a moment, snuck up behind the test taker and screamed a racial epithet.
Is there any way to prepare for something like this? Any advice, resources or personal experiences are greatly appreciated.
posted by brevator to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing you'll experience tomorrow will be worst than what you will imagine. There's no real tricks to these sorts of tests (and I suspect that your stories of psychologist shenanigans are either urban legends or created by Scientologists) and even if there were, I'm not so sure it would be in the public's best interest to tell you how to circumvent them.

So just be yourself, answer the questions to the best of your ability and I'm sure you'll be fine.
posted by inturnaround at 2:56 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are your examples from the same process that you are going to go through? I have a Masters in psych and a few testing classes under my belt. No way would these methods be condoned in my program. I suppose it is possible, but I think you will find that the experience will be far more straight-forward than you fear.

My suggestion is to try to relax, approach it like a way to learn a little about yourself, and be honest. Try not to over-think things.
posted by thebrokedown at 2:58 PM on August 26, 2009

I've been in a couple of these situations based on the type of work I've pursued (and sometimes the locations I've pursued it in). My advice would be to not try to over-think it or even worse try to hack it somehow.

Whatever you do, don't feel like you have to rush your answers. Just calmly consider them for a minute while you take a deep breath before you start talking. Turn it over in your head a couple times. If the interviewer gives you any hassle, just politely ask for a second to think about the answer. I've actually never had anyone ask. Sometimes leading them on with a quiet "Hmm..." can accomplish the same, but I find that just putting my hand on my chin and looking thoughtful does the trick - because its what I would naturally do anyway.

Be yourself and you'll be fine. The tests are to make sure you're not crazy and are fit for training - its there that you'll learn what it is they want to teach you. They're just making sure you're teachable.

Oh and IANAP.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:00 PM on August 26, 2009

Of the three examples of shenanigans I wrote the only one I'm positive actually happened was the racial epithet incident. Which isn't really very reassuring.
posted by brevator at 3:06 PM on August 26, 2009

If someone pulled some crap like that in an interview, I'd politely get up and ask them to call me back if they wanted a normal person to interview me. And I'd make sure HR / hiring reps knew about it too.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:15 PM on August 26, 2009

I'm a presentation away from my Master's in Psy, and these tricks are as far from the stuff you would do during an actual personality profile as firefighting is from fireblowing.

However, I am also in the job market, and these tricks sound exactly like the kind of thing that "clever" HR-types like to pull. Having dealt with a few of these things (and knowing how far they are detached from science, reason, etc.) I've come to think of them as guessing games--I can only guess the BS requirements that any given company or agency has in mind, and who knows what those requirements mean to their HR people.
posted by Benjy at 3:17 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to work with a woman who'd been a flight attendant for Delta Airlines for several years. (This was in the late 1980s.) She'd left the company after she got married and started a family and didn't want to travel so much any more. Anyway, she once told me about random tests she underwent during training, which she didn't know was a test at the time. For example, all the trainee flight attendants were housed at a particular hotel. She checked at the front desk for her messages one evening and received a "message" from her sister stating her mother had passed away suddenly. It turned out that her mom was alive and fine, and that she was being observed when handed the message to see how she handled extreme stress. (The whole story sounded unfathomable to me, but she swore it was true. Said that the explanation given to her at the time was that FAs had to be able to remain calm no matter what the situation.)

So, anyway, it wouldn't totally surprise me if the racial epithet story is true. Firefighters have to keep their heads during the most hazardous circumstances and make split-second decisions.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:37 PM on August 26, 2009

I just took this series of test for a firefighter dispatch position. There are no right or wrong answers to these test. One example our tester gave us was checking yes to the statement, "Sometimes I see things that other people don't." Checking yes does not mean you hallucinate, it could mean that you are more observant than other people.

If you do not test as suitable for a firefighter on these tests, it may be that this job is not suitable for your personality type.

Good luck! I started 2 weeks ago ; )
posted by JujuB at 4:08 PM on August 26, 2009

In my local FD, the psych interview asks you questions about your personal history statement. Unless I'm very much mistaken, there won't be anything like the kind of unprofessional behaviour you've mentioned. The point is whether you can succeed as a FF: can you work effectively as part of a team? can you endure harsh physical and psychological conditions? can you adapt to shift work? are you prepared to recognize that your role as a public servant includes everyone in your district, not just nice people? why do you want to be a FF (if all you're there for is the hero worship, you should probably find another line of work)? can you maintain orientation to a building when you're in complete darkness and crawling around on your hands and knees?

Questions that you get will probably be directed to finding answers to those questions.

Good luck!
posted by angiep at 9:56 PM on August 26, 2009

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