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Selection Process

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Step #1: Minimum Qualifications

Recruit applicants must meet the following minimum requirements by the application cut-off date:

  • 18 years old at the time of application
  • High school diploma, G.E.D. certificate, or California Proficiency Certificate
  • Valid CA Driver’s License (or ability to obtain one)
  • Physical Ability Test (CPAT) Certificate
  • Valid EMT Certificate, valid certification as a National Registered Emergency Medical Technician Basic, valid Paramedic License, or valid certification as a National Registered Paramedic
  • Federal law requires all employees to provide verification of their eligibility to work in this country (please be informed that the City of San José will NOT sponsor, represent or sign any documents related to visa applications or transfers for H1-B or any other type of visa which requires an employer application)

Step #2: Submit Application and NTN Written Test

The application and testing processes are hosted through the National Testing Network (NTN), which can be accessed at

Upon meeting the minimum qualifications, you will take the NTN examination. There are four components to the NTN FireTEAM Testing System:

  • A video-based human relations test
  • A mechanical aptitude test
  • A math test
  • A reading ability test

Online practice tests are available at

Step #3: Personal History Questionnaire

The Personal History Questionnaire (PHQ) is a pre-screening questionnaire that allows applicants to self-report behavior that has been determined to relate directly to job suitability. Applicants who meet both the minimum and desirable qualifications required for the Firefighter Recruit classification will be invited to participate in the PHQ. Such personal history categories include:

  • Education history
  • Employment history
  • Military experience
  • Substance use
  • Driving record
  • Public safety experience
  • Financial history
  • Legal history

Step #4: Establishment of Qualified Candidate Group

NTN will forward all candidates’ scores to the City of San José. Candidates who have a passing score on the NTN written test and successfully completed the PHQ will be placed in the qualified candidate group for Firefighter Recruit.

  • Candidates with the best combination of test scores and desirable qualifications to meet the business needs of the City will be invited to the Oral Interview Process.
  • Candidates who do not move forward will remain in the qualified candidate group for future consideration.

Step #5: Oral Interview Process and Chief's Interview Process

The Oral Interview Process is a panel interview. The applicant will be asked five to eight questions (not necessarily fire-related) that focus on key competencies, such as:

  • Preparation for a fire service career
  • Stress tolerance
  • Problem solving
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Communication skills

The panelists will consist of City and Fire Department employees and personnel. Applicants who successfully complete the Oral Interview Process will proceed to the Chief’s Interview Process.

The Chief's Interview panelists will consist of Senior Staff from San José Fire Administration, as well as the current Fire Chief. Applicants who successfully complete the Chief’s Interview Process will be placed on an eligibility list for the Background Investigation Process.

Step #6: Background Investigation Process

After passing the testing and interview processes, you will participate in the Background Investigation Process. You will be instructed to complete your Personal History Statement (PHS), also known as your background packet. Once you complete your PHS, you will be assigned a Background Investigator. All information provided must be truthful and accurate. The omission of facts is considered to be untruthful. Any measurement short of this falls below our standard and can be grounds for disqualification.

A background inquiry can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Driving history
  • Education transcripts
  • Friends and family references
  • Current and past employers
  • Credit
  • Past relationships
  • Criminal history (both adult and juvenile)
  • Landlords
  • Roommates
  • Other acquaintances
  • Immigration or nationalization
  • Military
  • Polygraph interview (see below)

Once the background investigation is complete, the hiring board for employment selection will review it.

Step #7: Conditional Offer of Employment – Livescan Fingerprint, Polygraph, Medical, Psychological Screening

Those candidates selected for employment will be given a Conditional Offer of Employment contingent upon successfully passing additional criteria:

  • LiveScan Fingerprinting: The San José Fire Department accepts LiveScan results from suggested facilities or any sheriff’s department.
  • Polygraph Examination: The City of San José works with a contracted polygraph examiner to conduct this part of the screening process.
  • Medical Examination: The City of San José Employee Health Services will conduct vision testing and drug screening.
  • Psychological Screening: This includes both written and oral components.

Step #8: Final Offer of Employment – Fire Academy

After successfully completing all conditional criteria, recruits will be issued a Final Offer of Employment, which will include a notice detailing when their first day of employment will begin with the San José Firefighter Academy.

Firefighter recruits are considered a City of San José employee and will attend the San José Firefighter Academy. This is an 18-week program. Training is conducted on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Some training may be conducted after hours and on weekends. This is not a “live-in” academy. Firefighter recruits will be required to find their own living arrangements and daily transportation. Upon graduation, firefighter recruits will enter a one-year probationary period (2,912 hours) as firefighters.