WFCA’s Confidential Recruiting Process Good for Fire Departments and Chiefs

By James Careless

Finding the right person to be your chief isn’t easy, while applying for a new chief position when
you’ve already got a job can make life difficult for everyone. This is why the Western Fire Chiefs
Association (WFCA) offers the service of finding the best candidates discretely and giving you a

“Our Confidential Executive Recruiting Process on its website . If we know one thing: we know a
good Chief from a great Chief,” said WFCA Executive Director Chief Jeffrey C. Johnson. “This
process is designed to help fire departments get the leaders they need, while providing job
applicants with a discreet way to seek new positions without upsetting people at their existing

To help fire departments find the best chiefs possible, the WFCA interviews these departments
first. “Essentially what we do is that we spend an inordinate amount of time profiling your
department, to find out exactly what you are looking for in a new chief,” said Chief Johnson. “To
use a basketball team analogy, some teams need a 7’ 3” three center that can shoot three
pointers, and some teams need a 6’ 4” shooting forward. They’re not the same.”

“Likewise, agencies have specific needs,” Chief Johnson continued. “They may be at a place
where they need a chief that is expert at building teams during mergers and consolidations. Or
they may need a chief that is expert in ambulance transport and fixing cultures that need help,
or whatever the case may be. Whatever it is, the WFCA’s job is to find out exactly what you
need in a chief by profiling your agency, and then help you find them through our confidential
recruiting process.”

Once promising candidates have been attracted through the WFCA’s Current Recruitments
page, the WFCA’s labor professionals partner with the agency seeking new blood to ensure the
best alignment between their needs and what the candidates have to offer. “We’re able to tell
them that ‘we have four candidates that are highly aligned, and we have 30-some candidates
that are somewhere between highly aligned and not aligned at all’,” said Chief Johnson. “But we
do not tell them their names. We do not tell the agency they work for. We give them generalities
and we will do that with each candidate who is highly aligned. Then, if the agency is interested
in one or more candidates, we contact those people to see if they are serious about applying or

This brings us to the confidential recruiting of job seekers. Whenever they see a job that
interests them on the Current Recruitments page, they can apply for it through the association
without their identity being revealed to the hiring authority. Instead, the WFCA takes their data
and compares it to the job’s requirements, then advises the applicant on where they stand
competitively with respect to the other candidates. If the applicant likes this assessment, they
can make a formal application through the WFCA’s online form. Even then, no one but the hiring
agency and the WFCA knows the identity of the person applying.

This level of confidentiality is vital to protecting applicants in their current positions, said Chief
Johnson. “If you are a fire chief or a public safety executive, there’s a lot of factors that are
needed for you to be successful. One of them is the trust and confidence of your bosses, the
neighboring chiefs that are counting on you being there in terms of executing mutual aid
agreements, and your employees and executives who are working hard for you whenever you
say, ‘take the hill’. The minute that they think that you’re not going to be there to see that hill
taken, you’re likely to see a reduction of effort and in risk tolerance. So it’s a bad idea to signal
that you’re leaving until you are leaving. It undermines your authority.”

In the five years that it has offered Confidential Executive Recruiting, the WFCA has achieved a
100% success rate in finding fire departments the people they need as leaders, based on a fee
equivalent to 18% of the job’s annual salary. “This is why we guarantee our searches,” said
Chief Johnson. “We guarantee that any candidate that we put into the hiring process — if they
came from us, went into your hiring process and you hired them — we guarantee that that
candidate will be successful for a full year. If they are not successful within that time period,we
will do the search and alignment again for free.”

All told, the WFCA’s Confidential Executive Recruiting process is a great way for fire
departments to find the chiefs they need, and job seekers to find the right jobs for them and their
future employers — all handled by fire service experts who understand the professions they’re
hiring for. Again, everything associated with this process can be found on this WFCA webpage ,
and it costs nothing to check it out.


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