While every different job comes with its own set of required skills and talents, the work of a 911 dispatcher is unique. So when a PSAP supervisor interviews job applicants, it’s especially challenging.
Public safety answering point professionals must be trustworthy, reliable, thoughtful, alert team players who can learn from their mistakes and remain calm in extremely stressful situations. Those traits are difficult to ascertain from just one interview.
So we’ve compiled a list of some interview questions PSAP supervisors can use to get a feel for how well any given applicant would do as a 911 dispatcher, along with guidelines as to which answers reflect the best fit.
1. Why do you want to be a PSAP dispatcher? Listen carefully here for honesty, as well as a real understanding of what it means to be a dispatcher. If the applicant says it’s for the money, they probably aren’t your best candidate! But if they know it’s a difficult job, and look forward to the challenges in order to be able to help people, you’re on the right track.
2. Have you done anything to prepare yourself for this job? Being a 911 agent means constantly learning, both through formal training and through on-the-job experience. If a candidate has taken the initiative to take some courses on their own, or has even done a sit-along with an agency, you’ll know they are willing to devote themselves to that continued learning.
3. Describe a time when you became very upset, but had to recover quickly. It will be very helpful to know how applicants handle themselves in stressful situations, and how quickly they can work through personal emotions in order to take care of business. Find out exactly how candidates calmed themselves – someone who is aware of the means they used to recover is more likely to be able to use that skill again when necessary.
4. How would you try to control a conversation with an upset caller? You don’t want to hire someone who will try to bully their way through emergency calls; instead, look for people who say they would talk more slowly and deliberately, or break their instructions down for the caller into even tinier steps than usual to get them started.
5. What do your friends and family think about you applying for this job? Not only will the answer to this question give you insight into the way a person’s family views their talents and abilities, but it will also let you know what kind of support system each candidate would have in place if they were to be hired. If someone’s entire family is against the idea, they may not end up sticking with it long-term.
6. You’re working alone when you get a call reporting a heart attack at the same time as a call for help from an officer. What do you do, in what order, and why? There’s not necessarily a correct or incorrect answer here, but the candidate should be able to quickly come up with a plan, and then explain thoughtful reasons for each step taken. This will demonstrate their ability to think quickly and clearly under pressure.
Asking questions like these will enable you to see which qualities the candidates each bring to the table, and which would be most likely to succeed long-term at this career.