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Recent Q&A- your questions, our in-depth answers

Your Question
Last month I purchased the Middle Manager PQA application workbook. The workbook guides me through how to respond to ‘tell me about a time’ type questions, using Situation- Role- Result or STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to guide my answers. I have just learnt that the questions on my application form as phrased along the lines of;‘Provide evidence to demonstrate your approach and commitment to xxxxxxx’. How should I respond?

 
Our Answer
Both ‘tell us about a time when’ and ‘provide evidence’ style questions are looking for the same thing- proof. The former is looking for a specific example. In the latter you can take a slightly different approach e.g. briefly introduce your approach and commitment to the PQA or area in question, perhaps covering why it is important to you/ your attitude, then you need to make sure you provide evidence to support it. So this would cover some of the more practical aspects e.g. what you have done, how you did it and why. A main difference is probably that instead of focusing on a single example you could cover a number of pieces of evidence of how you have prioritised this PQA or area, and the actions that show it is a priority for you.

 
Your Question
Is relevant to mention things which are relevant to the PQA/competency in general even if it is not being specifically asked about in the question (application or interview)? For instance, if a question asks about my approach to my own professional development, should I also cover my approach to developing others, as I know that when I develop others it also develops my own skill-set? I am concerned that I need to cover all elements detailed in the generic BARS and to strictly stick to answering the question won’t allow me to do this.

Our Answer
Don’t worry about the generic BARS. Neither application forms or interviews tend to rely on these. Each question asked will allow assessors to rate your performance against specific, pre-determined criteria, but this will be closely linked to the question, and not expect you to apply a ‘scattergun’ approach in order to cover all of the BARS. In relation to your example, if you had a genuine example of something you did to develop others that clearly resulted in development of your own (in a planned rather than coincidental way) then it would be relevant to use it. If this isn’t the case just focus on the specific points being asked by the question.

 
Your Question
I have been made aware that several fire services are adopting online assessments rather than the PQA application. Do you offer preparation online assessments?

Our Answer
The type of online assessment varies. Some will be doing a Realistic Job Preview which the Ability Tests Workbook will help with, specifically the sections on the Situational Judgement Test and Firefighter Questionnaire. These sections don’t specifically cover the Realistic Job Preview but do give you practice of considering likely requirements and how well your response might fit. A Realistic Job Preview is just as it says, it asks you questions relevant to the type of thing you would expect to see in the role. The advantage is that by reading these questions you are getting a good sense of what the job entails (so you can assess whether you would actually want the job after all) and your answers give the FRS a good idea as o whether you would be a good match or not.

Other FRS will do a personality test or ability tests online which the Ability Tests Workbook will also help with. Whatever other type of tests are used instead of the application form it will still always be useful to make sure you understand about the PQAs. Some FRS will be using ‘competencies’ which are basically the PQAs but just slightly re-worded or with a few additions, but it will still all be about the demonstration of positive behaviours. Application processes are changing in some FRS but in general our existing resources will still be very beneficial; names and format of tests might change but what is being looked at underneath doesn’t- because what makes a good FF doesn’t really change!

 
Your Question
Would it be possible to get some information on 2016 recruitment campaigns, can you advise if the fire services adopted PQA or online assessments for their campaigns?

Our Answer
Cambridgeshire FRS: they added a personality test to the standard process (and other interactive Assessment & Development Centre (ADC) type exercises later in the process).

London FRS (Trainee Firefighters): they have always used a different process. There were some ability tests which vary from the usual ones (not a million miles away, still verbal and numerical).

Shropshire FRS: they used the standard National Firefighter Selection process

Merseyside FRS: they used an initial online application, a ‘realistic job preview’ plus other interactive ADC type exercises later in the process.

(we will cover more about alternative application/ selection processes in future newsletters)

 
Your Question
I’m making good progress with my interview preparation, thanks for your help. I was wondering if you could clarify the generic bars. As an example if there are 8 constructs that are being looked at with a score of 1-4 being possible for each of these, how many should each PQA response meet? I want to make sure that my answers are natural and do not appear contrived around the generic bars.

Our Answer
It’s a good questions, a lot of people get tangled up with the generic BARS and there are a lot of misconceptions about them.

If the interview questions have been designed properly there is no way all of the constructs of any PQA would be assessed by one question. The question needs to lead you towards an appropriate answer by steering your response. So the best thing to do is listen to the question and make sure you address each element you are asked about. that way your answer will be appropriate to the question; how good it is from there is up to you. Answering the question will automatically provide evidence against the scoring criteria which have been designed to fit that question. If you go in having memorised the BARS and trying to cover all the different elements you will come across as over-rehearsed, lacking authenticity and you won’t be able to properly answer the question.

I’d forget about the BARS if I were you, and just practice answering questions on the spot which a friend can fire at you, applying a suitable example and making sure you are responding to the question they have asked (and not the one you wish they had!)

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