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How to prepare for your Firefighter Interview

You have to be exceptional to get through the interview. If you don’t prepare you will almost certainly lose out to someone who did.

When you are invited to Interview you need to spend time thinking about what you have done in the last year or two that fits with the PQAs. For instance, for the PQA ‘Working with Others,’ what have you done to show that you build relationships effectively? What example have you got of when you have empowered others or built morale within a team? The Pass Your Firefighter Interview Workbook will guide you fully through all the type of questions and help you select your best answers.

The section on Practice Questions will give you some more ideas of the type of questions to prepare examples for. You can also do this yourself by reading the PQAs, and creating a list of questions which begin with, ‘can you provide an example of a time when you have….’

Try to plan your answers to cover:

1. What the situation was;
2. How you tackled it;
3. Why you chose to do it in that way;
4. What the outcome was.

If you are applying to become a Firefighter you will have already been through the process of thinking of examples when you completed your application form. Go through this again. You can use these examples again if you really need to, although try to have 2 or 3 examples to draw on for each PQA and not just rely on one.

Think about what you have done, what you have achieved. Think about all the situations you have handled well. Ask people who know you well to think of times you have done things well if you are struggling to think of anything.

During the PQA based Interview

  • Listen carefully to the questions. You should have prepared a number of examples which you can use to demonstrate your potential to be an excellent Firefighter, but you also have to listen to make sure that the examples you have answer what is being asked.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewers to repeat the questions, they are more than happy to do this.
  • There will be two interviewers for the Firefighter recruitment interview. One will be there to take notes, one to ask questions. They will probably take turns throughout the Interview to do both these things, mainly to give the one who is doing all the writing a rest!
  • If you don’t understand what is being asked, don’t get flustered, the interviewers are used to this too. Simply ask if they could rephrase it. Take your time to think of your answer. The important thing is that your answer matches the question, and you don’t just give your pre-prepared answer, which may not in fact be relevant to what you were asked!
  • Speak clearly and try not to talk too fast. If you talk too fast, the interviewers won’t be able to write down all of your evidence for later evaluation.
  • Be clear about what your role was; it can be easy to fall into talking about what ‘we’ did, but the interviewers want to know what part you personally had to play, even if it was within a team or group context.
  • Be clear, concise, keep your head up and maintain eye contact. At times it may feel like you are talking to the top of the interviewers’ heads as they might both take some notes, but don’t worry, they are listening, so just carry on!
  • Don’t worry if the interviewers ask you to clarify anything, or ask you additional questions. They are simply trying to fully understand the example you are giving. They have been trained to give you every opportunity to explain yourself in detail. They aren’t trying to catch you out, they are trying to help you give a full account.
  • With additional questions the interviewers are also checking that the detail you are giving is honest. If you make up an answer, it will start to fall apart as soon as the interviewer starts to probe your example in more depth. So stick to the truth.
  • Don’t be put off if the interviewer interrupts you or asks you to stop. They will do this if you are not giving them the evidence they need i.e. you have shifted from describing what you have done into describing what you might do; they will try to guide you back to giving the sort of evidence they need. They also have to stick very closely to time and will interrupt you once your time on that question is up. This is to be fair to all candidates by making sure no one has extra time to provide their answer. Try to keep an eye on the time yourself, put your watch in front of you if you can.
  • Remember there are no right or wrong answers, just varying levels of effectiveness of PQA evidence. You may feel that you haven’t had the opportunity to demonstrate some of the PQAs for reasons such as having just left school, or being in the same job for a while. Don’t worry; you can use a number of activities as examples, such as any outside work activities or hobbies.
  • If you are concerned that you haven’t got enough evidence, think about the sort of things you can get involved in which will give you the opportunity to gain experience in a range of PQAs. Are there any teams you can join, charities, any community events you could help with? The interview is your opportunity to make you stand out from all the rest. Make sure you have done enough to be able to show this.

Next Page: Firefighter Interview Mistakes

It can be easy to lose focus and waste valuable time giving information which is not relevant to the PQAs…