Changes to the Fire Service Application Process – 2019 in Review

There have been some big changes to the fire service firefighter application process in 2019, and a some of these are causing a bit of worry for potential applicants.

Most of the reason behind this is that candidates aren’t understanding WHY the changes have come in to force in general, or the reasons for a certain FRS doing things in a certain way.

It’s always been the case that different FRSs have slightly different recruitment methods – even though they adhered to the National Firefighter Selection Process (NFSP) to some extent there were often differences when it came to the assessment centre tasks and physical tests.

But now even the initial application process can vary greatly across FRSs, even though geographically they aren’t that far apart – to say nothing of the tasks you’ll be asked to complete (and the order you’ll be asked to do them in!) as an applicant.

We’ve covered 4 of the most common ‘new’ assessment methods we saw in 2019

– depending on where you’re based and therefore where you’re applying to you may not have to encounter them – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be aware of them!

Phobia Testing

The firefighter Physical Tests were designed to see how candidates perform during common duties and situations that a firefighter might find themselves in during their day to day role.

These already include tests in challenging situations, such as the ladder climb (heights), enclosed space, and working in smoky, poor visibility areas with full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and breathing apparatus.

The majority of FRSs follow the NFSP procedure when it comes to testing, and include the following activities:

  • Ladder climb
  • Casualty Evacuation
  • Ladder Lift
  • Enclosed Space
  • Equipment Assembly
  • Equipment Carry

However, some FRSs are going a step further, and really pushing candidates to their limits with additional directed ‘phobia testing’ in common areas where candidates have problems, notably with heights (achrophobia and vertigo) and with claustrophobia.

This may seem harsh, but the truth is that the Fire Service (as well as your watch!) simply cannot afford for you to ‘freeze up’ during an emergency situation.

There’s also been an increase in the amount of swimming testing in the application process, including tests in open water and cold water situations, and wearing protective clothing.

Again this is to see how candidates would really fare in these areas in a life or death situation – it’s not enough any more to prove you can swim for the required distance in the safe, warm environment of a swimming pool!

Group Physical Tasks

Another activity which is increasing in popularity is the group physical task.

This is not to be confused with the type of group discussion, activity or roleplay you might see in the assessment centre or on an assessment day. These type of group tasks are again considered to be part of the physical testing procedure.

They could take the part of a group equipment manoeuvre, or equipment assembly, to see how well you work as a team under pressure and time constraints – and whether you help or hinder each other!

You might also have to do group tasks under challenging situations, such as a mock evacuation.

Your communication skills are being tested through these types of activity, as well as your assertiveness, your ability to work with others and respond accurately to a situation which has the potential to change rapidly, as it’s success is not just dependent on you but on the whole group.

The actions of the group as a whole will be assessed here – but the most important part is how you perform and how your actions influence the outcome!

Compulsory Taster Days

The taster day, also known as a ‘have a go day’ is commonly seen as a useful event which can help you decide if the career of a firefighter is really for you.

These days have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and it’s now necessary to book your place in advance as they fill up rapidly! Some FRSs have even been holding separate days for under-represented minority groups only, such as female firefighters, or BAME or LBQT applicants.

In addition, more Fire Services in 2019 stipulated that attendance at a taster day was compulsory for any applicants for a wholetime firefighter role. This meant that before even completing an application, candidates were required to register their interest and apply for a spot on a taster day.

Following this, only after successful completion of the session was the link to the online application given to candidates – it wasn’t publicly available.

There have been mixed opinions on this, with some feeling it’s over-complicating the process further, and making it even harder for aspiring firefighters to get a foot in the door.

However the opinion held by the FRSs is that the taster day is a great way to screen a large amount of candidates at once, and distinguish the ones who look good on paper from the ones who have the actual ‘hands-on’ ability to be competent in the role.

This makes sense, as there are far more applicants than positions, and some applicants in fact make the decision to withdraw from the process early when it becomes apparent (through physical and assessment centre testing) that in reality, the career isn’t for them.

Therefore the taster day also gives you, as an applicant, the chance to honestly assess your own suitability for the job.

Presentation Tasks at Interview

We’ve had a few panicked emails from customers here at FRS Development in 2019 asking why they have been asked to prepare a presentation as part of their final interview.

Presentation tasks aren’t as uncommon as you might think, with many FRSs employing them as part of the procedure in the assessment centre. However as part of your final (and crucially important) one to one interview being asked to prepare a task like this can certainly add another, unwelcome layer of stress!

Communication is crucial to being a competent firefighter. Community safety is part of the job, and you could be asked to give safety talks to groups in your local community, or do home safety visits. Therefore it’s crucial that you have the ability to communicate vocally, and to do this clearly.

For a task in this situation you’ll be given the topic and time limit beforehand and allowed time to prepare – don’t worry, they won’t just spring it on you on the big day!

Topics we’ve heard about from candidates have often been centred around giving talks to minority groups in the community, or advice to the elderly or vulnerable on home safety.

Want to know more?

Check out our Assessment Day workbook

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FRS Team

Our team of experts have the many years of Fire Service experience and are up to date with the latest selection news.

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