Classic Fire Service Interview mix-ups (and what to do so they don’t trip you up)

Considering that most of us are likely to have quite a few interviews during our career, its amazing that we aren’t more comfortable with the process. But even if we feel confident about the job and our own ability to do it, there is just something about the prospect of an interview which sets most of us on edge.

Here are a few of the things we think (and sometimes do!) go wrong….

Mind going blank

This is most people’s number one fear. What if you are asked a question and you simply don’t know how to reply?

Of course, any uncomfortable pauses which seem like an eternity for you are usually not that long at all, and usually interviewers will assume you are just thinking about what to say. But if the silence drags, you’ll start to sweat and if still nothing is coming to mind…that’s something no one wants to happen.

What to do

You have a few options. firstly, ask for them to repeat the question. there is nothing wrong with that. If its still not working for you, politely ask them to rephrase the question. You never know, it might not be you, it might be a really badly worded question! If it’s a knowledge-based question which you don’t know the answer to you are best off saying you don’t know, but also say that you are keen to learn and would welcome the opportunity to learn more about it. If it’s a question related to your experience which you are struggling with, simply come clean, say you cant think of anything right now, could you come back to the question at the end? You may have relaxed a bit by then and find an answer more easily.

Realising you have been answering the wrong question

Most of us will have had that sinking sensation as it starts to dawn, mid flow, that what you are talking about isn’t actually what they wanted to hear. So, do you power on regardless and hope they won’t notice, or own up?

Best approach

You may want to use ‘sorry, can I start again, I think I lost my way there’. Or you could ask them to repeat the question, and from there kick off again on the right track. If you cant find a way to steer your answer back to being related to the question, being honest is the next best thing. It will show you are able to stop and admit a mistake if nothing else.

Recognising an interviewer (and being pretty sure they don’t like you).

Interviewees, especially for internal vacancies, are often far more concerned about this than they need to be. They worry that they will be disadvantaged by a colleague bearing a grudge, or simply not rated on their performance at interview alone because there is a track record with one of the panel.

Getting over it

There is usually more than one interviewer to prevent this sort of thing from happening. If you have serious concerns, take them up with HR. Ideally you will have something to back up your concerns i.e. details of a previous run in rather than ‘just a feeling’ that you aren’t liked‘. Interviewers do have to justify their decisions, so if you give a cracking performance, even if they don’t like you, they may find it very difficult to let it influence your interview result.

Feeling judged

No-one likes to feel they are being judged, as we tend to assume the evaluation won’t be favourable. The reality is, we confuse the ‘big P’ and the ‘little p’. The Big P is us as a ‘Person’; the little p is ‘Performance.’ When we are being interviewed we are being evaluated on our performance, the things we have done and the way that we do them. If we don’t get through the interview, it’s because there were things about our performance we need to change, perhaps do better next time.

This doesn’t need to seem threatening as we all need to improve in different ways, we simply need to get feedback where we can, try harder, do better next time. Where it can feel uncomfortable is when we take things personally, and think that any poor evaluation is about us as a person. When we think that we are being judged because of who we are it can be hurtful; no one wants to feel ‘not good enough’. It’s much harder to change who we are than what we do, so failing an interview can hit us especially hard if we take it as a reflection on the person we are. In general, it isn’t about that at all. A much more positive way to approach an unsuccessful interview is to work on our performance, without taking it to heart.

Of course the best way to make sure your interview is a success is to be prepared! We have plenty of ways to help you with that, from our best-selling Firefighter Interview or Promotion Interview workbooks to performance feedback and personal mentoring. Visit our store or complete our contact form to find out how we can support your career aspirations.

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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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