1. Start your preparation NOW
This might sound a bit obvious- but given that it’s the biggest mistake most of you will make, it’s worth repeating. The vast majority of candidates don’t start to properly think about their assessment until the last minute. And the minority that do? They’ll be the ones doing the job YOU wanted.
Don’t wait until you hear that a FRS is recruiting or that an ADC is on the horizon; think about getting ready today. After all, you don’t start to learn to drive the week of your test, or decide to start training for a 10K run the weekend before, do you?
2. Think beyond the technical skills
It’s easy to focus on the technical elements of a Firefighters role e.g. using equipment, understanding chemical compositions, applying health & safety protocols etc. But there is a whole other side of being a Firefighter which most people simply forget. When you are facing a distraught member of the public who has just lost everything in a house fire will it be your technical or your personal skills you will mostly be relying on? As a manager, when there is conflict between two people, with hostilities affecting your whole team, will it be the policies you quote or your personal handling of the situation which will make all the difference? When you see something not being done right, identify a problem that hasn’t come up before or need to make quick changes, it’s how you deal will with it that will make you stand out. There isn’t a manual for that stuff. It all comes down to what you are like as a person.
So how does that help you prepare for your assessment? Firstly, you need to find out what you are good at, and what you aren’t so good at. You need to reflect on this yourself, and you also need to ask other people. Make it easy for them to be honest, for example, by asking what they think your 3 top strengths are, and also asking for the 3 things you could do better. Think more closely about what you do and how you do it at work- what comes easy and what you struggle with. And if you aren’t sure about any of this (and it’s not always easy to put the pieces together) ask for help! Call us on 0208 1333 763 or email us– we have plenty of quick and easy methods to make this a bit easier or just point you it the right direction.
3. Sort out your writing
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I point out that a lot of you don’t seem to like writing very much. Unfortunately, part of any assessment for recruitment or selection for development is going to involve you getting what’s in your head down on paper. And for a lot of candidates, this is where you become unstuck.
One of the biggest things you may struggle with is explaining yourself in enough detail. This is where you might complete an application form, stating that you ‘worked well with a team’ but provide no further info about how you did this (did you listen, collaborate, support, encourage? How exactly did you do these things (as opposed to the next applicant on the list who is saying they did the same thing as you but probably handled it in a completely differently way)? There no way of knowing unless you explain it, and most of you will skim over the juicy details in order to make vague statements about ‘being helpful’ or ‘supporting others’.
If I say to you that I am good at these things, how much better do you feel you know me? Not much I imagine. But if I tell you: ‘I helped someone from the police service to improve his application form. I reviewed his answers, noting where he was providing the right evidence to match what the police service is looking for and where he wasn’t. I phoned him and listened to what he could tell me about his experiences and ambitions. Then I explained to him what he does very well and some of the things he could improve on. I emailed him some examples of what I meant and suggested he try his application again, to send back to me after for a second look. I reassured him when he said he was worried and explained he was doing very well but it wasn’t an easy task to get right…..’ you get the picture. Doesn’t this tell you a bit more about me? Can you see the difference explaining yourself can make?
In a written assessment for promotion (an inbox or in basket exercise for example) you might be asked to explain how you will make changes; your answer might be based around ‘making a plan and delegating tasks’…..and then you might leave it at that. Whether this plan was any good or not, we’ll never know. What exactly the delegated activities look like is also rather unclear- you could have just asked the team to wash their own lunch plates up for all your assessors know.
If you don’t like writing you might find that you cut corners, and your answers suffer. So build your confidence by getting your thoughts down on paper a bit more often, and when you find you are explaining yourself in person, see if you can do it just as well with a pen in your hand too.