What to do when it doesn’t work out

This month I wanted to share an email I sent to someone who had put a lot of work into becoming a firefighter but just missed out. I know many of you will be able to relate to the frustration and disappointment this person was feeling when he got in touch with us. You might also find it useful to consider if you might be making any of the same mistakes (either in your efforts for Firefighter selection or promotion). Read through to the bottom for the ending to this story!

Hi there

I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t get through this time. I know it isn’t much consolation but you have done so well to get to the final stages, more than once, so you must know that you have got what it takes.

My advice would be to take some time off from it for a while. It’s going to be hard to get any proper perspective on it when you feel so let down. In a couple of weeks you will feel more settled and it will be time to re-evaluate. I’m guessing that by then you will be ready to pick yourself back up, and see where else you can apply.

It will be interesting to see what feedback you get. If I was going to have a guess at why it didn’t work out I would say it was maybe because you were ‘over-rehearsed’. We talked a bit about this on the phone. I think you were finding it difficult to step back from your written answers and rather than recalling the actual experience, you were remembering your ‘lines’. This may have impacted on how authentic you seemed- it can be difficult to appear enthusiastic or to be genuine if you are too focused on saying the exact right things. I was hoping that the quality of your answers would let the assessors see past this to what you are capable of, but maybe they weren’t able to get past the feeling you weren’t responding in a natural or spontaneous way.

The workbook and all the exercises help you recognise how to clearly demonstrate the PQAs in your answer; they also teach you to provide enough detail to get your message across. You know how to do this now. Your best approach for the future would be to concentrate on remembering the incident you are describing from memory- i.e. what it felt like, what you can see in your mind’s eye that you did etc rather than focusing on getting ‘your speech’ right.

You have done all the hard work, you have learnt what you need to do to put together a good answer so now you have to get comfortable with answering the question naturally rather than a perfectly practised version. If you are a bit of a perfectionist you may find this difficult, but you can’t always control everything or get it exactly as you want. Sometimes you have to be able to accept ‘good enough’. Perfectionists can make life very tough for themselves if they can’t accept this because rarely do things turn out as ‘perfect’ as we feel they should be.

I remember that when I failed my driving test the first time I was disappointed but ok about it because it wasn’t unusual to fail 1st time. I really expected to pass the second time and when I failed again, to everyone’s surprise, I was gutted. I had tried so hard and really had expected to pass. By the time I took the test the third time my attitude had shifted. I was much more laid back. I felt like ‘I don’t care if I don’t pass because I know I can drive and I know I can get over the disappointment of failing. If I fail again it’s annoying, but I will keep doing this until I get it’. I passed that time. This time is going to be the hardest as you were really not expecting this outcome. Whatever happens in the future it won’t hit you this hard again. So you have nothing to lose, just pick yourself up and keep at it.

It’s hard to see now, but I’m sure there are positives that will come from this.

Take Care,


We worked together during a one to one interview coaching day and I’m sure you will be pleased to hear that this lovely guy is now a whole-time firefighter.

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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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