Latest in Firefighter Recruitment – 3 examples of new methods of selecting firefighters

Most FRS’s are still using the National Firefighter Selection process either exactly as it has been for the last decade or so, or using most of it but adding their own elements to it.

A few FRS’s are doing something different – but even if they are, the principles of what they are looking for and how they assess it remain very much the same. It may cause confusion when the terms used to describe exercises are different, or the criteria seems to be different, but there is no need to worry, there is nothing dramatically different going on.

The guidance we offer in our products such as the Ability tests workbook, application form workbook and interview workbook will still stand applicants in very good stead, improving the way they describe their evidence and how they think about and demonstrate their attitudes and behaviours. These factors still remain at the core of the non-physical testing part of recruitment processes.

Here are some examples:


Cambridgeshire FRS

Cambridgeshire used the standard National Firefighter Selection process with a few changes:

‘An Interview with a mixture of competency and traditional questions to assess your personal qualities, behaviours, skills and experience in relation to those required for both the role and by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.’

The traditional questioning part is bespoke to this FRS. By looking at the job description and person specification applicants can prepare for these questions i.e. working out what they would be expected to do in the role and considering where their experience would complement this; thinking about answers to standard questions such as why they want to become a FF and what they know about the service etc.

‘Prior to attending the assessment day, you will be asked to complete an online personality questionnaire. The questionnaire has been designed to help understand your personality preferences at work.’

This looks at motivations, preferences in styles of work and attitudes. Understanding the core values of the FRS will help you make sure you are aligned in your own approach to the FRS but you should answer honestly and there is no need to prepare for a personality test as there are no right or wrong answers.

Interactive exercises.

‘These exercises are designed to assess how you behave and deal with certain situations that you may face as a whole time firefighter in addition to how effectively you communicate. There will be two different exercises. In one exercise you will meet with a colleague and during the second exercise you will meet with a member of the public. During both exercises you will be asked to deal with a situation relevant to the role of a whole time firefighter.’

Group discussion:

‘This exercise is designed to assess the behaviours that are important in both the role of a whole time firefighter and to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, including how you interact with others, your ability to communicate and challenge constructively and to work effectively with others as part of a team.’

The first exercises described are role-plays, so for instance you will be yourself and the actor will be a colleague with a problem/ concern or other issue. You will be told what your objective is i.e. to resolve the problem/ work together etc.

In the group exercise you may be given a problem to jointly resolve or a topic to discuss and reach conclusions on.

For both these exercises the Supervisory ADC workbook might be useful as it covers these types of exercises and many of the competencies/PQAs will be very similar.

London FRS

London FB has never followed the National Firefighter Selection process. Latest news we have on their process is this:

Practical exercise – Gridex

‘This is a practical exercise on a big chess board style floor. Candidates are given a short briefing about a scenario (e.g. some sort of accident where people need to be rescued). You have to work out how to get to the causalities e.g. what route for your team to take, avoiding certain ‘hazards’ (small cones placed out on the grid) and choose the equipment that we needed to perform the task (e.g. blocks and planks).’

This type of exercise will be interested in how you communicate, work with others to achieve a goal, problem solving, situational awareness e.g. recognition of risks and how to work around these.

Dictation test

‘This was listening to a recording of someone reading out some instructions. They were speaking at normal speed but with longer pauses in between sentences. This tested our ability to listen and write it down at speed.’

Visual estimation test

This was a timed test and consisted of around forty questions. Each question consisted of five figures, either rectangular or more complex and only two of the drawings were identical. We had to pick out the two identical shapes.

The interview consisted of exploring the PQA answers from the application form and some scenario questions.

The scenario questions went something like….

‘You have been asked to organise a charity event in the community, you must include it to be accessible to people from a range of different groups. How would you go about this task, what considerations would you have and what precautions would you take?’

And the other question was…‘There have been a number of small fires that have been started in the community, none that were serious. What ideas would you have to combat this problem and how would you go about it.’

This type of question is covered in the Ability tests workbook which offers plenty of practice and feedback on your answers.

Merseyside FRS

Initial Online Application

‘This is brief information about you with key questions that you are required to answer to help us decide if you have the right values for the organisation. From the evidence you provide, we will decide if you are to proceed to the next stage.’

More FRS’s are likely to start using this type of test. It is known as a realistic job preview. It asks questions to help you see if the job is actually right for you. For instance, if you reply no to a question like ‘are you comfortable working at height?’ then it might rule you out. It’s a quick and effective way of pre-screening people based on basic suitability for the role. You can’t really prepare for it, there is no point prepping for the test only to get the job then find out that actually, if you’d answered truthfully, you would have realised the job doesn’t really suit anyway.

Numeracy and Literacy tests.

If you do not have GCSE grade C or above in Maths and English Language or equivalent then you will have to undertake the following online tests:

  1. Numeracy skills – Ability to interpret basic numerical information (e.g. dials, tables, charts) and use arithmetical calculations correctly (e.g. able to work out operational times when using breathing apparatus). Basic adding up, multiplication, division and subtraction
  2. Literacy skills – Ability to communicate in writing i.e. to compose sentences to write emails and reports.

This is slightly different from the National Firefighter Selection process but some of these types of questions are covered with plenty of opportunity to practice in the Ability Tests book.

Assessment Centre

‘Centres are usually half a day in duration and consist of three to four exercises, with a combination of both group and individual exercises. Candidates are assessed against organisational values and key Firefighter role competencies.’

As commented earlier, and assessment centre covers role-plays and group exercises. The ADC workbook at supervisory level would be a helpful resource for you if you disregard the specifics of the Supervisory promotion process and just read the information about these exercises.

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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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