Assessment Centres- the Facts and the Fiction

To gain promotion there will be a testing phase you will need to pass. It may not even be called an assessment centre (‘AC’ or ‘ADC’) anymore, but rest assured, many of the components will be exactly that. Here we look at the myths and realities of navigating this important career stage.

 
It will be more nerve-wracking than anything you’ve tackled in a long time

True. Most people do find an ADC very daunting, which always seems surprising given some of the thins Firefighters have to tackle! However, on the plus side, the vast majority of candidates report that the day wasn’t nearly as bad as they’d feared.

 
There will always be shouting to contend with in the role-play

False. There may be conflict of some kind but it isn’t always going to involve shouting! There may be resistance to overcome, compromise to be reached or challenges where you need to assert your authority, but these situations are often more subtle that you might expect.

 
The inbox or written exercise will be very difficult

True. It’s not that the exercise itself is designed to be especially hard, but it’s the area that most candidates are out of practice and therefore most apprehensive about. There are strategies you can apply in order to improve your performance and you do need to put aside time in advance to prepare- just as you would for any important exam.

 
You will be intimidated by having the assessors watching

False. You will honestly forget that they are there once your role-play gets underway. Thinking about it is worse than the reality. Admin staff do their best to timetable your direct line managers not to be in role-play assessments of their direct report personnel which can help.

 
The day will go really quickly

True. Candidates all comment how the day goes by in a flash because you are so engaged in what you are doing. You’ll also be very tired at the end of it, probably due to concentrating to assimilate new info.

 
Firefighter personnel who are also trained assessors can perform better when they go through assessment centres themselves

True. It’s not what you think however. There is no advantage in terms of the content of the exercises or knowing how to ‘perform’ on the day. But assessors do have an advantage in terms of knowing what to expect from the exercise format. Training as an assessor is a useful skill as it can help you learn to be more reflective on your own performance as you learn how to objectively rate others.

 
You will realise you enjoyed it when you get to the end

True. This may sound strange from where you are sitting but overcoming any challenge will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Many candidates quite enjoy the role-plays as they represent a chance to deal with issues that are probably quite familiar.

 
There no point putting yourself up for it unless you are sure you’ll do well

False. It’s hard to know how you are going to do in advance (unless you get performance feedback from a professional service such as those found on here). But even if you suspect you aren’t quite ready it’s worth giving it a go a) to get experience (nothing will be as daunting as the first one you do) and b) to have a sit down feedback session with someone from your organisation who can explain what you did well and what you could improve.

 
You have no idea what is expected of you

False. Some people feel that this is the case but that’s probably because they haven’t done anything to prepare in advance (find out more about the steps you can take here). Bear in mind that the benchmark for your performance is all written down right in front of you in the PQA frameworks. These documents describe what you need to aspire to. You just need to figure out how you personally are going to meet these standards of performance.

 
You will understand the relevance of the activities once you have completed the day

True. The ‘hoops’ you have to jump through will make more sense after the event. If you have a role-play where you have to manage an under-performing member of your team, this will make sense as there is likely to be a strong element of that in any role you are promoted into. Likewise, if you have to deal with a disgruntled member of the public, or explain the organisation’s position to an unreceptive audience, these too will seem relevant.

 
You will feel unprepared whatever you do

False. If you took your driving test without having any driving lessons you would feel unprepared. If you take an exam without studying you will also feel out of your depth. Promotional assessments are the same- the more work you put in beforehand, the more prepared you will feel. It’s very important to remember that traditional studying won’t do you any good. You’ll need specialist, practical guidance which can be found here.

 
You’ll be no better off afterwards if you don’t get promotion out of it

False. It’s good experience, irrespective of the outcome. Pushing yourself to overcome obstacles is always a worthwhile activity. In addition, you will be much better informed about what you need to do in the future to progress your career after the assessment. Some candidates will be too annoyed at the outcome to keep an open mind, which is a shame. But it’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone gets the result they want first time, but by accepting feedback and considering how to improve you will be in a much better position next time round.

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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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