When you get an unwelcome result

Some of the negativity around promotions is related to stories we hear of people who went through an assessment and got ‘bad’ feedback. Or even worse, when we feel that this has already happened to us in the past.

So what do you do when you get unwanted feedback? And how can we use it to our advantage?

There’s no such thing

Gaining feedback, however difficult to hear, is our chance to learn. Even though it can smart a bit, if we can take it on the chin we can use it to improve our performance, and our chances of succeeding next time.

Any assessment feedback will be balanced. You will be told what you did well, and what you could have done better. Unfortunately, its human nature to tune out the ten good things we are told and focus on the one negative.

Try to be objective about the feedback you are given. You won’t like all of it; walk away and leave it for a few days if there are bits that rub you up the wrong way. When you have simmered down, come back with an open mind. The person making the assessment won’t have had any personal axe to grind. They will have made notes to back up their evaluation of how you performed, when compared against the criteria they were working with (often the PQAs). The feedback you are given tells you not only why you didn’t pass, but also exactly what you did which was contrary to what they were looking for. It’s pretty valuable stuff.


There seem to be a few common ways of dealing with negative feedback.

1) To suggest that the assessment wasn’t a fair test of your skills
2) To feel victimised or that the assessors weren’t experienced enough/ objective enough/ attentive enough etc.
3) To feel angry that your actions were misunderstood
4) To believe the assessment process was flawed or a waste of time

All of these reactions are understandable, and its fine if you fleetingly give in to annoyance or feeling sorry for yourself. But it’s what you do next that is important. If you refuse to believe what you are being told then you may be cutting off your nose to spite your face. The feedback you receive after an assessment holds the key to your improved performance in the next one. If you can’t get promoted in your FRS without passing an assessment then the only real option for you is to ‘suck it up’ and move on. Any comments made aren’t a personal attack- they are an assessment of how well you handled a particular scenario. And most of us could probably admit that we could’ve handled something a little better from time to time.

Making it work for you

Try to accept your feedback with an open mind. You may not agree with all of it, but listen to what the assessors have to say and work out how you can act on it. Speak to your line manager and ask for their help in improving your development areas. If they can’t or won’t help, think about who else you can approach i.e. the training or HR departments.

When you are given feedback, ask for any themes in your performance. It may not be useful long term to know that in one specific exercise you didn’t answer effectively on one specific point. But it would be useful to know that across all of your assessments you tended to behave in a particular way which wasn’t very positive or effective. From there you can find the support you need to change it, and next time round get the result you want.

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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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