Roleplays in Firefighter Recruitment

It used to be that we all knew what to expect from the firefighter recruitment process; whichever service you applied to, the steps were the same.

Not anymore! Just to make a challenging process even more complicated, the only thing you can expect now is something somewhat unfamiliar each time you apply.

One exercise which is making more frequent appearances in the recruitment process is the roleplay. You would tend to only be invited for this once you have passed an earlier stage, usually ability/ online testing or an application form.

Why use a roleplay?

This type of exercise is a good way for an organisation to learn more about how you interact with others. It may be the first time they get to see how you behave and communicate in person (even if this is just over the phone).

A roleplay is a straight-forward way of seeing:

  • How you take in information given to you
  • How you respond to the task or scenario
  • Whether you cope well when you are put on the spot ‘live’
  • How you build rapport with others
  • How well you can get your point of view across

Who uses them?

Most recently Northamptonshire held theirs at the Fire Services College, and Shropshire just completed theirs at their HQ in Shrewsbury. London FRS have just announced they are recruiting and list a roleplay amongst their selection activities.

What does a roleplay look like?

Usually this exercise will be in person i.e. you and a role-player, face to face. However, it can be done over the phone.

Although the set up might vary (i.e. you go into a room and the role-player is waiting for you, or you are sat in an assessment room and the role-player enters in character) the way the meeting progresses from there will follow a certain path.

  1. The introduction. If you have been given some information to prepare from before the meeting, it may be down to you to explain to the role-player why you wanted to see them. If the scenario is that you have been called to attend the meeting/ discussion, the role-player will introduce the subject.
  2. The next step is fact-finding. You need to find out as much as you can about the situation and the role-players perspective. You will do this by asking questions and fully listening to the responses.
  3. Once you’ve got a good grasp on the situation you will need to resolve it as best you can. This will involve offering solutions, giving guidance or explaining next steps. It will probably be a mixture of all three.
  4. There may be some to and fro to establish common ground and agree a way forward. To wrap up in a useful way you may wish to summarise what’s been agreed and what will happen next.

How to do well

Build rapport. Do this by taking time to show an interest in the other person, ask about themselves, listen actively to what they have to say (i.e. good eye-contact, nodding to acknowledge your understanding).

Don’t jump to problem-solving too quickly. You need to make sure you have gathered all the facts before you try to fix things.

Ask the role-player for their views and perspective. In real life they would have their own thoughts on the situation and for a lot of candidates these can be easy to overlook.

Suggest realistic solutions. Imagine money is no object and you have all the staff/ resources in the world….no, you don’t want to be THAT candidate! Most scenarios will have constraints; make sure you show your awareness of these, and propose suggestions which are viable. If you aren’t sure if it would work, ask the role-player what they think.

Measured communication. Talk too fast and you will likely make mistakes, plus it will seem like nervous energy. Take your time, form your points clearly, try not to repeat yourself or go round in circles just to fill time.

Refer back to information you have been given and add to this – don’t just repeat it with nothing further to contribute.

Further help

With all the changes going on in recruitment, we wrote our ‘Assessment Day’ e-book last autumn. Since then it’s been downloaded hundreds of times, helping Firefighter-hopefuls all over the UK.

To find out about a range of tests, exercises and activities now included as part of the firefighter selection process, including the roleplay, grab your copy now.

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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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