Although you’ll be expected to have a level of numeracy and literacy skills to be a firefighter, one of the most important things the recruitment team will be looking for in the selection process is what kind of person you are, and how you match up to the requirements of the role – the PQAs (Personal Qualities and Attributes).
Of course the recruiters can’t just tell by looking at you whether you meet the standards, and won’t just take your word that you’re the right person for the job.
It’s up to you to prove this, by drawing examples from your past work and life experience.
But what counts as relevant experience – and more importantly how do you get this across in your application?
1.Look at the requirements the recruiters are looking for. Do all the research you can in this area! List them in order of importance.
2.Note down ALL the experiences you can think of that relate to the criteria and characteristics laid out in the requirements. Dig deep – think about not only your experience in employment but in life experiences, voluntary work, leisure time…
3.You have limited space in an application or CV so choose the best examples – ideally ones that show your skills in a few areas. Try to describe these in as concise a way as you can.
For example, you might have teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills which were especially apparent in a course you took part in for previous employment, or experience in coping under pressure, dealing with the public and decision making from volunteer work with an emergency service.”
4.Clearly show how what YOU did in the situation that contributed to the end result, and how it showed a clear example of when you met the criteria for the role you’re applying for.
5.Don’t use buzzwords or generic statements that take up space but don’t really explain what you did or why this experience is relevant to your application.
Saying “My time working in a small group as a warehouse assistant helped build my strong teamwork skills” doesn’t get the message across or back up the skills you’re claiming to have.”
A better way to put this would be:
I worked as part of a small team in a busy warehouse. We had to work together to tight deadlines in a controlled environment, which meant that good communication was essential between us in order to get the work done safely and on time. I was responsible for ensuring all safety paperwork was correctly completed and filed in a timely manner, which helped avoid delays and keep us on schedule.”
6.Sell yourself and highlight your experience but don’t exaggerate or embellish things – it won’t ring true, especially if it sounds unrealistic or if you stumble over your answers or are inconsistent when questioned further later in the process.
7.When you’re talking about experience from previous employment make sure you mention anything relevant to the role that you took on, even if it fell outside of your day-to-day duties.
Maybe you worked as a bartender but were also asked to take on responsibility for additional cash-handling and weekly banking tasks. This shows you are adaptable, and that your employers valued your honesty and integrity – as well as your numerical skills.
8.You don’t need to list the duties expected of you in previous roles entirely, just the parts that are relevant to the role you’re applying for now. Pick out the key skills that are relevant to the Firefighter requirements.
9.If you have gaps in your employment try to think of experiences you’ve had in those periods that could strengthen your application. Maybe you did a useful course, volunteered, or built up your skills in a sport. If there are any achievements you are proud of or feel that have helped you’re your personal development, then mention them!
10.Look for the positive in your experiences. Even if at the time it felt like there wasn’t a positive! Perhaps you started a business that didn’t work out – what did you learn from it? And how could what you learned be helpful to you in your new career?
If you feel like you could do more to build on your experiences then our advice is to go ahead – research what’s available in your area, perhaps volunteer or charity work, or a work experience placement.
There are a wealth of opportunities out there to help you gain relative experience, and a little time and effort in this area could be the key to you landing your dream career as a Firefighter.