People working for the Fire and Rescue Service trust each other with their lives, and go to great personal risk to do their job.
Interviewers, therefore, are looking for candidates who can demonstrate they have the utmost integrity, ethics and respect for diversity.
We know it can be a struggle to get it right so we’ve highlighted some of the worst possible mistakes people make.
Read on to find out exactly what you shouldn’t say.
In terms of diversity, firefighters regularly deal with people from all walks of life so it’s essential not to make assumptions or generalise too much when discussing individuals or demographics. When talking about diversity, you want to demonstrate that you’re able to communicate effectively with everyone equally.
Avoid pigeonholing anyone, or you risk alienating yourself from the interviewer.
Avoid saying something like ‘I overcame the difficulties of communicating with the Asian population who don’t speak much English.’
Instead, you could say ‘English wasn’t the first language for one family in attendance so I made the effort to speak with them individually to ensure they understood the schedule of events.’
This is a better way of showing how your actions directly resulted in making the situation accessible and inclusive without it sounding like you’re generalising.
Likewise, don’t lump everyone in together. For example, when referring to an interaction with somebody who has Down’s syndrome, avoid saying things such as ‘People with Down’s syndrome are slow learners so I simplified my explanation.’ This can seem condescending, and as if you have a one-size-fits-all approach to those with learning difficulties.
Be specific; refer to who you’re talking about as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than as a generic ‘they’, otherwise you might come across as impersonal.
A vital part of assessing someone’s integrity is finding out how they respond when faced with a situation that made them uncomfortable. The interviewer may ask you to describe a time when you challenged behaviour that didn’t seem right.
A common mistake when answering this type of question is to come across as arrogant.
Inadvertently using judgemental language can be off-putting. Avoid this by using words with positive, more neutral, associations such as ‘improve his way of thinking’ instead of ‘change his way of thinking.’ You could also say, ‘I encouraged him to consider things differently’ instead of ‘I made him see things differently.’
When it comes to integrity, interviewers want to assess that candidates are honest and ethical, but also that they have scope for growth and development. You might be asked to provide an example of a time you have demonstrated your integrity in a difficult situation, such as after you made a mistake. How did you deal with it?
A major no-no for this type of question is to skirt the topic or refuse to acknowledge past mistakes or failures. Integrity isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being able to do the right thing, even under difficult or potentially awkward circumstances.
You could say something along the lines of, ‘I was working on a project with a colleague and agreed to take on some tasks that were outside my usual area of expertise. In the end, I realised it would be better to admit I was struggling and work together to come up with a solution rather than submitting something inadequate.’
Learning from mistakes
Don’t forget to tell the interviewer what you feel you learned from the mistake. They want to see how an error of judgement would lead you to actively change your future behaviour to ensure the same mistake isn’t repeated later on. Explain why you felt it was important to behave with honesty and integrity rather than choosing an easy way out.
Forgetting the details
A common blunder when answering a question about a personal experience is not providing enough detail. Who were you dealing with? Where were you? What did you do?
Explain anecdotes and situational examples, and fully set the scene so the interviewer doesn’t have to fill in the gaps themselves. Responses that are too generic or skip over details can sound fake, and when you want to emphasise your integrity, this is the opposite of what you want!
Making stuff up
Also remember that the worst way to answer this type of question is to lie or make stuff up!
Interviewers will likely be able to tell that your example isn’t genuine, which is a disaster when you’re meant to be proving your integrity!