In the ten years since we launched www.FRSDevelopment.com we have had plenty of questions, and some which crop up again and again. Here are the top 7 most frequently asked:
7. How can someone with less experience get the job they want when someone with years of experience can be unsuccessful?
Length of time in a job doesn’t automatically lead to proficiency. In fact, sometimes it can lead to something called unconscious incompetence i.e. you feel like you can do the work in your sleep, but actually your standards have slipped and you aren’t doing it that well any more. Someone with less experience can still have a lot to offer, even if they also have a lot to learn. Its important not to generalise; assessment processes are in place to assess everyone equally and see what they have to offer when compared with what the Service needs.
6. Why was my application to be a firefighter rejected when I already work on-call (retained)?
The application process for a wholetime role relies on how well you provide evidence of your suitability for the job. If you have to complete an application form you have to describe your personal skills, in relation to your experience, in a clear and compelling way. Not everyone is very good at getting across in writing what they are capable of. Some FRS are now using online ability tests instead of an application form as the first stage. This might suit you better if you haven’t been successful with an application form.
5. Why can’t performance at the ADC (assessment and development centre) be video recorded?
Mainly due to lack of facilities. It could also lead to a massive strain on resources if everyone who was unhappy with a result asked to review the video of the session. Comprehensive note-taking is the next best option (it’s a lot quicker to review verbatim notes than re-watch a 20-minute roleplay).
4. What has an airport got to do with my ability to become a crew manager?
In the past, assessments such as roleplays or in-basket exercises were mainly set in a fictitious context, as this was felt to be fairer to everyone i.e. all candidates entered on a level playing field (none of them knowing what it was all about!) One of the first contexts used was set in an airport, with the candidate having to take the role of an airport manager. It wasn’t that popular. Now, FRS which use these types of exercises tend to use FRS context scenarios. Its still fictitious, and the exercise writers can still make sure the exercise are fair to all. But they tend to be better received as the situation in familiar and tasks make more sense.
3. Why isn’t my line manager’s recommendation good enough when it comes to promotion?
Not everyone gets on with their line manager. Not everyone’s line manager is that great themselves. Not all line managers have been trained in impartial and evidence-based appraisal techniques. It can be difficult to line managers to identify if the person in their Watch who is fantastic at their current job would be good at the next role up. Not everyone values the same sort of behaviours, so who was being recommended for promotion could vary considerably. For instance, one line manager might rate a highly authoritarian personal style whereas another would disagree. Standardised, scientific methods of assessment are more objective, consistent and fair.
2. What’s the point of the Personal skills and attributes (PQAs)/ competencies/ values
Most of us have horror stories about bosses who play favourites or discriminate unfairly; who are unclear or inconsistent in their communication or blame others for their mistakes; who belittle the team rather than support it or build its confidence; who refuse to give responsibility or who make their staff feel under-valued and unrecognised; whose emotions are unpredictable or their reasoning impractical. The impacts of these sorts of behaviours can be stress, absenteeism, poor morale, ineffective team functioning, a negative team culture… the list goes on. Good personal skills mean good managers, the sort of bosses we are happy to work with and who get the best out of us. The competencies/ PQAs/ Values are used to see how well candidates match up. If you demonstrate the skills listed in these frameworks, chances are you have a lot of the skills associated with a good manager.
1. How can competencies/ PQAs/ ‘soft’ skills be more important than operational capability?
There is no denying how important good operational skills are. But what is often overlooked is how important the personal skills are as well. It won’t matter how well you can apply your knowledge of procedures and technical skills at an incident if you have poor communication, team-working, confidence, attitudes or critical thinking. It’s the right mix of operational and personal skills which is crucial. Some assessments for promotion focus on the softer skills because by the time you are ready to apply for promotion you will likely have the correct level of technical capability. But how well you will be able to manage a team and lead complex situations may be less clear. That said, some FRS are now returning to a timed/ controlled operational assessment as part of the overall assessment process for promotion, to ensure nothing is overlooked.