The first thing to mention is: there is not the same consistency in assessment methods used by the FRS as there used to be.
Up until fairly recently there was a National Firefighter Selection Process. This meant that MOST FRS (with only one or two exceptions, most notably London Fire Brigade) were using the same tests to find the right Firefighters for their service. So it didn’t matter where you applied you could expect the tests to be the same.
This was much the same in relation to promotions. There was a national process in place, using the National ADC (Assessment & Development Centre) Toolkit, which meant that most FRS (there are always a few wild cards!) were using the same tests to identify Firefighters for promotion. The benefits of this were the ease of transferability between FRS, and a clearer idea of what you would need to do in order to gain promotion.
But for various reasons, to do with funding, politics and the need for change, amongst other things, that consistency has been lost. Although some FRS’s are still using the previous methods, with many more using at least part of them, some are doing things differently.
What it was like…
The main elements of the National Firefighter process were:
- The Application form
- The Physical tests
- The Medical tests
- The Ability tests
- The Interview.
What it looks like now…
Some FRS’s are finding alternatives to the application form. This is because of how long it would take to mark it. With high numbers of applicants, it was proving too expensive and time-consuming for some.
Some FRS’s have replaced the application form with on-line testing. On-line testing is quicker and more cost effective.
For some FRS the ability testing phase has altered to on-line testing. The differences to you as an applicant won’t be that great, it might just be that the sort of skills/aptitudes you need as a Firefighter will be tested earlier in the process (which means you might get ‘sifted out’ earlier).
The interview is still a core part of every FRS’ selection process. But more recently, some FRS’s are moving away from using just competency based questions (‘tell me about a time when you have…..’ type questions) to also include more traditional questions, such as ‘what do you know about xxx Fire Service?’ ‘Why do you want to be a firefighter?’ etc.
What it means you…
In terms of uncertainty/anxiety, there may be an impact as you won’t be quite as clear what to expect. On the plus side, you might find it easier to not have to complete a PQA based application form.
Overall, what is being measured/assessed won’t be that different, but whereas before you could focus most of your attention on the PQAs and getting those right, now you will also need to have comprehensive answers to questions relating to the Fire Service, the role, national issues, your strengths etc., which will mean even more preparation time is needed for aptitude testing and the interview.
What it was like…
The National ADC toolkit used an ‘ITOP’ (written paper and SJT) followed by a group exercise, roleplays, in-basket and meeting exercise. The final hurdle was often then an interview.
What it looks like now
Similarly to the recruitment process, promotions might seem very different now, but actually they are much the same, only dressed up slightly differently. Your FRS might state ‘we don’t use ADCs anymore’ only to then use psychometric testing, a role-play and an interview, which ends up feeling a lot like an ADC to a candidate! Or it might advertise that there will be an ADC when actually the next step will be an operational/technical test followed by an interview (which pushes the definition of a proper AC/ADC to its limits!)
Something that is being seen more and more, is a return to the technical testing of days past. One of the complaints about the PQA based ADC processes is that in focusing solely on behaviours/competencies, some of the essentials of being a firefighter had been lost.
What it means you…
You need to now not only understand the concept of and how to apply the PQAs, plus what to expect from an ADC; you now also need to be able to demonstrate a pretty strong ability to revise and memorise anything from technical procedures to policy and legislation. It depends on your FRS and what they prioritise. But uncertainty about the PQA/ADC system unfortunately may have led to the need for even more hard work and preparation to cover ALL the bases.