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Fire Service Promotion

Whether you want to be promoted from…

  • Firefighter to Crew Manager/ Commander
  • Crew to Watch Manager/ Commander
  • Watch Manager to Station Manager/ Commander
  • Station to Group Manager/ Commander
  • Area to Brigade Manager/ Commander

…it’s a big decision.

You may have been doing the role temporarily for a while, or perhaps seen colleagues taking the step in and are feeling that you would be just as capable as they are.

So where do you go from here?

It will vary as to how frequently an FRS needs to assess candidates to fill vacant posts. When your FRS does decide it’s time to identify suitable candidates they will advertise.

Assessment processes

The procedures used to promote staff at all levels have changed over the last few years. FRS’s have largely stopped using the National ADC Toolkit (the consistent, nationally agreed assessment process). They tend to now make their own arrangements for identifying management potential and making selection decisions.

How to apply and what the assessment process looks like may now vary between different FRS, but there are still many commonalities. There is a requirement for FRS to stick to best practice rules of assessment and selection. These shared practices make it much easier for you to prepare for your promotion event.


Check with your FRS what the eligibility requirements are for you to apply for promotion. For some it is completion of a development programme, NVQs or achievement of evidence in the core role maps. For others, at certain levels, it is completion of the IFE exams. Most FRS require a line manager to validate an application and sign off their support for your career move.

In-Band Promotion

There is also the opportunity for career progression which includes movement between the following roles;

  • Crew to Watch Manager;
  • Station to Group Manager;
  • Area to Brigade Manager.

This is referred to as ‘In-band’ promotion, because you progress to the next level but remain within the same managerial ‘band’ i.e. Supervisory, Middle or Strategic.

Promotion decisions ‘in-band’ are often based on one or more interviews. Some FRS may use a written exercise as well but this is more unusual. The interview will often include technical questions specific to the role and PQA questions designed to assess your potential to be an effective manager. In some FRS the technical interview and PQA (or competency based) interview are split into two.

How potential for promotion is measured

Assessment for Supervisory level to Middle manager, or Middle Manager to Strategic is generally based, at least in part, on competencies. These are also known as Personal Skills and Attributes (PQAs) in the FRS (other organisations may have their own term but the concept is the same). Some FRS have developed their own framework to measure candidate’s values, attitudes and behaviours. The term doesn’t matter; whatever the name given, competencies tend to look the same, and broadly cover areas such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • Confidence
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity and fairness
  • High standards
  • Attitude to development
  • Safety and risk
  • Strategic awareness

All of these factors are covered by the PQAs, which the majority of FRS are still using to assess potential.
In any assessment process you will need to demonstrate how closely your behaviour matches the essential, pre-determined criteria (based on the competencies/ PQAs). This will determine how suitable you are for further career progression. The good news is that you can develop your skills and increase your potential in three ways:

  • Being informed about what the performance expectations are and what you personally need to do to meet them
  • Understanding the type as assessment activities you will encounter,
  • being sufficiently practised and prepared to demonstrate the right behaviour at the right time during these assessments

If you would like to know more about how to do these things this click here (ADC workbook)

Assessment outcomes

For many FRS, an assessment event (ADC or otherwise) will allow them to create a ranked list of candidates who have shown their potential to progress. It depends on the FRS what happens next. Sometimes it depends where you are on the list as to whether you are offered a job. In other FRS, ‘successful’ assessment means that you are placed on a development programme. At the end of this you will be further assessed for suitability, and offered a new post depending on outcomes. Some FRS operate a ‘talent pool’ which they draw on to fill new posts, then run a new ADC when the pool has been exhausted.

Some successful candidates who may be near the bottom of the list may not end up in a new job before the next assessment event comes round, in which case they often have to re-take the assessment. In other FRS the list of successful candidates is quickly exhausted and another assessment event is needed to continue to fill demand. It all depends on workforce planning and organisational requirements.
Winning strategy

Either way, as an applicant your best strategy is to make sure you are fully equipped to not only handle the assessment event well, but to come out at the top of the list. This will give you the most options.

Click here to find out the support options available to help you achieve this.

Next Page: Promotion Application form

Some FRS will request applicants complete an application form as the initial sifting process. This will sometimes need to be evaluated…