Application And Candidate Review
Methods of application
When planning your approach to recruitment, it is important to consider your candidate journey. The journey will most likely begin with an Application Form or an Expression of Interest (EOI), however, you may also want to consider some alternatives to help you reach the widest pool of people you can to support diversity and inclusion. Whichever route you choose, it is important to consider your process from the applicant’s point of view so that all applicants have a positive experience when applying to join your Service.
This section will consider the various methods of application and starts with some general considerations before delving into the options that are available to you for the application stage of your recruitment process.
What is the right approach for us?
If you are expecting hundreds or more applicants, then an application form will help you to provide evidence of a fair process and your ability to shortlist against the Person Specification. This will demonstrate that you have satisfied the Public Sector Duty.
An application form will also help you identify the candidates who meet your strict selection criteria and will be an effective way to reduce the number of candidates progressing to the next stage. This will help you to mitigate/reduce your resource and financial costs associated with recruitment.
Whichever approach you decide to take, the most important thing is that you ensure you clearly communicate your process to all potential candidates. Candidates need to be clear about exactly what it is they need to do. This will help you to demonstrate you are committed to a fair and consistent approach in your recruitment.
Things to consider may include:
- How long your process will take?
- What will your comms plan will look like to ensure that all applicants are well-informed?
- How are you going to maintain a good level of engagement with your applicant pool?
- What will you include in the design of your Candidate Information Pack to ensure you provide all the information that applicants will need. Make sure you include key dates and deadlines
- how will requests for reasonable adjustments be considered and actioned, including requests from neurodiverse candidates. Click the link to see more about accommodating neurodiversity in the selection process
- how you will use technology in your application process for automation and where may you need to offer alternatives for offline candidates (UK statistics from Digital 2022: The United Kingdom — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights; accessed 2022)
- how relevant is the information you are collecting regarding an applicant’s previous employment history and their qualifications? (Excluding Maths/English)
- is what an applicant has done in the past a true and reliable indication of their potential for success in the role of a Firefighter?
- How will you assess an applicant’s personal values and how they align to your service values?
- What other experience can they bring to the role?
- What are your shortlisting criteria, and what are you specifically looking for in an application?
- Is your process transparent?
Finally, you will need to complete an Equality Impact Statement (EqIA) for your finalised process.
The NFCC EqIA Toolkit (including the EqIA template) is available here.
For Green Book roles, if the role you are advertising is one that requires creativity (such as a design or media role) or, if applicants will have similar qualifications, then allowing the submission of a CV may be a preferable approach. This could be supplied and considered in support of an application form or as an initial to your application form. Similarly, you may want to include a technical test or similar, to assess creativity which may result in a better hire.
Application process tips
Top tips for the application process include:
- Keep your application process short and simple to provide a satisfying candidate journey and make sure you set out your timings clearly at the start
- Add an FAQ section to your website and/or Candidate Information Pack and provide helpful tips to help your candidates prepare and provide their best submission.
- Incorporate ‘mobile’ into your process. Glassdoor reports that 45% of jobseekers say that they use their mobile device specifically to search for jobs at least once a day. Many candidates rely on their mobile for job searches, job alerts and their applications are done via their mobile; it is good to realise this potential to reach the widest possible candidate pool to assist in supporting diversity and inclusion
- Keep your online Careers/Job page updated with the latest content and make it easy to navigate. Make it clear if potential candidates need to create an account for an online application and provide a point of contact for any problems
- Make your process user-friendly, so you attract, engage and retain potential candidates.
- Limit any screening questions. According to Indeed, they found that applications with 20 screening questions lose 40% of job applicants.
(Sources: Glassdoor and Indeed; accessed 2021)
Good for collecting easily comparable information from applicants, which supports a fair and consistent shortlisting/sifting approach. The downside is that it may deter neurodiverse candidates from applying, limiting, and reducing the diversity of your candidate pool.
Pros of the Application Form
- Asking candidates to complete an application form is a standard approach in a recruitment process, and candidates will be familiar with this approach.
- Using an application form means that you are collecting the same information from all candidates, which ensures consistency and supports a fair process.
- It allows you to obtain answers to the specific questions you may have and can demonstrate a candidate meets specific qualifying criteria included on the Person Specification.
- It will support your assessors to sift through the applications at the shortlisting stage and complete the Shortlisting Matrix, which in turn helps you to reduce your candidate pool for the next stage of the recruitment process.
- If you use an online application form, then you can easily link to this from your comms channels. Sharing the link via social media channels, digital newsletters, email subscriber lists, internal and external updates, online job boards etc is easy and will help drive applicants to the application portal.
- Online, digital application portals utilise technology to assist with shortlisting, sending emails to applicants etc. Utilising automated processes will reduce the administrative burden on internal resource, help reduce costs, cut response timeframes for candidates, and help to limit recruitment costs. It will also provide accurate recruitment metrics and facilitate data analysis and real-time reporting.
Cons of the Application Form
- By only using an application form as the first stage of your recruitment process, you may be missing-out on people who would apply via an online job-boards such as Indeed or Reed that require candidates to apply by submitting their CV from their profile. Using this approach in isolation, however, could potentially discriminate those who do not have access to technology. (Generational or Socio-economic impact)
- Restricting the application form solely to an online format could potentially limit your candidate pool for those people who do not have online access or use of technology.
- An application form can restrict candidates from showcasing how they meet your Person Specification and can therefore limit the diversity of your candidate pool applicants
- Using an application form can deter people with disabilities such as dyslexia from applying or alternatively hamper their ability to perform well, survive the sift and progress past the shortlisting stage – again this can limit the diversity of your candidate pool, and particularly in terms of neurodivergence.
- Shortlisting is a manual task and a significant task where there is high volume of applications and requires significant resource to process them to progress applicants to the next stage. (Most FRS receive 100s/1000s of applications for the role of wholetime firefighter).
- A written Application Form could be a potential barrier for BAME applicants where English is not their first language
Application Forms – Best Practice
There are standard data collection fields that you will automatically want to collect such as personal contact details, but the application form should correlate with the role being advertised, and the questions being asked should be meaningful. Using the job description and person specification as a reference when deciding what other questions you want to ask is, therefore, always beneficial.
Standard Application Form questions
- Personal details
- Personal contact details (address, email, phone)
- Employment history
- Driving licence details (if role requires driving)
- Relative of a Fire Authority member or employee of Service?
- Barred from holding public office? (Include definition of a public official)
- Criminal convictions’ disclosure (Assurance statement that data is not disclosed)
- Candidate Declaration (true and factually correct information) with signature field or tick box
- Qualifications (refer to Person Specification)
Suggested optional Application Form questions
- Diversity Data collection fields (accompanied by employment monitoring statement and GDPR)
- Where did the candidate see the job advert? (Dropdown options for monitoring purposes)
- Member of a UK proscribed group? (yes/no) Include additional information such as ‘’A proscribed group is an extremist group or organisation banned under UK law. More information and the current list of UK proscribed groups can be found here: Proscribed terrorist groups or organisations – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Barred from holding public office? (yes/no). Include an additional statement such as:
UK law defines a public official as an individual who is in a position of authority. The individual will hold a judicial, legislative or administrative position, whether this is appointed or elected
Suggested statements to include within Application Form
- Social Media Statement
Example: XYZ Service values its public reputation highly. This can be negatively impacted upon by the actions on social media of those identified as being employees and those undertaking selection for employment. If during your application process, it is brought to our attention that your public social media profile contains posts which contravene our core values or contain items of a discriminatory nature, this may impact on your application progressing.
- Criminal Convictions Statement (Rehabilitation of Offenders Act)
- Data Protection Statement
- Employment Monitoring Statement
Questions to avoid
Avoid asking questions on an application form about any of the following:
- age, race, gender, religion, belief, sexual orientation, disability
- marital status
- children and childcare arrangements
- health record
Any questions that relate to the nine protected characteristics defined in The Equality Act 2010 will put your Service at risk of litigation on the basis of discrimination, either direct or indirect.
Also see the section on employer accreditation in Prepare to Recruit that will demonstrate to potential candidates your commitment to upholding a fair and consistent recruitment process for all candidates.
- Allow people to give information on experiences from outside of paid work. This can help people whose protected characteristics have influenced their work history, to show they have gained skills in other ways and will support your equality, diversity, and inclusion.
- Get the candidate to give examples of how they share the values of your organisation in the application form. This could link to the NFCC Core Code of Ethics or the NFCC Leadership Framework at the Leading Yourself level.
(Source ref: Skills for Care, accessed 2021)
Further examples of application forms, kindly supplied and shared by fire and rescue services, are below.
Good for quick applications via online job boards. Better when used as a first step to apply, followed with more targeted questions on an application form
A Curriculum Vitae, most often referred to as a CV, is a commonly used format for applicants to use when applying for a job and are a popular choice for online job boards such as Indeed, Reed, Monster etc as the first step in the recruitment process. Applicants can easily submit their CV by creating a profile, uploading their CV and clicking ‘apply.’
A CV is a written summary of a person’s career, qualifications, education, and employment history which is usually formatted in chronological order. A CV will also include contact information, a personal statement, professional experience, academic history, key skills and qualifications, professional certifications.
The creation of a CV can be a real opportunity for applicants to showcase their IT skills, their written communication skills and communicate the value they could bring to the role and the Service. There is no length requirement for a CV, but a focused approach tailored to the role being applied for is advocated, and a CV should ideally be kept to about two A4 pages.
Styles and approaches to CV writing:
1. Functional or Skill-based CV: focusses on skills and expertise rather than work experience, so popular with graduates
2. Chronological CV: the more commonly used type of CV and popular with people who have accumulated work-related experience
3. Combination CV: a combination of both the Functional CV and the Chronological CV, which is often used for managerial / executive posts, to highlight experience and required skills.
4. Creative CV: a popular choice for creative fields such as graphic designing, media, marketing
5. Academic CV: used primarily to apply for doctoral degree, research fellowship, Lectureship
Pros of using a Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- It can be an effective way for applicants to express themselves in their own style and give as much/as less information as they wish and show their personality early in the process.
- A CV can be an effective way to identify qualifications and previous work history if this is felt to be relevant
- A CV can demonstrate an applicant’s motivation for applying and effectively communicate what they believe they can bring to the role at an early stage
- A CV is a demonstrable indication of an applicant’s level of literacy and use of IT/technology
- Using CV submissions could significantly reduce the time and resources required for the sifting process and use technology to aid assessing preferred candidates for the next stage.
Cons of using a Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Applicants may use a generic CV which does not directly apply to the role rather than offering specific information sought by the Service
- It is difficult to compare CVs (Curriculum Vitae) when sifting as they will not all contain the same information, and this may lead to challenges on the grounds of fairness and consistency
- The use of a CV at application could potentially disadvantage applicants who are younger or have less professional experience and feel unable to demonstrate their suitability for the role. (This can be mitigated by choosing the most suitable CV format)
- It may be more difficult to maintain anonymity when CVs are used due to the personalised nature of the information supplied at the applicant’s discretion.
A supporting statement is another way for candidates to outline their suitability for a particular role and is an opportunity for them to ‘speak’ directly to you. You may take this approach when hiring for managerial roles where experience, skills and knowledge are likely to be similar due to the level of the role and so where you are looking for the right person to lead a team or Service.
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) will usually contain a supporting or personal statement at the beginning and are usually tailored for each job that the applicant applies for, summarising their suitability for the role you have advertised. It is usually only about four sentences long, however, a supporting statement can also be requested as part of an online application. Used in this way, it can be a useful mechanism to gain insights into the applicant’s understanding of the role you are looking to fill. For the purposes of consistency and comparison, it is a good idea to set a limit on word count, though!
Different kinds of Supporting statements
Supporting statements can either be free-text or guided.
1. Free Text
The expected structure of a free-text supporting statement would be as follows:
- Introduction – this introductory summary usually opens with the applicant confirming the role they are applying for, who they currently work for and their experience in this field to date
- What they can bring to the role – this is where the applicant mentions the skills, knowledge, experience or competencies that make them a suitable candidate for the role and the expertise they will bring to your Service. They may also provide examples of their success in a previous role and how they achieved this through teamwork and effective communication. It should include specific examples rather than generic ones.
- Why they are applying – this is where you will get an understanding of the applicant’s motivation for applying for the role and your Service. The appeal if you like, and should demonstrate a wider understanding of your Service, mentioning their synergy with your Service Values for example or a desire to deliver your overarching Service objectives such as Prevention, Education, Fire Safety as well as emergency response.
- Closing paragraph – This should be a summary by the applicant where they re-emphasise their suitability for the role, summarise what they will bring to your Service and reiterate why they are interested in the role. It may also include an affirmation of their availability for the interview dates you have advertised, and is also where a candidate would potentially disclose a disability and request for reasonable adjustments. (There is no legal obligation for an applicant to disclose a disability to a potential employer)
2. Guided Supporting Statements
You may decide that to support consistency in assessing the supporting statements you receive, that you will provide a defined structure for the candidate to guide them in composing their personal statement. If you are using a Person Specification, you may want your structure to reflect this. You may also want to provide some guidance for applicants as well, and you may want to include an example of what ‘good’ looks like.
- An example of some guidance provided to support applicants in writing a supporting statement is here (Surrey Council; accessed 2022)
- Another example is available here (The Careers Group, University of London; accessed 2022)
- An example of a statement-based application form that includes a personal statement is available here (Essex.ac.uk; accessed 2022)
Expression of interest (EOI)
Internal Expression of Interest
An Expression of Interest or EOI as it is commonly referred to, can be used as an internal mechanism to fill posts and has the added advantage that you will already be acquainted with your employee’s personality, abilities, and expertise. Used well, an EOI will help build employee engagement through offering development and progression opportunities; it will also assist you in building workforce resilience whilst supporting workforce planning and succession planning in your Service. An EOI can be used internally to advertise for a particular recruitment cohort, a geographical or departmental area and/or a particular skill set.
An EOI is usually short and concise and limited to two pages. It is a professional summary of the candidate’s suitability for the role. The applicant is required to complete an EOI Form which has been created by the hiring manager using a Service template. Questions are based upon the role map, the job requirements and meeting any specific specialist skills criteria, if required. (Technical Rescue, for example). The applicant will need to demonstrate on the form how they meet the criteria, and the hiring manager will then need to score and record applicant results on the appropriate corresponding form. Since these are internal candidates, there is an expectation that the hiring manager will then provide useful and practical feedback to applicants to support their development and success with future applications.
Internal EOIs can, therefore, be used by a service for roles at the same rank (with specialist skills) or at for roles at a higher rank (subject to criteria being met) for a temporary promotion when a pool of promotable candidates does not exist. Once a suitable candidate for promotion does exist, and subject to them accepting the vacant substantive post, the term of the EOI will come to an end.
An example EOI form is available here (Dorset & Wiltshire FRS)
External Expression of Interest (EOI)
When used externally, an EOI is a useful mechanism to help you create an applicant pool for your next Wholetime recruitment campaign. This will allow you to communicate with potential candidates and provide support materials to them well in advance of any campaign launch date. It also provides an opportunity to invite potential candidates to attend events such as Awareness Days, provide information on the varied role of a modern day Firefighter and invite them to attend awareness days where they can ask questions and get to really understand the Firefighter role they are interested in.
This approach can also be useful for On-call station recruitment, especially if it is known that the pool of people who will meet the response times may be limited or if a station-specific context is known to make recruitment difficult.
More generally, keeping a pool of candidates who are interested in working for your service may help you with increasing your applicant pool for vacancies. You may also be able to use this pool to fill temporary Green Book roles when there are capacity issues or long-term sickness cover is required for example, hence helping to reduce any potential recruitment agency costs. For Green Book roles, using this approach may also help with difficult to fil roles or roles where the candidate market is limited or highly competitive against other employers, such as IT roles.
A mechanism for prospective EOIs can also be used by external applicants and submitted even when there are currently no vacancies. This means that you can collect personal contact details, which can be retained until such time as a suitable vacancy may arise, and they can be invited to apply. In these cases, the EOI created by the candidate may not necessarily be role specific, but may be focused on the benefits they can bring to your service.
Candidates living with a disability should be offered the opportunity for reasonable adjustments to the application process to enable them to apply for the role. Using an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) to assess your application process and form will help you to identify potential areas to address and help you to plan how to remove any identified barriers.
Candidates living with a disability should be offered the opportunity for reasonable adjustments to the application process to support them in applying for a role. Using an Equality Impact Assessment to assess your application process and form will help you to identify potential areas to address and help you to plan how to remove any identified barriers.
- Tools, resources and downloads for undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA)
- NFCC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Hub
Equality monitoring during the application process
Using a separate monitoring form to gather personal information about candidates for monitoring purposes can help to ensure that this personal data is not seen by the shortlisting or interviewing panels. In compliance with data protection legislation, data must be held securely and processed as per ICO guidelines and the GDPR 2018. The retention of data will need to be managed as per your Retention Schedules and should not be kept for longer than required.
Links A downloadable template from ACAS is available here.
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Hub | NFCC CPO is available for you to access and use.
- The EDI Data Toolkit is here
Monitoring data – Data collection & GDPR (legal obligations)
1.2.1 State, on any application form, to whom the information is being provided and how it will be used if this is not self-evident.
1.2.2 Only seek personal information that is relevant to the recruitment decision to be made.
1.2.3 Only request information about an applicant’s criminal convictions if and to the extent that the information can be justified in terms of the role offered. If this information is justified, make it clear that spent convictions do not have to be declared, unless the job being filled is covered by the Exceptions Order to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
1.2.4 Explain the nature of and sources from which information might be obtained about the applicant in addition to the information supplied directly by the applicant.
1.2.5 If sensitive data are collected, ensure a sensitive data condition is satisfied.
1.2.6 Provide a secure method for sending applications
(Source ref: ICO, accessed 2021)
Information for assessors
During the selection process, it is important that assessors are aware of the possible occurrence of bias affecting their decision-making in identifying successful candidates. Guarding against bias is best addressed by providing training to all assessors in advance of the launch of any recruitment process.
Realistically, eliminating bias completely is highly unlikely to be achieved, since the process involves human decision-making, which is subjective! However, each Service can strive to reduce and minimise bias through providing training and by developing a culture of reflection and striving for improvement, which will help inform and support the provision of a recruitment process that is as fair and open as is humanly possible.
1. Confirmation Bias
This is where we look for evidence to confirm a pre-existing belief or hypothesis, and will impair our judgment and inhibit our ability to treat all candidates fairly and equally. The Halo Effect and Horns Effect are both examples of confirmation bias.
2. The Halo Effect
This refers to a tendency to allow something we like about an applicant to affect our judgment about other factors we should be considering. It can be particularly strong if we perceive a candidate has similar attributes to us meaning that at a subconscious level, we think they look like ‘the right person’ even before we have completed the selection process
3. The Horns Effect
This is the opposite of the halo effect, when something we dislike about an applicant which prompts a subconscious negative reaction which we then allow to affect our judgment. This may be something specific to the candidate when they present at interview, such as their appearance, their accent. At the sifting and shortlisting stage, it may be something as simple as their name which prompts a subconscious stereotypical assumption about their ability as a ‘type of person’
Transference happens when you transfer the characteristics of one person over to another, such as when one application reminds you of one from a previous employee who worked well for you once before. This leads your subconscious brain to leap to the conclusion that this person will be the same. As a result, there is a risk that we will just look for evidence to prove our initial judgment-call is correct, rather than searching for more rounded evidence.
5. Successive contrasting bias
This can occur when someone who appears to be an outstanding candidate causes the assessors to then judge successive candidates negatively. At the sifting stage, you may be inclined to judge the written evidence of subsequent candidates more harshly; at interview, it may influence the next three candidate assessments.
See more on behavioural biases here in the CIPD report ‘A head for hiring’ on page 16, available here
Ways to limit bias
As previously referred to earlier in this step, one way to reduce the potential for bias creeping into your recruitment processes is to provide training for all those involved in the assessment of applicants. Unconscious bias training can help to raise awareness of the potential for bias so that assessors can guard against it affecting their decision-making and their assessment of candidates. Bias can affect all stages of the recruitment process, from the criteria being specified in the job advert at the very start through to the decision being made at the sift, shortlisting, and interview stages. For this reason, it is recommended that everyone involved in the recruitment process attend and complete the training provided. Building this into your Manager Development Programme can help you to build a pool of informed assessors for future processes and can help to embed the learning within the Service.
The use of a principle such as ‘notice the first thought, act on the second’ is a good way to help assessors to reflect on their decisions and challenge their assumptions, helping to address anyone from acting upon bias or unfounded prejudice.
2. Providing a diverse panel
This can help you in challenging any groupthink creeping into your recruitment process because the panel members are all thinking in the same way. Ideally, a panel should include someone from outside the line management chain for the post, and a representative from the HR Team. Other things to consider include providing a gender balance, representation from black and ethnic minorities, and demonstrating that your Service has a positive and enabling approach to including people living with a disability.
3. Blind recruitment
Some Services have taken the view that using the process of “blind recruitment,” can help to eliminate bias (Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1952) by removing all candidate information such as name, gender, age, and educational background until a candidate reaches the interview stage. Who to shortlist can then be based solely on the evidence provided by the candidate on their ability to do the job.
Other Services take the opinion that blind recruitment is ineffective as it means that assessors cannot see the whole picture a candidate presents and believe it favours candidates who have benefited from previous recruitment bias via previous career success. (Coca-Cola Eastern Europe)
4. Sifting Problems
Problems at the sifting stage may include:
- A high volume of applications
- A higher than anticipated volume of good quality applications
- A shortfall of good quality applications that evidence your selection criteria
Regardless of the number of applications you receive, you will need to make sure that your shortlisting criteria are applied consistently, fairly, and objectively.
Shortlisting Guidance & Scoring Criteria (Kindly supplied by Scottish FRS)
The duty for prospective employers to make reasonable adjustments for applicants during their recruitment process applies at all stages, including the shortlisting and selection decisions which are made at application.
Employers who have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme are publicly declaring their commitment to:
- inclusive and accessible recruitment
- communicating vacancies fairly and openly
- offering interviews to people living with a disability who meet the essential criteria
- providing reasonable adjustments where reasonably practicable to do so
- supporting existing employees
The legal definition of a disability is defined as someone with a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ effect on their ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act 2010). It is always good practice to remember, therefore, that not all disabilities may be visible and that applicants will need to disclose this personal information to you if you are to provide any reasonable adjustments.
With this in mind, during the recruitment process, it is good practice to ask applicants to let you know as soon as they can if they require any reasonable adjustment so that you can make arrangements to support them.
Any reasonable adjustments that need to be taken into consideration during the process of selection and shortlisting will need to be known by the assessors. However, all personal data should be handled in line with the General Data Protection Regulations 2018. Therefore, Service employees involved in the recruitment process should be able to demonstrate their understanding of their obligations in this regard and the Service able to evidence that training has been provided and completed.
During the shortlisting stage of your recruitment process, you will be evaluating the applications you have received to decide who will be invited to the next stage of your process. Depending on how you have designed your process will inform how great your use of technology will be in streamlining this stage or how resource-intensive it will be if using assessors to manually work through the applications. You may decide that the HR Team conduct an initial sift to identify those people who do not meet essential criteria such as qualifications and then use assessors for the next stage. Whichever approach you decide to adopt, it must be clearly agreed and recorded in advance of commencing the recruitment process.
Sifting and shortlisting
During the shortlisting process, you will be sifting through multiple applications and each applicant will need to be assessed against your agreed shortlisting criteria. This shortlisting process can be divided into three stages:
1. The initial sift is used to identify candidates who do not meet the required criteria for the role, or those who have failed to complete all the sections of the application form. This can be a manual process carried out by your administrative team to check whether the minimum criteria you have stipulated has been met by the applicant. Alternatively, if you have the functionality in your online application portal, you may choose to use this automated process to reduce the time and resource required for this stage.
An excerpt from an article on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) website that you may find interesting on the use of technology in recruitment is below:
”Technology plays an increasingly important role in recruitment, ranging from attracting candidates through to the selection process. Online recruitment can mean employers receive large numbers of applications, which automation can help to manage. Our Resourcing and talent planning survey found that technology is being used increasingly to conduct interviews or run assessments online. AI and ‘gamification’ are also being used as part of the selection process to assess potential performance and ability. Organisations must assess any technology before adopting it, making sure it’s been robustly tested, provides a good candidate experience, and is fair and inclusive. There’s more in our factsheet on Artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace”. (Source ref; CIPD, accessed 2021)
2. The individual sift should then be conducted by the individual members of your panel for the applications that have passed the initial sift. Panel members will need to make an initial assessment of the applications prior to meeting with the rest of the panel. At this stage, if you have received a high volume of applications, you may decide to split the applications between your panel members in the first instance instead of each panel member looking at all of them.
Each panel member will need:
- Their own set of application forms (either electronic or paper copies).
- Their own set of shortlisting/rating forms (either electronic or paper copies)
They may also find it helpful to:
- Highlight sections or statements which provide key evidence of meeting/not meeting the criteria.
- Annotate their copies with their notes as an aide memoir, noting things such as anything they may wish to follow up at the interview.
- Record their own score on the shortlisting/rating form for each of the criteria.
3. The panel sift is a collective decision as to who will be invited onto the next stage or for interview, and allows the panel to focus on the highest scoring candidates that have been identified by each member and come to a collective decision. Each panel member’s individual scores, and notes, will provide the basis for a discussion with the other panel members. After discussion, it may be that these initial scores are amended, such as in the case of another panel member identifying a piece of relevant evidence that may have been missed or misinterpreted at the individual stage.
Panel members will need to ensure that they have enough time to thoroughly read and assess each of the application forms, making sure that they focus on the evidence presented by each candidate fairly and equally and marking it against the assessment criteria. If at all possible, this is best done in one sitting to support consistency and fairness.
Shortlisting resources kindly supplied by UK fire and rescue services are listed below:
Throughout the shortlisting process, your panel members should have a fair and unbiased approach to the process, being mindful to avoid any unintended or unconscious bias. The processes should be conducted at least two people who both have experience in recruiting.
The shortlisting criteria should be clearly defined and the distinction between essential and desirable clearly noted. The rejection of any candidate for the role should be based purely on these requirements, and no additional criteria can be introduced into the process after the role has been advertised.
The scoring matrix used should be agreed and noted in the Service policy and clearly explained to avoid any misinterpretation. Some Services shortlist with a numerical score assigned to a definition; this can range from a 1 – 5 scale, 1- 4 scale up to a 1-10 scale.
Resources kindly supplied by fire and rescue services are listed below:
Marking Guidance (Derbyshire, FRS)
Shortlisting Form (WYFRS)
Shortlisting Matrix (RBFRS)
Moderation is a separate part of the shortlisting process. The purpose of moderation is to ensure that your shortlisting outcomes are fair and that the shortlisting criteria have been applied consistently by your assessors/interviewers. Any differences that are identified at this stage can then be acknowledged and addressed before the applicant outcomes are communicated. This helps to reduce challenge and supports your reputation and employer brand as a fire and rescue service.
It is recommended that those involved in the shortlisting stage of your recruitment process meet prior to commencing to create a shared understanding of how your assessment criteria should be applied. The expectation that assessors should be able to reach a consensus across all the panel members to produce an agreed outcome. If there should be any unresolved disagreements, however, there should be a contingency mechanism in place to handle this and, if necessary, resulting in escalation to the Recruitment Manager for resolution.
You will need to decide which approach you will take to your moderation process; this will be influenced by the financial and time resources you have available to you and the number of applications you receive. It is usual for a fire and rescue service to receive high volumes of applicants for the role of a Firefighter and so you may choose to approach your moderation via random sampling rather than a double review approach for all assessments, Ideally, all assessors on a panel should provide their own independent marks and feedback notes and an agreed final outcome sheet so that the reasoning behind the shortlisting decision-making can be understood and available after the process has closed and is being reviewed and moderated.
Telephone or online screening call
A telephone or an online screening call is another option available to you for evaluating and shortlisting applicants and can be a good approach if you are looking to reduce costs, save time and provide a timely candidate journey. Screening can be a useful first mechanism to assess an applicant’s suitability for a Firefighter role and can help you to reduce the number of applicants you progress to the next stage of your process. Ideally, the call should last no longer than 30 minutes and the same questions should be asked to all candidates. Assessors should be briefed and trained prior to commencement to support process consistency and fairness across all the applicants. Since screening can often be a one-person assessment, it is imperative that they record their notes and the applicant outcome on a scoring matrix.
Telephone or online screening is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask questions and clarify anything they are unsure about in the recruitment process. It is also an opportunity for you to create a good impression and promote your employer brand and employee value proposition.
If successful at this stage, the applicant would be progressed to the next stage of your recruitment process for further assessment against your criteria.
Supporting your candidates before, during and after your recruitment process will help build a relationship with them, demonstrate that you are living your values and will start to build a strong and positive psychological contract with them. Even if they are not successful, they will still have positive things to stay about your service, and this will only help to enhance your employer brand and reputation within the community. If they decide to apply again, then providing feedback will go a long way to helping them to be successful next time.
When you are providing candidates with their final outcome, you may also want to consider providing an opt-in link for them to receive an e-newsletter. This will allow you to stay connected with them and keep your candidate pipeline engaged with you. Things you may want to consider providing could include useful information about free engagement activities such as Have a Go Days, Information Sessions, or volunteering opportunities. You may also want to provide links to online physical training resources such as fitness videos or how to prepare for Assessment Days and testing to help them prepare well in advance of the next recruitment process.
By adopting this approach and making sure you have prepared content in advance of the recruitment process concluding, you can build engagement and support candidates. By utilising comms software to automate this process for you and also utilising automated social media messages, you can continue to increase your reach. Consistent and well-planned comms will also offer you the opportunity to fully represent the modern role of a Firefighter by showing the full range of activities that the role requires, perhaps via a series of videos from across the service like ‘A Day in the Life of ’. This way you will be able to show things like Safe & Well Visits, Fire Safety and Prevention work in schools for example, alongside the better-known response side of the role.
In the next three sections, further information is provided for you on supporting candidates in three specific areas of the recruitment process. A few real life examples from fire and rescue services have also been included to help and inspire you as you create your own approach to supporting your candidates.
Preparing to apply
When you launch your recruitment process, it is a good idea to provide some applicant support materials to help your applicants to achieve their best. This can be done by providing downloadable pdfs or links on your web-page or on your application portal. You may also want to provide examples of the tests that you will require applicants to complete so that there are no surprises and applicants can prepare in advance of testing days.
- Example web content from Tyne and Wear FRS is here
- Wholetime Firefighter information pack from GMFRS is here
- On-call Firefighter recruitment support materials from Cheshire FRS is here
Inviting to selection stage
Once you have completed the sift and shortlisted which applicants you would like to invite to the selection stage, you will be able to provide some additional support information and alongside the more specific information applicants will need for things such as assessment and interview days. Offering a range of dates will allow applicants to have some choice as to which dates, or times, would suit them best. You will need to be aware of any religious festivals that may be occurring and avoid these dates, if possible, especially if fasting is required since this would potentially inhibit performance. Religion or belief is also one of the nine Protected Characteristics in the Equality Act, 2010 and therefore there is a potential risk for claims of discrimination if you fail to provide reasonable adjustments for candidates.
Please refer to the NFCC Equality Impact Assessment Toolkit, which is here and includes the NFCC Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) template for you.
Using this template is a way of systematically assessing the effects that your process is likely to have on different people and will help you to meet your legal duties as well as bringing other benefits as well.
When providing applicants with constructive feedback, it is good practice to focus on providing balanced feedback that includes areas identified for development in tandem with focusing on their strengths, and how these could be better utilised in applications in the future.
Feedback should be based on what has been observed and should be factual but not judgemental. If possible, you should include specifics, using these to illustrate your feedback so that the person receiving the feedback is clear about what it is you are saying. Check that they have understood at the end and clarify anything that came across as being ambiguous.
There are many different models available for providing feedback. What is important is that you agree the model you are using and then train your assessors in using it so that there is a consistent approach being adopted and used.
The volume of applications you receive may preclude you from feeling able to provide individual feedback to candidates, however, it is still possible to provide more generic feedback once you have been able to analyse your data and identify the common themes. This analysis may also present you with insights into areas of your process that you would like to amend for next time and an opportunity to make your applicant journey even better.
A varied approach for internal and external applicants
You may decide to provide individual feedback to applicants who are already employed in your Service and more generic feedback to external candidates. This can help to make your internal applicants remain engaged with your Service, despite their disappointment, making them feel valued and helping them to move towards a successful outcome next time.