The selection process
Once the applications have been assessed, scored and shortlisting completed then the selection phase of your process can begin. We have split this stage into the following sections for you:
- Presentations & exercises
- Online testing & psychometrics
- Practical Tests
- Feedback for candidates
- Other processes
There are different types of approaches for you to consider for interviews. Which type you choose will be dependent on the resources you have available to you; this could be budget or internal resource such as interviewers.
1. One-to-one interviews
This is usually more prevalent in small companies and would not be recommended for interviewing for potential Firefighters.
2. Panel interviews
A panel interview requires a panel of two or more people. Both interviewers should agree in advance as to who will ask which questions, who will open and close the interview, and who will provide the finalised, moderated interview documents to the HR Team/Recruitment Team. All panel members will be required to take their own notes. At the end of the interview, the panel will discuss their scores and notes and then talk through any differences and agree the moderated, final score.
3. Assessment Centres
This takes place at a designated centre with other candidates. This approach is taken to assess behaviours, see how people interact and communicate in a team environment, present their ideas and behave towards other team members.
Types of interview questions
There are several different types of interview questions that you can use for interviews dependent upon your focus. The following list gives a brief explanation of each.
Once you have decided on your style of interview questions, you can provide some examples of your interview question style to your candidates in your Candidate Information Pack. This will help them to prepare in advance of the interviews so that they can present at their best
In competency-based questions, the focus is on the things that your candidates can do, so you would expect them to give examples to demonstrate which skills they have. These can be either from a work environment, or from their personal life. Questions should be clearly linked to the competencies you have identified as being most important to the role. You will also need to have scoped how you will be measuring a successful answer.
This type of question explores what you enjoy doing or do well and gives your candidate an opportunity to talk about their practical or teamworking skills, or how they work under pressure.
These questions test job-related knowledge and the candidate’s understanding of work processes and so implicitly requires a degree of work experience to demonstrate this. Technical questions are primarily used in sectors such as IT, engineering, finance, and law and so it is unlikely that you would choose this type of interview question for an entry-level Firefighter role.
Situational judgement questions
This type of question asks candidates to describe how they would react in a typical work situation scenario so that candidates can demonstrate their ability to problem-solve, make decisions and work with others.
Value-based questions can be used to identify whether the candidate shares your service values, understands your culture and will be able to live/work by your values.
This type of interview question helps you to assess what motivates or drives a candidate and therefore assess whether they will find the job role satisfying and rewarding to make sure they fit in well in your service.
Interviews can be regarded as subjective, since they rely on personal assessment. You may, therefore, choose to mitigate any potential for subjectivity by using a combination of assessment methods such as interviews and psychometric testing or assessment centres
Interview questions databases
We have created some Excel spreadsheets for you containing different styles of interview questions which have been kindly provided by UK fire and rescue services for the NFCC Recruitment Hub. These have not been accredited on an individual basis, but we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those services who have kindly contributed.
You will find filterable columns in the spreadsheets:
- Competency based questions for commonly assessed areas (column B)
- the NFCC Leadership Framework quadrants (column C)
- the NFCC Core Code of Ethics areas (column D)
Once you have downloaded a version of the spreadsheet locally, you will also be able to filter Column A according to the following interview styles that link to the previous section:
- strengths-based questions
- technical questions
- situational judgement questions
- values-based questions
- motivational questions
The following spreadsheets have been provided with example interview questions for you. There are three in total and a further one for presentation topics.
- #1 questions have been categorised on question type, topic, leadership behaviour
- #2 questions have been categorised on leadership behaviour quadrants
- #3 questions have been categorised on leadership behaviours for supervisory managers/CM & WM and senior managers/SM
- Presentation topic examples
Please download these and save as your own version before making any amendments.
Using the right interviewers
Some people are naturally better at interviewing than others and put the candidates at ease to help them perform to their very best. Making sure you have the right kind of person to interview is important and there are some behaviours and attributes to consider when organising your interview panels.
All interviewers should be trained and experienced. If not, then you may wish to allow potential interviewers to attend interviews as an observer so that they can gain this experience.
Good interviewers should be:
- Empathetic, attentive, and considerate of the interviewee’s nerves.
- Mindful of displaying judgemental reactions/emotions such as shock or discomfort.
- Attentive and engaged with the interview, whilst maintaining time constraints per question
- Active listeners
- Comfortable with silence when prompting interviewees to reflect or expand on a response
- Trained. All interviewers should receive training before interviews take place to support consistency and fairness across the interview process.
- Mindful of the influence of biases and familiar with the process they will need to follow. (Please refer to Step 2 – Application & Candidate Review, where you will find information about the effect of bias on assessors)
Opening and Closing the interview
Preparing an interview script for the open and close of the interview is an ideal way of supporting consistency and ensuring that all interviewees receive the correct information in a standardised format.
The script should explain the interview format, the timings per question, any health and safety considerations and the panel should introduce themselves and explain what their role is in the service. It is also advisable to offer a ‘warm-up’ question that is not scored to ease the interviewee into the main body of the scored questions.
At the end of the scoring sheet, another script should detail and explain the next steps, provide and indication of outcome timings and provide an opportunity for questions. There can also be an aide memoire for the interviewers to ask for any supporting documentation if needed. The final part is to thank the interviewee for attending.
Scoring and evaluation
It is important to ensure interviewers score and evaluate interviews in a consistent way. This can be supported by:
- using a template to record responses which includes the standards for assessment, such as the selection criteria
- writing down factual notes on what was said, rather than recording your impressions or making judgements
- Using a rating scale and apply it consistently to all interviewees
- Making sure that all interviewers are familiar with the application of the rating scale and behavioural indicators relating to each selection criteria
Using an interview rating scale minimises the potential for bias in your hiring process. It is a guide that your interviewers can use to measure the candidate aptitude based on their responses and will help them to compare candidates fairly and determine the best person for the job.
When using an interview rating sheet, the interviewer gives the candidate a score based on how well they answer the question. Each question addresses a specific skill or qualification, the higher better the answer the higher the score. At the end of the interview, the interviewer adds the candidate’s ratings together to create an overall score. The scores from all the candidates can then be compared to determine the most appropriate candidate for the role.
Interview rating scales typically include the following parts:
- Responses to individual questions
- Job-related competencies
- Overall interview score
A selection decision must always be based on a candidate’s ability to meet the job-related criteria.
There are certain questions that cannot be asked during the selection process, including during any one-on-one conversations with the candidate before or after an interview. On this basis, it is always advisable to have an independent ‘runner’ who will welcome candidates, look after them whilst they wait and take them to the exit after the interview has completed.
Questions that related to any of the nine protected characteristics, defined in the Equality Act 2010, will provide the basis for a claim of discrimination. Some examples of questions to avoid have been provided below:
- Are you a UK citizen?
- Most of our employees are men. Are you sure you would feel comfortable in this environment?
- How old are you? What’s your birth date?
- What are your childcare arrangements? Is your child in an all-day nursery school?
- I noticed the unique spelling of your name. Is it Irish?
- Do you plan to start a family soon? Do you have childcare?
- Do you have any children? How many children do you have?
- Do you qualify and meet the Right to Work eligibility criteria?
- Can you confirm you meet the eligibility criteria for applying to be a Firefighter and will be over the age of 18 on the (date)?
- Can you confirm you are able to work the contractual hours?
- To do this job, you must be able to speak fluent Spanish. How well do you speak that language?
Including Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) considerations in your interviewer training will help to make sure all panel members have a good understanding of EDI and help avoid any potential for errors.
Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA)
When assessing the EDI impact, you should complete an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). The NFCC toolkit is available online here for you on the NFCC Equality Impact Assessment Toolkit page. Below, we have also provided a completed EqIA to assist you when you complete your own – this provides some example data and information that we hope will be of use to you.
Below we have provided a document for reasonable adjustments. This is not an exhaustive list but does link to the EqIA we have provided. You will need to complete your own assessment for your own approach and circumstances but again we do hope you will find both useful.
Presentations and exercises
A well-conducted interview can form the basis of your selection process however it relies on the self-reported information from the candidate. An assessment exercise which allows the candidate to demonstrate their ability in a practical setting. By using a mixture of assessment methods it will help you to build up a more rounded picture of the candidate. The job level, candidate pool and your assessment criteria will inform which approach you adopt.
In this section we are looking at some of the other components you may wish to consider using in your recruitment assessment.
- Role play interviews
- Written exercises
Presentations are simple to plan and can be incorporated into the beginning of the interview. They are especially useful where this level of formal communication part of the job role, but they can be used to assess oral communication, specific areas of knowledge, the ability to plan and organise information, an interviewee’s understanding of the bigger picture of the service.
There are different approaches as to how you ask interviewees to prepare and deliver their presentation.
The most common approach is to provide the presentation topic in advance of the interview when the invite is sent and then ask the candidate to supply their digital presentation a few days in advance of their interview date, allowing the candidate a reasonable length of time to complete this task. This will allow you to assess their ability to prepare, meet deadlines, use IT, research and communicate a prepared message, and assess their understanding of a specified topic. You might want to use this approach if you want to understand a candidate’s expectations of becoming a Firefighter or to understand their perception of the role of a modern day Firefighter in their community.
If you want to assess a candidate’s ability to communicate in the moment and under a certain amount of time-pressure then you may choose to ask candidates to arrive 20 minutes in advance of their scheduled interview times and present them with a more generic topic, giving them 10-15 mins to plan their presentation with the aid of a flip chart and the notes they have just prepared.
Role play interviews
A role play interview involves interviewees acting out a scenario with either other members of a group or an interviewer. The scenarios should reflect common work situations and can be used to assess how a candidate can perform in this situation, under pressure. They can also be used to assess competencies such as leadership and communication.
The downside is that whilst some people have a natural inclination to feel comfortable with role play scenarios others may feel the complete opposite, meaning that they will not perform at their best in this type of assessment. This may actually mean that you will, by default, favour the more extrovert personalities in the group over those who are more naturally quiet or introverted, and therefore, end up missing out on candidates who would perform well in the role in a real-world scenario. Using this type of assessment may also be seen as unsupportive of encouraging diversity, particularly if the score is equally weighted with score for the interview question responses.
There may also be EDI considerations for people who are neurodiverse, and who would be disadvantaged by being asked to participate in this type of assessment.
Written exercises are a useful tool to help you to assess a candidate’s verbal comprehension and communication skills where this is a crucial part of the role. The exercise can take the form of report-writing, composing emails or any job-related written tasks. Written exercises also assess a candidate’s ability to work quickly and decisively under time-pressure.
EDI considerations should be given to those candidates who may require reasonable adjustments on the grounds of living with a disability under the Equality Act 2010, such as dyslexia for example.
Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA)
When assessing any Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) impact you should complete an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) which will help you to proactively advance equality, diversity and inclusion and make sure that your policies and/or recruitment practices do not discriminate or disadvantage people. An EqIA can measure both the positive and negative potential impact and the Action Plan will help you to remove or mitigate any barriers you may identify in the process.
Online testing and psychometrics
In this section we will be looking at online testing and psychometric testing as part of the selection processes in your recruitment.
Online assessments are commonly used for testing aptitude and cognitive abilities such as numeracy and literacy.
Psychometric testing can be used at any step of the recruitment process for example screening to identify a candidate pool, prior to interview to inform a competency-based or behavioural interview or after the interview to identify a development opportunities. There are many well-known platforms that provide this service however you will need to identify why you are using them and what value they are adding.
English Language Tests
English language tests are designed to help evaluate a candidate’s level of proficiency in English. The assessment will typically cover topics such as comprehension, grammar, sentence composition, and the ability to comprehend formal and informal language.
Numerical Reasoning Tests
Numerical reasoning test ask questions that assess a candidate’s numerical ability. It’s a form of psychometric assessment commonly used in the recruitment process. It is specifically designed to measure a candidate’s numerical aptitude and their ability to interpret, analyse and draw conclusions from sets of data.
A psychometric test is used to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a role by analysing their psychological thinking through their attitude, personality, and behaviour based on their completion of the assessment. The online tests comprise a series of multiple-choice questions.
Psychometric tests are used by many services as part of their recruitment and selection process to help identify the most suitable candidates and are used in conjunction with other assessment methods such as an interview or written application.
Psychometric tests can be divided into two categories: personality tests and aptitude tests. Personality tests attempt to measure distinct aspects of your personality. Aptitude tests look to measure your aptitude and ability to perform certain functions that have some resemblance to the job role. Sometimes, the test may contain elements of both personality and aptitude.
They are usually administered by a specialist team or provider and the results are interpreted and presented once the analysis is complete.
Conducting online and psychometric testing will require additional administration and will incur costs if using an external supplier. This can be costly with high volume campaigns and where you position your testing in your process will need to be carefully considered, especially if there are resource constraints.
You will also need to make sure that anyone taking the tests are prepared and may therefore, wish to include examples in your Candidate Application Pack literature. Any reasonable adjustments will also need to be considered and candidates reasonably supported.
If conducting assessments as a group you will also need to provide sufficient administrators to assist during the testing session and answer any questions that may arise.
Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA)
When assessing the EDI impact you should complete an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). The NFCC template is available online here for you on the EDI Toolkit page. Below, we have provided a completed EqIA to assist you when you complete your own, which provides some example data and information that we hope will be of use to you.
Below we have provided a document for reasonable adjustments. This is not an exhaustive list but does link to the EqIA we have supplied. You will need to complete your own assessment for your own approach and circumstances but again we do hope you find both helpful.
National Firefighter Selection Tests (NFST)
The NFCC is evaluating the NFST practical tests that are currently used by fire and rescue services within the Firefighter recruitment process and updates on progress will be provided here later for your information as this piece of work progresses towards completion, – please keep checking back here if this area is of interest to you.
In the next section entitled ‘EDI considerations’ you will find some documents relating to the work that has been going on around reasonable adjustments for the practical tests and an over-arching Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA).
Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA)
When assessing the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) impact of your practical tests you should complete an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). The NFCC modifiable template is available online as part of the EDI Toolkit. We have also provided an over-arching EqIA for Practical Tests to assist you when completing your own, which provides some example data and information that we hope will be of use to you.
We have also provided a document for reasonable adjustments at practical testing, and again this is over-arching rather than specific.
Giving feedback to candidates on their performance at interviews is not an absolute necessity and there are reasons why you may not choose to do it, such as a high very high volume of candidates. You may have already included this information in your Candidate Applicant Pack to set expectations or you may have decided only to provide feedback to internal candidates. However, by providing feedback to all candidates, this will help you in building your employer brand, that we mentioned back in Step One – Prepare to Recruit.
Providing feedback demonstrates that you value the time and energy candidates have spent on applying to join your service. It will also help candidates who have been unsuccessful to understand why this was and provides them with an opportunity to then develop themselves in preparation for your next Firefighter recruitment process.
Giving feedback will also help you to grow your talent pool and candidates that have a positive experience and still want to work for you are likely to recommend your service to others as well. In contrast, those who feel they have had a bad experience will do the opposite and may even take to social media to air their views.
By giving feedback you are showing that you genuinely care about your candidates, and you can use this opportunity to build a database of potential future candidates for your talent pipeline. This means, that with their consent, you can communicate with them and invite them to ongoing support activities, events and other opportunities in your service. This can be particularly useful if they have skills from another role or another sector that you need, such as IT skills that you want to bring to their attention. This means that should they be successful in your next Firefighter recruitment campaign; they will already have been onboarded with your Service, have a good working knowledge or your service and will have made those essential social links as well so will be more able to support other new recruits on the Basic Skills Course!!
The dos and don’ts of feedback
- Do be honest
- Do be timely
- Avoid the clichéd statement
- Do provide praise and be positive
- Do nurture and inform
- Do actively listen
- Do prepare in advance
- Do keep it brief
- Do stick to the facts
- Do suggest areas where the candidate can improve
- Do end on a positive
- Don’t hold it off or procrastinate
- Don’t argue
- Don’t invite legal risk or use discriminatory language
- Don’t give unnecessarily negative feedback
- Don’t give feedback that the candidate is unable to change
- Don’t use negative labels to describe behaviours
- Don’t use accusatory language
How to give feedback to candidates
When delivered well, feedback can affect positive change in people and can provide the basis for improved performance, increased confidence, improved morale, inspire personal development and provide valuable insights that would otherwise not be known.
Getting it right is, therefore, important and you may want to consider using a feedback model in your Service to support consistency and help those providing feedback to do a good job.
Below is a list of some of the more well-known models you may want to consider:
- The AID model
- The strengths-based approach model
- The SBI model
- The STAR model
- The DESC Feedback model
Whichever one you decide to adopt, make sure that you provide training to everyone who will be using it to provide feedback so that you encourage a consistent experience for all candidates that provides real value to them.
In the earlier section, we looked at the feedback models that are available to you when you are providing giving feedback to candidates. In this section, we are looking at methods for recording the feedback that assessors are giving so that it can be referred to in the future.
Feedback on the candidate’s performance during selection tests will be based on the knowledge, skills and behaviours that were exhibited by the candidate during this phase of the recruitment process at tests and interview. Each assessor should keep their own notes and these will then form the basis for any feedback.
On the interview form, you will need to provide a space for assessors to record their notes on the answers that were provided by the candidate. Making these notes comprehensive and detailed will make the process of providing feedback, should they be asked to, much easier. If there is a section specifically for communication for example, you may want to advise that they highlight any areas where communication was poor and performance could be improved so that this is recorded for future reference, ensuring that they provide the rationale for their scores.
As an example, during an interview, it may be that the candidate did not provide clear responses to questions or did not provide a comprehensive answer to a question, missing out essential information. Their feedback could, therefore, be provided with the suggestion that in future interviews they consider using the pen and paper provided to jot down the salient points of the question so that they can take some time to structure their response and suggest the use of a model such as STAR as well. Using this approach will help them to structure their thoughts and provide a fully rounded response to attain a good score in future interviews. If your service approach is more of a coaching approach, feedback may be encouraging and guiding them towards finding their own solution. With large campaigns, however, there may not be enough time or resource to adopt this approach for all and therefore, you may choose to use it solely for internal applicants with whom you will be able to support to over a longer period of time.
Whichever approach, preparing in advance of providing a feedback session and writing down notes in advance (having reviewed the notes from the interview) will provide structured and meaningful feedback to candidates. Any feedback notes should be kept with the interview notes in line with your service’s retention schedule and compliance with data regulations, in case of future challenge.
Obtaining feedback from your applicants and candidates on your recruitment process will help you collect data and provide you with insights about potential areas to change and provide you with an opportunity to fine tune it. How you choose to collect and store your feedback for analysis can vary but using a range of channels will give you the most well-rounded perspective and will facilitate the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data.
- Social Media listening that will collect feedback by monitoring mentions of your Service brand on social media and gives you a chance to respond online
- Feedback Surveys and Polls that allow people to provide feedback anonymously but they need to be kept short to maximise completion
- Feedback Groups created by inviting applicants and candidates to provide feedback; good for obtaining specific feedback about a specific aspect you have questions about
- Feedback widgets on your website so that users can tell you quickly about anything they find online that they don’t like
- Feedback from your internal team who are answering queries directly wither by phone, email or online contact forms will allow them to spot any potential problems trending early on and potentially fix it quickly which will be good for candidates and build engagement quickly
- Feedback via Chatbots will allow people to ‘chat’ online and get quick responses to their questions in an interactive way.
By using a combination of channels to collect and store your feedback for analysis you will obtain a clear understanding of behaviours and expectations of applicants and candidates throughout all the stages of your recruitment process. If the results you are getting do not align with your planned recruitment development then you will be able to amend your strategy in advance of the launch of your next Wholetime recruitment campaign.
The most important thing to remember is that having gone to the effort and expense of collecting and collating your feedback, you will need to act upon or it will all be for nothing. Using it will help you to create a person-centric recruitment process that will provide your future applicants and candidates with an enhanced recruitment experience with you in the future.
Some examples are provided for you below.
Although the main focus of the Recruitment Hub is for Firefighter recruitment, in this section we have provided some information and examples of recruitment resources for Green Book recruitment and Higher Level Recruitment.
Whilst your approach for will still follow the principles of your Recruitment Policy, you will need to use assessment mechanisms to those for Firefighter recruitment. You will also have other employment options available to you to assist in the management of your Green Book staff.
The NFCC Recruitment Policy is available online here to you and provides Policy Principles in section 4 and Occupational testing used in the selection process in 5.4.
Please navigate through each section using the vertical navigation bar to the left of the screen or by using the forward/back arrows at the end of each section. To return to the Recruitment Hub landing page throughout the website, please click the ‘Home’ button icon which appears at the end of each page.
When people think of the fire and rescue service they usually think of the firefighter role. A fire and rescue service wouldn’t be able to operate though without a wide range of other posts to help ensure that they can provide the best possible service to their community.
Corporate staff (Green Book staff) roles provide professional, technical and administrative skills and can include a range of roles such as Human Resources, Finance, Supplies, Strategic Planning, Data Management and Governance, Analysts, IT, Vehicle Workshops, Health and Safety, Fleet, Communications, Design, Marketing and more.
Green Book posts can be filled using a range of alternatives such as temporary agency workers, fixed term contracts, secondments for example. Working for the fire and rescue sector also comes with a suite of benefits such as flexi-time, family friendly policies, Blue Light Card discounts, Local Government Pension Scheme and often free on-site parking. All of these benefits and more make the fire and rescue service a great place to work and can be used in your job advertisement as part of your employee value proposition. (See earlier content in Step One on EVP).
- NFCC Model Recruitment Policy
- Example webpage from Derbyshire FRS promoting their Support roles
- Green Book – Local government terms & conditions
Below are some examples of the approaches being used by fire and rescue services in their Green Book recruitment job adverts:
- Admin Assistant (Bedfordshire FRS)
- Application Support Officer (Kent FRS)
- Senior Operations Manager (LFB)
Example suite of documents kindly provided by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service:
Higher level recruitment
In this section we have provided some resources that have been created and used by Cheshire FRS in their higher level recruitment assessments. These are based on a fictional fire and rescue service called Froglington. Many thanks to Cheshire FRS for sharing these resources with us for the Recruitment Hub.
Froglington FRS – a fictional fire and rescue service resource whose Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) is used as the basis for the following assessments:
- IRMP for Froglington FRS
- CM – Written Exercise Candidate Workbook
- CM Candidate Workbook
- WM in-tray Exercise Question Booklet
- CM In-Tray Exercise Question Booklet
- WM Candidate Workbook
We have also provided some examples of higher level recruitment job adverts.