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Frequently asked questions

How many firefighters will you be recruiting?

Our application process is now closed. Please keep an eye on our website for any further updates as to when Wholetime Firefighter recruitment may re-open.

Our recruitment needs are based on our workforce planning activities, which includes turnover and will keep our recruitment needs under ongoing review. It is likely that we will begin running Wholetime recruitment campaigns more regularly.  

I am aware that you ran a recruitment drive in 2021 but wondered if you could tell me how often this happens - would there likely be another recruitment drive in 2022? 

Wholetime recruitment usually takes place approximately every 4 years.

If I was unsuccessful in the 2021 process, can I re-apply?

Yes – if you are unsuccessful at any stage of this recruitment process for Wholetime firefighters you are able to re-apply when we next advertise. 

What does the recruitment process consist of?

We review our recruitment processes to ensure they remain fit for purpose, as we recognise that the role of a Firefighter changes depending on a number of factors. The process outlined here is what a typical process would look like, but please check back frequently for more up to date information.

The first step is to complete our application form. The online application form will establish your eligibility and other details, such as your employment history. 

Please note that all correspondence from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will be made via email through this recruitment process. You should check your inbox regularly to avoid missing our recruitment correspondence. You should also check your junk or spam mailbox to ensure that you don’t miss any important information once you’ve applied online. 

Once you’ve completed this initial stage, you will be required to complete an online Behavioural Styles Questionnaire (BSQ). The BSQ explores your preferred behaviours in a working environment. If you are successful through the BSQ, you will be invited to undertake the online Situational Judgement Test (SJT). The SJT measures your judgement and decision making skills in situations typical in the Fire and Rescue Service.  You don’t need any prior knowledge of the Fire Service to complete the BSQ or SJT – they are designed to assess your suitability to the role of a firefighter. There is no preparation you can undertake for these tests, you should just answer each question honestly and mark the answer that feels right to you. 

The BSQ and SJT will help us assess your suitability for the role of a firefighter by looking at how you answer questions relating to your behaviour preferences. As such, you are strongly urged to complete the tests on your own, without referring to anyone else for help or guidance. 

If you successfully complete the SJT, you will be invited to undertake three aptitude tests online – verbal, numerical and mechanical reasoning 

If you successfully complete the online aptitude tests, you will then be invited to a bleep test (venue to be confirmed). You will be required to achieve level 8.8 (the equivalent of 42 VO2 Max) in order to pass this stage of the process. A bleep test is a timed aerobic fitness test where you run between two points with the interval between “bleeps” decreasing so you have to speed up.

The next stage of the recruitment process is physical testing. 

Applicants successfully completing the physical tests will then be invited to an assessment centre. We are still designing the format of the assessment centre, so further information will become available in due course, but it will comprise of an interview and validation of the online aptitude tests. Throughout the recruitment process, we’ll be assessing candidates against the role requirements, together with our organisational values and behavioural framework.  Candidates who successfully complete the assessment centre will enter our pre-employment phase, which includes medical, further fitness test, references and Disclosure and Barring Scheme check. However, to ensure we capture the most up-to-date information on our applicants, we take candidates through pre-employment when it is likely they’ll be offered a place on a recruits course. . Remaining successful applicants will be invited through this stage closer to the date of the initial firefighter training they will undertake. 

How long does the recruitment process take and what are the key dates?

Our recruitment process is rigorous, in part due to the high volume of applicants we expect to receive, and as such, it takes between 6-8 months to complete the process.

From the point of application, how long does the assessment process take from start to finish? 

Usually, it takes 6-8 months. We hold all successful candidates in a pool and draw off cohorts of trainees as and when required, so whilst you may successfully complete the process in a particular year , you may not be offered a job immediately and will be held in the pool for a period of two years.

When will I hear back after each stage of the process if I’ve been successful?

You won’t hear back immediately, following each stage of the process, whether you’ve been successful or not – it will take us a few days to look at all the candidates’ scores. Please keep an eye on your emails, where you will be advised of your progress through our recruitment process. Also, you can keep an eye on the dates above and if you haven’t heard from us, and are expecting to, by the day before the start of each of the next steps, please email us: recruitment@esfrs.org

If I was to be successful, from the point of offer - how long does it then take to be in post?  

After the interview/assessment centre stage of the process, we will select  candidates to form cohorts  trainees. We will run pre-employment checks which take approx 2 months and allow a period for candidates to serve any notice in their current employment. Candidates then start their core skill training which takes approx 3 months and then start in post on a fire station.

What qualifications do I need to apply?

No qualifications are needed to apply for the role of firefighter. The online tests we use are Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE). 

Can I choose which Station to work at?

Recruits will be asked their station preferences during the initial firefighter training course, however, we cannot guarantee that vacancies at these stations will become available. As such candidates should be open to working at any of our fire stations and on any duty system. 

I live outside of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove – can I still apply?

For our most recent process we  removed our previous geographical parameters to encourage more applications. However, successful applicants may need to provide a base in East Sussex, Brighton and Hove in order to comply with the requirements of their duty system. Also, due to the investment we make in our staff with public funds, we may ask successful candidates to commit to a period of service with us or repay all or a portion of training fees (details to be confirmed).  We will keep this criteria for application under review.

Are there any other pre-requirements before applying for the role of a firefighter at East Sussex FRS?

You must be eligible to work in the UK, over the age of 18 years by the time you would commence employment with us.

I am currently a serving firefighter for another Service. Can I transfer in?

You can apply for any vacancies and processes for which you are eligible. We run separate Firefighter recruitment processes for existing competent Firefighters. Please keep an eye on our website for details of these opportunities, as they arise.

What is the salary of a Wholetime firefighter?

You can expect to start on £23,833, which rises to £24,826 on successful completion of the initial firefighter training course and up to £31,767 once fully competent in role, which can take up to 3 years (correct at time of writing and subject to any pay awards). 

I am on holiday during the recruitment process – what can I do?

The first part of the recruitment process is online, so as long as you have access to a computer you should be able to complete the online assessments. Whilst we try and make a variety of dates and times available for various parts of our recruitment process, due to the anticipated volumes of applicants we won’t be able to offer any additional dates. 

I have a criminal record. Can I still apply and join as a firefighter?

As the role of a firefighter may involve contact with children or vulnerable adults, employment is subject to satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Scheme check. Further information on DBS checks are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service  

Only those convictions that are relevant to the post may preclude your application being progressed further, therefore having a criminal record will not necessarily exclude you from the role. If you have any unspent convictions, you are required to disclose these on the online application form. Further guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/exoffenders-and-employment 

Can I still apply if I have a medical issue?

Decisions relating to whether or not your medical issue will prevent you from becoming a firefighter can only be made following a detailed and individual assessment with our occupational health provider.  This takes place for successful candidates at the pre-employment stage, once you have been offered a role within ESFRS. 

I have asthma- am I still able to become a Firefighter? 

Asthma does not necessarily prevent you from becoming a firefighter. However, firefighters are exposed to smoke and other toxicants as part of their job, which are irritating to the lungs and upper respiratory tract and can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. At the pre-employment stage, your medical history will be assessed by our Occupational Health team who will make a decision as to your suitability for the role of a firefighter.

I have a disability, can I still apply?

Yes – you will be asked what reasonable adjustments you may require to undertake our recruitment process on the online application form. Each request will be considered individually and if reasonable adjustments can be made, then we will. If you are successful to our pre-employment stage, our Occupational Health team will likely request more details from you, to clarify that you are able to undertake the role of the firefighter. 

Do I need perfect vision to become a Firefighter?

You do not have to have perfect vision to become a Firefighter but there are some minimum eyesight requirements.  Your vision will be assessed as part of pre-employment checks by an optician local to you, paid by ESFRS.  Please see below for the eyesight standards, which we would suggest you discuss with your optician.  We are unable to provide any further guidance based on individual circumstances.

Eyesight standards:-

Visual Acuity: Binocular 6/9 aided or unaided with minimum 6/12 in the worse eye. If uncorrected vision exceeds 6/18 and 6/24 you will be given special inserts to wear with your breathing apparatus mask and safety goggles. Near vision should be at least binocular 6/12. Soft contact lenses are acceptable. 

Colour Vision: Individuals with protanopia, deuteranopia, monochromatism and tritanopia/tritanomaly are unsuitable for employment as a Firefighter. Individuals with protanomaly rarely meet the required standards while deuteronamalous individuals should be fit.

We will ask your Optician to conduct a screening test using Ishihara 38 Plates, if the test is  ‘abnormal’ then a second test is likely to be needed and you may be asked to attend a specialist optician (paid for by ESFRS). The follow-up tests may use the 2nd edition City University Test (fail if 5 or more total errors or 2 errors on the large circle plates) and Farnsworth DI5 (fail if 2 or more major crossings).  Alternatively, if the 2nd edition is unavailable, the 3rd edition City University Test may be used (fail if 3 or more errors on part two of the test).

I’m currently an On-call firefighter for another Service, would I be expected to leave my role to be able to join East Sussex wholetime?

No, you are able to be Wholetime and an On-Call Firefighter at the same time as long as you do not contravene the Working Time Directive for rest periods and working hours.  If successful, we would recommend that you approach your current Service to discuss any potential impacts.

If you want to train to drive a fire appliance, would you have to take an additional course to get that role or are you selected?

All Drivers must undergo specialist courses to be able to drive a fire appliance.  Competent Firefighters are able to volunteer themselves to attend these courses, but selection will dependant on the needs of the Service at that time.  The Fire Service will pay for you to attend these courses.

How long would it take to become a competent firefighter?

Each individual will differ in how long it takes them to complete their development period, but we anticipate it taking approximately 18 months for Wholetime Firefighters and between 2-3 years for On-Call Firefighters.

What is the pass mark or percentage rates for online testing?

There are no set pass marks for the online assessments, we undertake an adverse impact analysis of results to ensure that no applicant group is disproportionately disadvantaged. The pass marks used at the time will also depend on the number of applicants successful through each stage of the process.

How do you prepare for the mechanical reasoning test? 

You will be given an opportunity to complete a practice test ahead of the real test.  There may be other resources available to help you in this area, such as reference books, videos or tutorials but ESFRS cannot recommend any specific products or websites

When do you need the full manual driving licence? 

Those applicants without a driving licence may undertake the recruitment process and enter our recruitment pool if successful (valid for 2 years from point of entry, subject to satisfactory performance through the recruitment process) but must have obtained their driving licence at point that pre-employment checks are started. We will keep those in the pool informed as far in advance as possible as to our intake plans. 

Do you have any tips for passing the BSQ during the application? 

The Behavioural Styles Questionnaire measures your typical behaviour and preferences at work. The purpose of the questionnaire is to assess whether an individual has the right kind of strengths, attitudes and behaviours to meet the needs of the job. 

We would therefore ask you to be yourself and answer with responses that feel right to you.

Is the training residential?

It can be. We assess our internal capability to run Core Skills training courses as and when we anticipate a need. In the past, we have used providers at Fire Service College in Glocestershire or run collaborative courses with other Fire and Rescue Services .  Generally, we anticipate the training input being delivered Monday to Friday only., If these arrangements present any difficulties for our applicants please contact us to advise, once you are in the latter stages of the process.

When you train your recruits through apprenticeships do you follow the apprenticeship pay grade or will it follow the standard fire service pay grade?

Recruits will be paid according to the NJC agreed Fire Service pay scales.

Do shift patterns depend on your assigned station and if they are wholetime or not? 

Your shift pattern will depend on the Station and Watch that you are assigned to.

All wholetime Stations operate an 8 day rota pattern comprising 2 day shifts, 2 night shifts followed by four days off.  

Day crewed stations (with the exception of Battle) operate an 8 day rota pattern comprising four 24 hour periods- on-station during the day and On-Call from home at night- followed by 4 days off. 

Battle Fire Station has a rota pattern which ensures that an average of 42 hours per week is worked over the term of the rota with an average of 35 hours on duty at the station (positive hours) and 7 hours on alerters (positive standby hours).

It is important that applicants understand that by applying for a role, if successful, you could be posted to any of our stations on any duty system in operation within the Service. Whilst we try to accommodate preferences as far as practicable, service delivery is our overriding priority. 

If you become a successful applicant is there any way of knowing roughly when in the two years you'll begin? Or is it just by chance, depending on staff changes?  

We take into account a number of factors when selecting candidates for appointment. These factors are based on our Service needs. It is important to remember that, unfortunately, demand for Wholetime Firefighter jobs often exceeds available posts and therefore we cannot guarantee anyone a job, even if you are successful through the process. Whilst we anticipate running multiple training courses based on our workforce planning forecasts, this will be based on the needs of the Service. 

Would it be beneficial to acquire an LGV license before joining? Or is it worth waiting until appointed? 

An LGV licence is not a pre-requisite for the role and will not impact on the selection process. 

Are there opportunities to specialise within the role?

Competent Firefighters often put themselves forward for specialist roles such as Animal Rescue or Rope Rescue.  Some of these opportunities will be dependent on location, but others such as advanced first aid are open to all. Specialisms vary from station to station, but there are also opportunities to specialise in other roles, such as training instructors and business safety inspectors.

Is there a clear career path available to those in the role?

Yes! The most well-known progression routes are the linear routes up the operational ranks from Firefighter right up to Chief Fire Officer, but there are also career paths in specialist areas such as Business Fire Safety and Training available to Crew Managers and above. 

Are there any rules and restrictions on tattoos showing?

Tattoos are not prohibited, but any visible tattoos must be non-offensive and in keeping with the Services’ values.

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