PQA Application Form

The National Firefighter Selection (NFS) type of application form is used for people who want to apply to become a trainee firefighter. Up until recently it was a national process used throughout most of the UK (may vary in some Scottish FRS). Now there are some variations to firefighter recruitment used by some FRS.

PQA alternatives

PQA (personal Qualities and Attributes) is the term used by many UK Fire & Rescue Services. Other organisations refer to these as competencies. Some FRS’s are choosing to move away from the list of PQAs which have been used for many years as a guide for effective firefighter behaviours. Some are now using different standards or values frameworks. Whatever the criteria, it doesn’t make too much difference to the assessment methods; performance is measured in the same way, using the same techniques, it’s just the criteria which may have shifted slightly.

Internal Applications for Promotion

The PQA Based Application form is also used in many Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) to apply internally for positions which become available after an individual has been successful at an ADC or been sufficiently developed on a development programme. However, this stage of the promotion process can vary between different FRS’s so it is worth checking with your personnel, training or human resources department that this is the type of application form used.

What type of questions are they?

The PQA Based Application Form means that all questions are based on the PQA’s. All answers are measured on how well they match the type of behaviours described by the PQA’s. This type of application form (also applicable to interviews) are known as ‘behavioural’ i.e. they assess your behaviours and evaluate if they are a good match for effective performance in the role.

You will be asked to answer the questions based on your own experiences. It is a good idea to answer as truthfully as possible as it is usually fairly easy to spot a made up answer as there isn’t enough depth to the example.

The questions are phrased such as this:

  • Please describe a time where you have worked effectively with others
  • Can you give an example of a time where you have resolved a challenging problem?
  • Provide an example of when you have had to meet high standards
  • Please describe when you have had to create a detailed plan

These types of questions will ask you about what you have done, not what you might do. This is a much more reliable way of finding out about how you behave and what your attitudes are.

How to answer

Structure your answer according to the following guidelines, making sure you cover: Situation – an overview of the situation; Task – what you had to do; Action – what action you took and how you tackled the issue; Result – what was the outcome. This is easy to remember by STAR.


  • Include plenty of detail related to the actions you took, rather than lots of detail setting the scene
  • Describe what the impacts of your actions were and why you took these actions
  • Make sure you are easy to understand and try not to include irrelevant detail.
  • Follow the guidelines in terms of text size etc – you shouldn’t be marked down for this but it’s annoying to mark when these rules are ignored
  • Check for repetition or any detail which does not add to your answer in terms of how effectively you behaved
  • Don’t try to include direct quotes from the PQA’s into your answer. It isn’t enough to show you are aware of the PQAs; you need to show, in your own words, how you have demonstrated them. For instance, it’s no good saying, ‘I demonstrated effective teamwork’, without explaining what you did; in what way it was effective; and what the results were to prove it was effective!
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