The PQA type of interview is very structured which improves its effectiveness. Interviewers should be trained to use the techniques associated with this type of interview as it is quite different from a more traditional style interview. In this interview, the interviewers need to ask you the pre-determined questions exactly as they appear on their sheet, and only ask supplementary questions which fit into the STAR model. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result (see section on PQA based application forms). The danger of interviewers moving away from this format of questioning is that they may ask you things that they want to hear, and not questions which will guide you to give evidence that is relevant to the PQA’s which are being assessed. The structure of the interview also means that you will have a set time allocated for each question. The interviewers will tell you how long you have, but will interrupt you if you run over.
The PQA based Interview is used for the following:
- National Firefighter Selection Level, as the final part of the assessment to select trainees
- In band level, to select individuals to move between roles within a level e.g. Supervisory
- Selection to select individuals who have passed the ADC and are on a development programme, to fill specific posts which arise.
Tip: Take a watch in and put it in front of you on the desk, so you can monitor your time.
Similar to the application form, the PQA interview questions will ask for examples of when you demonstrated particular behaviours. E.g. ‘Can you describe a time when you effectively developed yourself or others.
It is important to listen carefully to the question. Many candidates will prepare answers prior to attending the interview, and will want to use their example for that PQA irrespective of the question! The interviewers will be looking for how well you listen, and adapt your answer accordingly.
E.g. If you have prepared an answer about a time when you formed a plan, as part of the Planning and Implementing PQA, make sure that this is what the question is asking. You may get a question on Planning and Implementing that asks ‘Can you describe when you have had to adapt your initial plan based on new information? Your answer about forming a plan may not necessarily fit with this question, so be careful!
The interviews will assess you with the same method as ADC assessors. They will record evidence of what you are saying, they will consider how it fits with the different constructs of the PQA, and they will evaluate how closely your example matches what they are looking for.
Tip: Keep you response at an even pace. You may talk more quickly when you are nervous. Assessors have to record what you are saying, and may miss things if you talk too fast.
It is often queried why assessors need to make notes ands why interviews / ADC’s are not recorded. It is felt that it can be off-putting for the candidates if systems are obtrusive and require any attention. Most FRS’s do not have such facilities. The most important factor is that it is a much more straightforward process for an assessor to scan through their notes for key evidence than to have to listen to a recording again and again to find it.