Selection process

The following sections are designed to give you an indication of the recruitment process, what to expect and what will be required of you. The selection process spans a set period and is broken down into stages.

If you are successfully shortlisted you will be required to take part in a series of assessments designed to enable you to demonstrate the necessary skills and experience to be a wholetime firefighter. Details of each assessment are listed below.

The assessments include ability tests and practical job related tasks relevant to a wholetime firefighter's role. These assessments will be operated in a disciplined and structured environment.

Every assessment has a minimum standard. If you do not reach the standard, we will not be able to consider your application further at this time.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the practical assessments will be provided. To ensure enough clothing is available in the right sizes, you will be asked to provide sizing information prior to attending the assessments. You will however be required to bring with you jogging bottoms, a t-shirt and a pair of socks to wear beneath the firefighting clothing.

Please note that applicants who have been unsuccessful in completing a new recruits course within the last 2 year period are not eligible to apply for the role of wholetime firefighter.

The initial assessment stage:

Application Form

The application form plays a vital role in the shortlisting process.  Once you have attended an information event you will be given the link to access the application form.  You will be given a time limit in order to complete and submit your application. The application form provided is the only accepted format of application; therefore please do not email a CV or covering letter with your application.

Only application forms submitted by the date and time specified will be accepted.  Any application forms returned after the date and time will NOT be processed.

We ask that you tell us about your skills and experience in relation to the various personal qualities that we require for our wholetime firefighters. You may draw on any of your experiences to answer the questions, from home life, leisure activities, work (paid or unpaid), voluntary work or education.

The information provided by you in the six questions you complete in your application form will determine whether or not you proceed to the next stage.

Written assessment stage:

If you are successful at the application form stage you will be invited to attend the written assessments. In each of the assessments you will be presented with a number of scenarios each followed by a number of questions with multiple choice answers.

This stage involves completing a series of three timed tests which are detailed below and will take approximately 3 hours in total to complete:

Working with Numbers test

This test assesses your ability to understand and work with numerical information of the type you are likely to experience as a wholetime firefighter. You will be presented with a series of scenarios, using information from graphs, tables, dials and gauges and asked questions relating to each of these. Firefighters need to be able to undertake addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as well as estimations of numerical data.

Understanding Information test

This test assesses your ability to read and understand written information of the type you are likely to experience as a wholetime firefighter. You will be presented with a series of scenarios and with information in a variety of formats (including fire safety information, memos, newsletters and training course manual extracts). You will be asked to answer several questions about each of these.

Situational Awareness and Problem Solving test

This test looks at your ability to ensure the safety of yourself and others as well as your ability to use information to solve problems. You will be presented with a series of scenarios similar to those you are likely to face in the role as a wholetime firefighter. You will be asked to choose the answer that most closely describes what you would do in each situation.

If you have previously completed the written assessment, either as part of the On-call recruitment process or a previous Wholetime recruitment process, you will not be required to complete them again.

Medical, eye and fitness assessment stage:

If you are successful at the written assessment stage you will be invited to attend a medical and fitness assessment with the Service doctor and Occupational Health team. This will take approximately 2 hours in total to complete.


The purpose of the medical is to assess the general level of health, including weight, blood pressure and lung function to allow the Service doctor to make an informed medical decision as to whether a candidate is fit to undertake firefighting duties, allowing for any reasonable adjustments that may be made in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Candidates will also have a hearing, eyesight and urine test.

A report may also be required from a hospital where you have received treatment or an independent specialist if the Service doctor requires it. Your consent is required to access these records and in order for you to complete the selection process it is necessary that this consent is given as requested.

Eye test

Prior to attending this appointment, candidates should visit the opticians for an eyesight test. The visual entry standards for firefighters are as detailed below:

  • The applicant MUST have a minimum uncorrected distance visual acuity of 6/18 in the better eye and 6/24 in the worse eye.

  • Have a corrected visual acuity of at least 6/9 binocular with a minimum of 6/12 in the worse eye and read N12 at 30cm with both eyes open. Please note applicants can use glasses of an appropriate specification on the fire ground should they be needed to obtain this standard of vision.

  • Have normal binocular visual field determined by confrontation techniques or formal testing methods.

Fitness test

During your medical assessment with Occupational Health you will be required to undertake the Chester treadmill walking test.

The Chester treadmill walking test was designed specifically for fire and rescue services by a professor of occupational health and fitness at the Centre for Exercise and Nutrition Science at Chester University.

The object of the test is to measure the Aerobic Capacity (Vo2 Max) of candidates. Aerobic fitness is the ability to carry out activities in all aspects of your social and occupational life without causing undue fatigue. This is a 12 minute progressive treadmill walking test to identify individuals who are capable (or not) of reaching the required fitness standard of 42 Vo2 Max. The test consists of walking at a specified and constant brisk pace to climb gradually increasing gradients from 0 to 15 degrees incline.

You are required to wear suitable clothing and trainers to complete the test. A document to assist you in preparation for this test can be found here.

Swimming Test:

All of our wholetime firefighters based at our 24/7 stations are in-water trained to level 3 and expected to perform in-water rescues. We therefore need new recruits to be able to swim and be confident in water to the levels we have set in the essential criteria.

The purpose of the swimming test is to assess if you are able to swim and:

  • Jump / dive into deep water

  • Swim 50 metres in less than 70 seconds

  • Swim 100 metres continuously on front and/or back in deep water using a recognised swim e.g. front crawl, back stroke, breast stroke or butterfly.

  • Tread water for 30 seconds

  • Surface dive to the floor of the pool

  • Climb out unaided without ladder / steps and where the pool design permits

Occupational ability assessment stage:

If you are successful at the medical assessment stage you will be invited to attend the occupational assessments. The role of a wholetime firefighter can be physically demanding and it is important to consider your physical fitness before taking part in occupational assessment stage.

As part of the selection process, you will be required to undertake physical tests which aim to assess your level of fitness, strength, stamina, co-ordination and manual dexterity.  The tests also look at your ability to work at heights and in darkened confined spaces as well as your level of confidence in simulated exercises. These tests are designed to reflect operational practice.

You will be provided with personal protective equipment to complete the tests.

A fitness information pack to assist you in preparation for these tests can be found here.  The tests take approximately 2.5 hours in total to complete.

There are currently seven tests which are detailed below:

Enclosed space

This test is designed to assess confidence, agility and stamina. It will also identify any claustrophobic tendencies.

Wearing a breathing apparatus set with the facemask obscured, you will be required to negotiate a crawl way. This test is timed.

Ladder climb

This test assesses your confidence at height and the ability to follow instructions.

You will be asked to ascend/climb a 13.5m Service ladder to a point two thirds of the way up and lock your leg on the ladder.  You will then be asked to lean backwards, arms outstretched and whilst looking over your shoulder identify a symbol being shown by the assessor at ground level.  You will have the opportunity to practice at ground level before performing the exercise.

Casualty evacuation

This test is designed to assess upper and lower body strength and co-ordination.

This test requires you to drag a dummy (55kg) backwards around a 30m course with four cones. The dummy will have a carrying handle fixed to it.  This test is timed.

Ladder lift

This test assesses your upper and lower body strength and co-ordination.

The test is to raise the bar of a ladder lift simulator to the required height (190cm) with 15kg of weight placed on the simulator cradle.  This gives a total lift load of approximately 30kg.  You will be given the opportunity to practice an initial lift of 5kg on the cradle.

Ladder Extension

This test is designed to assess upper and lower body strength and co-ordination.

The test requires you to pull on the extending line of a fixed simulator 9m ladder.  You will need to extend the ladder until it reaches its limit where the locking mechanism will be engaged at the top.  You will then lower the ladder, keeping control at all times, until the locking mechanism engages at the bottom.

Equipment carry

This test is designed to assess aerobic fitness, stamina, upper and lower body strength and co-ordination.

You will carry items of equipment up and down a course between two cones which are 25m apart.  Demonstrations will be given of the correct lifting techniques. This test is timed.

Equipment assembly

This test assesses manual dexterity.

For this test you will have a demonstration by one of the test assessors of how to assemble and then disassemble a portable pump. You will then be required to carry out the same function with the use of pictures to help you through the exercise. This test is timed.

Final assessments:

If you are successful at the occupational ability test stage you will be invited to attend an assessment day. The results of the assessment exercises will be combined to identify successful candidates. The day will consist of the following exercises and take approximately 4 hours in total.


A panel interview will be carried out by two suitably trained and skilled managers. The interviews will be a mixture of competency and traditional questions that are designed to assess your personal qualities, behaviours, skills and experience in relation to those required for both the role and by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Please see the job description and person specification for guidance.

Personality questionnaire

Prior to attending the assessment day, you will be asked to complete an online personality questionnaire. The questionnaire has been designed to help us understand your personality preferences at work.  There are no right or wrong answers and your responses to the questions will be discussed during a one to one feedback session.

Interactive exercises

These exercises are designed to assess how you behave and deal with certain situations that you may face as a wholetime firefighter in addition to how effectively you communicate. There will be two different exercises. In one exercise you will meet with a colleague and during the second exercise you will meet with a member of the public. During both exercises you will be asked to deal with a situation relevant to the role of a wholetime firefighter.

Group discussion

This exercise is designed to assess the behaviours that are important in both the role of a wholetime firefighter and to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, including how you interact with others, your ability to communicate and challenge constructively and to work effectively with others as part of a team.