The Red-Hot Career That Sees Only One in 12 Applicants Get a Job

As we’re at the tail end of another summer fire season, the competition to become a firefighting recruit continues to be red hot in comparison to other occupations. Just 8% of people who apply succeed in getting a job, says Brent Clayton, a Fire Service Operational Leader and the founder of Fire Recruitment Australia.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand typically offer 24 beginner roles twice a year and applications for the latest round close on 3rd of March. As well as Fire and Emergency NZ, the Royal New Zealand Air Force also hire firefighters. Recently Kiwi firefighters helped tackle the bush fires in Australia.

Candidates need to be permanent New Zealand or Australian residents, aged 18 or older, pass a police check, plus a raft of literacy, numeracy, problem solving, medical, fitness and psychological tests. Those who pass the 12-week recruit training can expect to earn $43,000 per year going up to $77,000 for senior station officers.

Clayton says: “Firefighting is generally considered as a bit of a noble vocation, a good public service and that’s what attracts people initially.

“Once people start a career as a firefighter, very few leave the profession. We’re diehards because it’s incredibly rewarding and after you get used to the shift work, you can achieve a great life balance.”

As a recruiter, he knows what stops most applicants clearing the hurdle to employment. Many don’t research the target organisation, have no idea about the process and steps for success at each stage or bomb out on the aptitude testing, interview and psychometric profiling. Others fail the multi-stage fitness test (called the beep or bleep test).”

“These are simple fixes with a bit of effort,” says Clayton. “That’s why I set up my own online business to teach would-be applicants’ fundamental skills to help get them over the line.”

A decade ago, he set up his business, Firefighter Recruitment Australia (FRA), which has helped more than 100 people forge careers as new firefighters across Australia and New Zealand (he also coaches firefighters who want to become leaders). Clayton manages his business on the side while he continues working 48-hour weeks as a firefighter.

He says would-be firefighters should register online with Fire and Emergency New Zealand to be alerted to the next recruitment intake this month.

It starts with how you answer the initial questions in the online application. You’ll be scored on that later on in the process, but a lot of people think it’s just a step to get through and not looked at again.

Next is online testing. When you’re half way through, you’re told if you’re successful and then sent a link to do the other half. There’ll be a fitness test. You’ll have to wear a black-out mask, firefighting kit and breathing apparatus and navigate through a course.

Then you move to a team-based day, but will also do individual skill testing and it’s in a fire station in the area for which you’ve applied. You’ll do dexterity tests, tests that challenge communication, be blindfolded and do problem-solving activities and there’s another test that’s a real step up from the fitness test. Those who pass go onto a one-hour panel interview, which covers plenty of scenarios the would-be firefighter could find themselves in.

Clayton says: “A lot of people don’t put in the preparation for the interview, and even if you get through that, there’s then a medical check – you need to be healthy, fit and pass all other due diligence tests.”

Then, there are three months of intense training and learning during a live-in course and only those who pass that are offered a job. So, for those who apply, only one out 12 actually get a job.

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