and Development Consultants Ltd., found in his research that a
significant proportion of call handlers resigned from their posts after
a few weeks or days. This is likely because the call handlers had a lack
of mental preparation and did not understand the true nature of their
role. The same scenario could be true for other emergency workers,
including firefighters, indicating the need for a thorough and clear
recruitment and induction regime to ensure that candidates are fully
aware of what will be expected of them. SJTs can be beneficial here.
FLEXIBILITY AND RELEVANCE
According to Shalfrooshan, the strength of a well-designed SJT lies
in its “flexibility and ability to be designed around a specific context/
role.” These tests are relevant to many emergency service positions,
and Shalfrooshan’s team has developed tests for the ambulance and
police services in addition to the fire services. He has spent the past
eight years devising a solid methodology for the process of designing
relevant and appropriate testing for any kind of critical environment.
These tests are common in the recruitment of firefighters as part
of a firefighter candidate assessment. At the Los Angeles (CA) Fire
Department, for example, passing this multimedia test is a minimum requirement in the recruitment process. 3
Many SJTs have already been developed for recruiting in the fire
service sector. Shalfrooshan says, “We have designed multiple tests
for the fire service, including assessment center exercises and SJTs.
The SJT we designed for the fire service were text based rather
than multimedia but the principles regarding the best practice
Even when most of these are text based, they undergo the same
intensive process involved in high-quality SJTs, which involves job
shadowing and analysis. According to Shalfrooshan, “Test design-
ers need to be truly immersed in the role for it to be realistic. Job
shadowing, understanding the role, and understanding the com-
mon challenges of that tole are critical.” Test makers need to have
a full understanding of the reality and challenges faced routinely
by firefighters and other critical professions. As Shalfrooshan puts
it, “Involvement of experts across the fire service is essential and
ensures the content [of SJTs] is realistic.”
SJT development processes often include visiting training sta-
tions, job shadowing at fire stations, and interviewing a wide range
of employees, among other strategies, making the best possible
effort to understand the strategy of the service as a whole and
identify the crucial qualities of a firefighter.
A similar development process is used in the United Kingdom,
with potential firefighters being required to complete National
Firefighter Ability (NFA) tests. 4 Scenarios and questions were
developed in workshops, with contributions from a range of fire
service personnel, including trainers and human resources experts.
These workshops have the same aim as the interviewing and
shadowing exercises conducted by Shalfrooshan’s team, which is
to ensure that the tests provide realistic information and scenarios
that accurately reflect the role of a firefighter. ( 3)
THE FUTURE OF SJTs
As the knowledge behind these tests evolves, their implementation
will become more affordable and commonplace. “The only issue is
the higher cost associated with such tests,” offers Shalfrooshan. “The
benefits are very clear.” Indeed, SJTs offer employers a way of
determining essential character traits early in the recruitment
process, and in sectors where candidates will be exposed to dangerous, life-threatening situations from the very beginning, it is in
everybody’s interest for the person fighting that fire to be the person
best suited to the job.
1. United States Fire Administration, “About the U.S. Fire Administration,” 2017,
available at: www.usfa.fema.gov/about/index.html [accessed MAR 2017].
2. Lievens, Filip, and De Soete, Britt, “Simulations,” The Oxford Handbook of Personnel
Assessment and Selection, Neal Schmitt (ed), Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013.
3. Los Angeles Fire Department, “Firefighter Selection Process,” 2016, available at:
www.joinlafd.org/index.cfm?section=hiringprocess [accessed 22 MAR 2017].
4. Communities & Local Government, “National Firefighter Selection Process National
Firefighter Ability (NFA) Tests Technical Manual,” 2009, available at: www.gov.uk/
[accessed 24 MAR 2017].
Dr. Nicola Davies is a psychologist and freelance writer with expertise in occupational psychology and well-being. You can follow her on Twitter (@healthpsychuk) or
sign up for her free blog ( http://healthpsychologyconsultancy.wordpress.com/).
BY NICOLA DAVIES