a&dc adapts to shifts in the market, changing our approach to continually be cutting edge. Discover how we helped the Welsh Fire and Rescue Service select the right candidates from thousands of applications by using digital technology. 


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Client Profile

Industry Sector: Emergency Services
Location: Wales

The Challenge

These FRS had last been out to recruitment for whole time firefighters in 2012 and were concerned about the number of applicants they would receive in their pending campaign for October 2015. This would also be the first time that they had run a combined campaign for all three services.

The Solution

Following consultations with a&dc the three Welsh Fire & Rescue Services agreed to develop a new version of our popular SIFTTM online pre-application process that had already been in use with police forces since 2013.

Gill Goss, project manager, responding to questions based on her experiences in using SIFT:

Can you give me a brief outline of the process?
The online system involved candidates firstly registering with us online. We allowed 48 hours for this registration – only because we wanted to limit the numbers. Basically the candidate provides their personal details and then they complete a Job Preview Questionnaire, which ensures that they understand what the role of the Firefighter is about. After this registration, there were three HR Personnel who checked any declared unspent criminal convictions etc, and we deselected a small number of candidates. We then invited the rest (electronically) to take the online tests. We allowed the candidates 64 hours to complete the tests. All correspondence with candidates was electronically managed by the system and the work took minutes, not hours.

Did you find it easy to administer?
The whole process was amazingly easy. We had a team of three people working on this for a week and we processed 6013 applications. We worked out that we saved £49,000 in staffing costs because there was no manual assessing or inputting.

 Were any problems encountered?
The only thing that we would do differently is that we would be much clearer in relation to how we publicised the process. We would make it clear that candidates knew when to expect results and what came next. As this was a new system, we were unsure about just how quickly we could turn information around.

Once you had completed the online assessment process, did you undertake any other shortlisting exercise using the application form? If so, did you use competencies for this?
No – the online process was the sift and it was developed around the Fire Service competencies and what is important to us.

Did you need to employ extra people resources to assist in the process?
No – and this is key for us. If we were to have used traditional methods, we would have had to draft in a large team of assessors and administrators.

How did you safeguard against fraudulent online applications or those that may have been completed by other people?
The system is set up so that the candidate has to provide details such as NI number which prevents candidates from submitting duplicate applications, ie playing the odds. Because the tests are not ability tests and therefore there is no obvious right answer, there is no immediate benefit in getting someone else to do it for you.

Was it easy to compile management reports on the different stages of the process using the system?
Yes – very easy. Once again, there was a significant time saving here and we could report bio data quickly and easily almost immediately.

Would you use the system again?
Every time!

Any other learning points that would be useful?
We would definitely look at the email notices that are supplied to candidates which we built ourselves – and make sure that they provide as much detail as possible. We got a lot of emails from people asking when they can expect their results – we should have just publicised this at the start. We would also provide more detail in our Candidate Information Pack. Because we were collaborating across Wales, we didn’t always have the freedom to be as detailed as we would have liked on a Fire Service by Fire Service basis. Some key quotes from Gill’s team:

  • “With the reduced resources available we wouldn’t have even been able to handle a recruitment campaign of this size without this system”
  • “We encountered zero technical issues, despite over 6,000 people completing the test in a 5 day period”
  • “The staff involved in the selection stage commented that the candidates they were interviewing were of a higher quality”

The Results

  • In 2012 – when we were recruiting just for South Wales, we applied a total of 224 working days to shortlist for Wholetime firefighters (costing £18,147.09 to process 2,096 application forms = £8.66 per application)
  • In 2015 – we applied a total of 21 days (costing £2,106.58 to process 5,912 application forms = 36p per application)
  • That is a saving of £16,040.51 comparing process to process – a saving of £8.30 per application, even with three times as many applications processed!”

What the Client Says

“We always expect thousands of applications within our Firefighter Recruitment Campaigns but this was the first time that we were recruiting all Wales – we knew we’d get a lot of interest, but we weren’t sure how much. The Application Stage is traditionally the biggest challenge on a campaign of this size involving large teams checking and shortlisting, but using the new sifting tool [SIFT] we only needed a team of 3 people! This basically saved us 203 working days! To process an application has gone from £8.66 to £0.36 when we look at the human resources involved! We simply can’t afford not to use SIFT going forward.”