Essex Fire & Rescue Service Increase Efficiency by Hiring for Potential

Discover how Essex Fire & Rescue Service saved time and increased diversity by hiring for potential 


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Essex Fire and Rescue Service's results:


hours saved 


of candidates sifted from the pipeline whilst maintaining a diverse talent pool


pass rate for Level 3 Operational Firefighter apprentices sifted by the BBA

Meet Essex County Fire and Rescue:

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (ECFRS) is one of the largest fire and rescue services in the country, serving a county with a wide variety of risks. As part of the ongoing improvement agenda and people strategy, they have a commitment to improving the recruitment, retention, progression, development and experience, of the people employed by ECFRS to enable the organisation to become an inclusive employer of choice. Following the outstanding results of the new recruitment process, in 2022, they were awarded the inclusive employers standard bronze accreditation.




Public Safety

The Challenge The Outcome
To streamline the recruitment process and increase efficiency without impacting diversity   Significant time saved sifting out candidates whilst increasing final stage candidate diversity

“Those who were hired using the BBA (behavioural based-assessment) are now taking their first steps in our leadership and development programme; for us hiring for potential means finding people who can grow with us”

Steve Tovey, Head of Resourcing


Before introducing the Arctic Shores behavioural-based assessment (BBA), ECFRS was struggling to attract a more diverse candidate pool, and to streamline a time-inefficient recruitment process. One of the first challenges to address was a need to widen the candidate pool to improve inclusivity, to make applying to be a firefighter in Essex open to all. The second challenge was that, on average, they received over 1,000 applications each year for just 36 firefighter vacancies, and needed a time-efficient automated method of sifting through the applications to find suitable candidates.

In conjunction with improving the efficiency of the process, they were also looking to remove any bias from their assessments to ensure there was no loss of diversity in later-stage candidates. 

“Our original process was highly manual and subjective, which leaves room for bias in recruitment; we wanted to remove any chance of unconscious bias and hire based on behaviours, values and potential”

Steve Tovey, Head of Resourcing


Potential-based hiring is crucial to ensuring those who are hired during the recruitment process have the potential to grow and develop within the role. The world is currently plagued by a skills crisis that the recent pandemic has only accelerated. Potential-based hiring offers organisations the ability to screen in candidates based on potential rather than screening out based on experience.  The BBA was implemented at ECFRS to sift a high volume of candidates, to ensure those that were taken through to the final stages were the right fit for the organisation, and to support longer-term succession planning and the need to grow future managers and leaders. Working with ECFRS Arctic Shores identified key traits by capturing data from the current employees at ECFRS, and mapping it to what’s called a ‘fit profile’. This is really just a weighted list of behavioural traits that, alongside the employer, we’ve determined are vital to succeed in the role and/or company culture. Once the right traits were identified and success criteria were established, the BBA was introduced after an application and before the assessment centre. To learn more about which traits we measure see this article. 

“Introducing the BBA before the assessment centre led to a high quality of candidate as evidenced in the interview outcomes, and we’ve also saved a significant amount of time” 
Steve Tovey, Head of Resourcing


By replacing traditional and manual recruitment methods, with an automated solution, it’s brought a much-needed efficiency to the newly streamlined ECFRS recruitment process. Using our Arctic Shores BBA before assessment centres, ECFRS saved over 1,000 hours, significantly reducing time to hire and recruitment costs. ECFRS also saw excellent results in candidate diversity; one of their original challenges was removing unconscious bias from the recruitment process and ensuring a diverse pipeline of talent. Using the BBA, they were able to sift out 90% of their pipeline whilst also maintaining equality of opportunity to all minority groups. In fact, across all demographics, the BBA demonstrated no adverse impact against any protected characteristic or under-represented group. Hiring for potential delivered not only efficiency and diversity but also quality candidates that could grow with the current team and thrive within their new role over time. ECFRS  saw a 100% pass rate for Level 3 Operational Firefighter apprentices sifted by the BBA. This clearly shows the BBA is a powerful tool for sifting in quality candidates with the potential for success in the role. 

Hiring for potential has not only achieved the efficiency and diversity needs of the Essex County Fire & Rescue Service - but it's also positively changed the whole recruitment process by driving a quality talent pipeline that will continue to support the service in the future.

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