Role playing interviews
Role play interviews can be quite stressful, partly because the candidate has little idea of what to expect, and will probably not have had one before.
Individual role plays
Role plays may be conducted one to one. For example a member of the recruitment team plays the role of an awkward customer and the candidate is asked to deal with their complaint. A role play interview may test your problem solving, decision making, verbal communication, analytical reasoning skills, assertiveness and your ability to put forward a persuasive case - all important management skills.
Quite often individual role plays are used in sales interviews and for other customer focused roles. If you get one in a sales interview it will probably involve a customer situation. You may be given a script to read, and improvise from, so you can't really prepare for it. You might have to 'phone' a selector and offer them one of the options given in the script. The selector may accept or decline your offer. If they say no, there may be other alternative in the script you could offer.
Read the script thoroughly to make sure that you know what is expected of you. Try to relate it to a real situation you've been in. Anything you've experienced that's similar can help to make it feel more realistic. Try to be yourself, but make sure you put yourself across in a professional manner.
In-tray and e-tray exercises are another type of solo role play.
Group role plays
Role plays may also be conducted in a group at a selection centre - each member of the group may be allocated a role and briefed beforehand on their role and the background to the topic under discussion. A group exercise role play would also assess your skills of team working , listening, negotiating, leadership and time management.
They may be leaderless - the group as a whole will be given a topic to discuss as they wish - or each member of the group may be allocated a role. In the latter case, candidates may be briefed beforehand on their role and the background to the topic under discussion. Our Teamworking Skills Page which includes a comprehensive set of tips on how to perform well in group exercises. If you're given the role of team leader it might involve handling a difficult team member.
Our marketing business game is a group role play once used by a major airline. It's similar to those you would get at an assessment centre either individually or to solve as a group. This was used as a group exercise with other candidates with each candidate given the role information for one manager, but could also be given as an individual exercise in which you had to produce a report. You need to produce recommendations for action and give the reasons behind your decision.
Our Marstairs Case Study is another example of the type used in a group role plays.
The Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre has a group exercise lasting 45 minutes. You are given 35 minutes to prepare for the exercise by yourself then in a group of 5 or 6 candidates you are given four fictitious projects and be asked to agree on one of them.
At the start you receive a brief which summarises the overall situation, and gives detailed information on the main issues and on the view you are representing. Your assigned brief is different from other members of the group and your task is to gain the best outcome for yourself as well as for the group as a whole. Each of the assigned roles in your group carries equal weight and there is no chairperson. You are expected to present a strong case, listen to what the other candidates have to say and carefully negotiate to come to an agreed position. For an example of such an exercise see the Civil Service Fast Stream Brochure - page 8 onwards (PDF file)
Other examples of group role-playing exercises
- Each member of the group is allocated a role as representative of one of a number of clubs using a university sports centre (badminton, five-a-side football, fencing, etc). An assessor will play the role of Sports Centre Manager and each representative must make a case for their club to receive an increased allocation of time for their activity.
- The group discusses the layout of a new supermarket, each member of the group playing the role of a departmental manager (Produce, Meat, Bakery, Delicatessen, Wines & Spirits, etc), who will argue for the best possible location, floor area and facilities for their own department. The role of Store Manager, with overall responsibility for co-ordinating the discussions and decisions, may be allocated to another member of the group or may be played by an assessor.
- Each candidate is given a job description for a post to be filled by internal promotion and the biography of a candidate. You must argue the case for "your" candidate to be the one promoted.
- Candidates are given a background briefing on a number of sites under consideration for the location of a new manufacturing plant. After being allowed a short time to read through this briefing, the group as a whole must consider the pros and cons of the various options and reach a unanimous decision on which site to approve.
- Candidates are allocated roles within a management team that is working on a project such as the development of a "revolutionary" new washing powder. You will be given a briefing on your role and the background agenda to it (such as "Recently-promoted marketing manager; wants the product launched as quickly as possible with maximum publicity to make a name for himself" or "R&D manager, 20 years experience with the company, inclined to be cautious, believes product should undergo a further series of tests in order to meet highest possible standards") and then a problem to discuss and reach an agreement on in relation to the further development and/or launch of the product.
- See also our video on role play in assessment centres (you need a Kent login to view this)
Examples of role play interviews experienced by Kent students