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


Examples of role play interviews experienced by Kent students

  • First part of the interview was questions about the e-tray and written exercise. Was in the style of a role play. Had to be able to justify your responses and the decision you chose to make in your written exercise: advising a company on which course of action to take. (Deloittes)
  • Role-play exercises: you are given time to prepare for each: this consists of looking at lots of reports, data and emails, and making notes. You then have a meeting with another candidate, followed by a group meeting with five other candidates. Current trainees take on fictional roles within these scenarios. The final exercise is a one-on-one interview within this fictional role-play, but for a different scenario. (NHS Management)
  • Role play: meet an employee after you have been made a department manager. (Sainsbury)
  • Role play group exercise. Three choices of articles. Had to come up with a presentation based on the article. (Bloomberg graduate sales)


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