Role-play exercises and how they work
Role play exercises are among the most popular assessment tools used by graduate recruiters at the assessment centre stage of the recruitment process. Role play exercises are very common in graduate recruitment scheme selection, and are particularly useful when assessing candidates for client facing positions such as consulting, sales and law. Although many group exercises may incorporate aspects of role-play, typical role play exercises are conducted one to one, either with a member of the recruitment team or an actor. Candidate’s performance will be observed throughout the exercise and their performance will be assessed, noting the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. The content and context of role play exercises will vary considerably depending on the role and the organisation, however typically candidates will be role-playing the position in which they have applied, and will need to act out a common workplace scenario/problem. For a sales role, candidates will likely need to convince a prospective customer/client to purchase their product/service, or handle a complaint. For a consulting role, the candidate may undertake the role of the consultant, and the recruiter/actor will play the role of a client, or a prospective client.
What you should know before taking a role-play exercise
Role-play exercises are useful predictors of future job performance; however recruiters will rarely base their selection decision purely based on role-play exercise performance. Instead recruiters will incorporate evidence from numerous selection tools, therefore do your best not to panic if this is your first time undertaking a role-play exercise. If role-play exercises are part of the company’s selection procedure, as a candidate you will be told in advance that this may be part of your assessment centre exercises. As a result you will have time to prepare for your role-play exercise before you undertake your assessment centre day. Although companies are unlikely to make a decision solely on your role-play exercise performance, particularly for client facing roles, your performance on this exercise will be a major factor in getting selected for that position.
General role-play exercise advice
Here are some tips and recommendations to help you to prepare for your role-play exercise and help ensure you are ready:
1. Try to stay relaxed: Your ability to work under pressure and to perform on the spot is a key competency which the role-play exercise is assessing. It is therefore imperative that you do not let nerves get in the way of maximum performance. Small to moderate amount of nervousness can hone ones skills and keep you sharp, but serious anxiety will impair your performance, and will put off graduate recruiters. Recruiters know how nerve racking these exercises can be, particularly to graduates, and they will be expecting a certain amount of anxiety, so don’t be concerned about mild to moderate nervousness. Just remember to breathe, to listen, to take your time and think thoroughly before answering.
2. Assume the role and get in character: One of the hardest parts of role-play exercises is taking the exercise seriously and really committing to character. Ensuring that during the exercise, you take the role seriously, get in character and psych yourself up before hand, helping you to assume the role more readily. The more in character you are, the more naturally and professionally you will act and seem, impressing recruiters with a higher performance and expressing your commitment to the exercise, and therefore the organisation. Similarly it’s important to consider the other person in the role-play as their respective role, i.e. if they are playing a customer, treat them and consider them a customer as much as possible, try to forget this is an exercise and act as if this was the real thing.
3. Research the role: This is an essential and obvious necessity before undertaking a role-play exercise and assessment centre in general. Ensuring you know the key competencies looked for by the company, the skill set needed for the role and background of the organisation itself. Armed with this knowledge, you will more effectively assume you’re given role in the exercise, and impress the recruiter with a more convincing and professional performance.
4. Emphasise the key competencies: Depending on the role, certain competencies will be more important and are highly sought after in candidates. For example, in a sales role candidates should try and emphasise their persuasion skills by using their charisma and influence. For a customer service role, interpersonal and conflict management skills should be emphasised by utilising patience, empathy and building rapport.
5. Time keeping: Ensure that an appropriate pace is kept throughout the exercise. You shouldn't put yourself in a position where you need to rush, or where you need to slow down because you have been working too quickly. Keep an eye on the time, and pace yourself appropriately, but do not let the clock hinder your performance, and do not be seen “clock watching”, check the time rarely and discretely.
Tips for getting into character
Ensuring you are in character is a vital aspect of the role-play, as without committing to the role, you will not take the exercise seriously. Here are some tips for getting into character, and adopting the mindset of the role you are assuming:
1. Adopt the character before the exercise: Begin to think and act like your character well before the start of the exercise, this means that when the exercise begins, the "psyching" process has already finished. Having spent 10-20 minutes acting, behaving and thinking like your target role will help the exercise run more naturally than if you had only just got into character at the start.
2. Confirming when the exercise begins: Ensuring you know exactly when the exercise has started can avoid awkwardness, and put your mind at ease. Knowing exactly when the exercise has begun will help you stay in character as you will not need to worry going in and out of character more than you need to, allowing a more natural flow in the exercise.
3. But also be yourself: Don't try and complicate matters by adopting a whole new alter ego. Just imagine that you have the job which you are role-playing, and other than that you are exactly the same person. This is not an audition for an acting job, you just need to role-play a particular role in a particular situation. Although assuming the responsibilities, mindset and objectives of the role is critical, you do not need to pretend to be a different person, and trying to do so will make the exercise feel unnatural, hampering performance.
How AssessmentDay can help
AssessmentDay offers a specialised, assessment centre pack offering myriad practice assessment centre exercises, along with guidance on exercise performance. Our pack contains a role-play exercise, which can be used to form the basis of a mock role-play exercise and/or provide individual insight into the structure, format and scoring of a role-play exercise. Similarly, our assessment centre pack provides candidates with examples, and recommendations, for the other top assessment centre exercises, including group exercises, analysis exercises, presentations exercises etc. We are also more than happy to answer any questions you have, so please, feel free to drop us an email for some advice.
Role-play exercises can be a more entertaining and fun form of selection procedure when compared to competency based interviews and psychometric tests. If at all possible, try and enjoy the role-play as it will help you to get into character, put your nerves at ease and make a great impression.
Selection procedures, particularly at assessment centres are extremely expensive processes, often costing thousands of pounds per candidate. If you have been invited to an assessment centre then the organisation is definitely interested in hiring you, so remain positive, do your best and good luck from us.