How to approach a role play

How to approach a role play

Role play. Is there a phrase that worries a candidate more than ‘role play’ (aside from ‘Group based exercise’; more of which next week)? The mere mention of a role play is enough to send even the most senior candidate into a spiral of dread and self-doubt. Indeed, we have worked with individuals whose day job it is to assess others through role play who have FAILED role plays! But it does not have to be this way.

So what are they, and how do you cope with them?

The initial reaction by candidates seems to be to dismiss the role play as an irrelevant, “modern”, HR focused task. As somehow befitting the type of lengthy, assessment centre beloved of corporate behemoths and nothing else. But in fact a role play is simply a chance for a company to see a candidate do what they do day in day out, with most scenarios based on a situation people will find themselves on a regular basis. It also assesses how someone handles being under pressure.

Role plays test how candidates handle certain situations and usually involve the interviewer taking the part of the client/introducer and the interviewee effectively being themselves.

Example scenarios for financial advisers for instance might include:

  • Meeting a client for the first time
  • Meeting an introducer who seems reluctant to use your services
  • Dealing with someone from your business who will not refer you cases
  • Handling a customer complaint

In a normal day most people would be able to handle these issues without thinking about it. Objection handling, building relationships and listening are such inherent skills in most people that we do not have to consider how we use them. So the good news is that most of us have the ability to perform to at least an average standard in a role play. But this more inherent nature of how we work is perhaps part of the problem when faced with a similar scenario in an artificial setting.

How to prepare

It sounds obvious but try (really try!) and be confident. Someone who is confident, even if they are not hugely skilled or knowledgeable, makes others feel reassured, that what they are saying is important and that it will be acted upon. Slow, deep breathing in the final few minutes before you start the exercise genuinely works. A calm mind will help you enormously.

Before the day of the interview think about the type of role play you are likely to face. Write down how you normally approach a meeting. How do you introduce yourself? How do you set the scene? How do your gather information? Start with the open questions then focus on the closed ones. Write down the type of information you would as a matter of course want to get from the meeting you are about to attend. Write down a structured plan to guide you during the role play itself.

Read the brief very carefully. Understand what the role play is asking of you. It is usually more about assessing your ability to build a relationship, handle objections and ask for information than make a sale. It is always more appropriate to do this than spend most of the role play telling the other party what you know. A role play is usually not the place to purely demonstrate your technical skills.

Another vital ingredient is to get into character. As far as possible put to one side that this is an artificial environment and think of what would normally be going through your mind in a work setting. We may not all be capable of treading the boards but we should be able to play the part of ourselves at work!

Listen. A good role play will involve you understanding what the other person feels and what they need. Do not be tempted to spend the entire exercise talking. The more the other person talks the better.

Accept that you will not be perfect. You will make mistakes. There will always be things you could do better.

And finally please remember that the interviewer is not trying to catch you out. If you are taking part in a role play there is a good chance that you are towards the final stages of the interview process. They like you, rate you and want you to do well. They have a vacancy to fill and you performing badly will not help them find a solution to their problem.  Smile, perform to the best of your ability and at the end, if they ask you if there was anything you wish you had done better, be honest. The ability to be humble, self-aware and mature in a stressful setting is a massively attractive characteristic.

Good luck!

For more details on how to handle role plays please call Exchange Street on 0161 9736900.