Role-play Exercises Overview

  • Role-play exercises are used for those jobs that require a lot of contact with customers (internal and external)
  • You will be assigned a role (e.g. a manager) and asked to deal with an unhappy customer or an employee who is underperforming. The role of the customer/employee is played by actual actors, or sometime by assessors. An assessor will observe the session and make notes.
  • Competencies assessed in role-play exercises may include Customer Excellence, Communicating (including non-verbal i.e. body language) and Problem Solving
  • To perform at your best during role-play exercises: empathise with the customer/employee, keep time, build rapport with the individual early and manage conflict (see below)

What are Role-play Exercises

The use of Role-Play exercises are justified in an employment context where there is likely to be a high-level of people-to-people contact. For example retail organisations, where a potential candidate will work with many customers, may wish to use a role-play exercise to assess a candidate’s competence in areas that are deemed important for doing the job to a high standard.

Role-play exercises often assess the ‘Communicating’ competency including non-verbal communication (body language). Other competencies may be assessed such as ‘Decision Making’ in terms of what to do with an unusual customer request and ‘Gathering Information’ to help resolve a customer query.

For example, a role-play exercise may involve a candidate playing a role (often the one they are applying for) of Manager for a large store, and having to deal with an upset customer. The customer in this example may be played by an assessor but it is common practice for organisations to hire professional actors to perform these roles.

Role Play During the Assessment Centre

During a role play assessment, the candidate is given instructions, often along with others, on what the task involves. All candidates are given a ‘candidate brief’ which outlines information that is relevant to the current situation; this may include a history of events, how any problem may have been managed previously etc. The candidate is given a limited amount of time under supervised conditions to prepare for a meeting with the ‘role-player’ who may be acting as a customer, a manager, a colleague and so on.

An assessor will be present in the room during the role-play to observe and make notes.

Did you know our Assessment Exercises are written by ex-SHL consultants. Our Assessment Centre practice bundle includes Case Study, In-tray, Presentation and Group Discussion Exercises along with Marking Guides to tell you what Assessors will look at when rating you. Practise Assessment Centre Exercises prepared by experts.

Role-play Exercises Preparation – Useful Tips

Ensure good body language and maintain a relaxed eye contact – you do not want to be staring the role-player (e.g. customer) in the eyes for prolonged periods of time. Make sure that when you are listening to questions you are attentive and demonstrate this through nods and gestures of agreement. Speak clearly and adapt your style depending on what the ‘candidate brief’ says about the individual; e.g. if they are sensitive, you may need to be very careful with the language you use. Smiling always helps too but do ensure this is not done to the extent where an angry customer can complain you were not taking them seriously.
Avoid confrontation and do not speak over the role-player, regardless of how aggressive they may appear. The role-player may simply be doing this to see how you respond. Remain calm and focussed on your task.
Ensure you show that you empathise and make a point of this at least twice. Be willing to hear the role-players opinions and feelings, and work together to reach a mutual win-win outcome. Do not try and force your own opinions.
Keeping a check on the time will earn you good points. Don’t worry about finishing early, however finishing too early can often be viewed negatively as it reflects a lack of information.
The role-play is likely to be challenging and one of the most common themes that assessors feel candidates fail on is building rapport. Rapport helps to break any barriers, and encourages a relaxed and open conversation. People in situations where rapport is built at the onset find the session to be more meaningful than those who do not. This may involve simply offering the role-player a drink, asking how they are or even making a relevant joke assuming the circumstances permit.

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