Role play exercises

Role plays can be part of Assessment Centres run by graduate employers. They give employers the opportunity to assess how you perform in an imaginary situation which is likely to mirror a scenario you may come across within the role. Of course, this means that what you will be asked to do in the role play will vary massively between sectors, roles, and companies.

There are one-to-one role plays where you would likely play out a real business situation such as meeting a client or dealing with an angry stakeholder. There are also group role plays where you could be asked to play a role in a simulated exercise such as being part of a committee looking at the amenities in a town. This might involve considering how funds are invested to give residents the most benefit.

The assessor will look at how effectively you put your views across, whether you can construct a convincing argument, and how well you influence and persuade others. Other competencies they may be assessing are leadership, problem solving, decision making, negotiation, assertiveness, or the ability to interpret and present data. You can practice with some of our example scenarios for mock role plays which you may find useful in preparing.

Individual role play

Although it can be difficult to prepare for a role play assessment, there are various steps you can take:

  • Consider the type of scenario you may be presented with in the role to pre-empt the situation you may be asked to deal with
  • Read and re-read the brief thoroughly before you begin. In this time, make sure you completely understand what you are being asked to do
  • Consider the competencies that are being assessed e.g. communication skills, negotiating, problem solving. If you are not given this information, go back to the person specification to get an indication
  • Do have a skeleton of a plan for your role-play, including a strong opening and closing. However – keep this flexible and respond to the direction of the role play, whilst keeping control of the scenario
  • Write down any key information you want to use in your role play
  • As uncomfortable as it may feel, it is important to adopt the role seriously and become as comfortable with performing in another persona as possible through practice

Group role play

The same steps apply when performing in a group role play activity, however there may be other elements to consider in the different context.

Group role plays can also vary: some role plays give you a general topic to discuss; others may give you a task related to the work associated with the role; while others may give you a different type of group task or puzzle.

Some role play activities may ask you to adopt a role within a group role play activity. You will be given a brief with information about your role and context of the discussion – it is worth remembering that each person may have been given different information at this point and the information may conflict to present challenges for you to overcome.

It may feel intimidating having to play a role in a larger group. Bear in mind that they’re not assessing your acting skills, they’re assessing your capabilities for the role and how you behave in a group. So remind yourself of some of the key competencies they will be looking out for:

  • listening; putting forward ideas
  • negotiation
  • communicating effectively with all members and fulfilling the requirements of the task

Usually one assessor will be assessing your contribution to the task, noting your actions and words that demonstrate your strengths and areas for development.

Obviously, role plays are forced situations where candidates feel under pressure to impress the assessors, but it is not about who can shout the loudest. You will stand out in the group tasks through other means, for example: contributing ideas, listening to and including other group members in the discussion, being polite but persuasive, praising and encouraging others, taking a responsibility but not dominating negatively, using data and information
effectively, and showing awareness of the wider industry.

Some key points to consider while in the group task

  • Is time being used effectively? – You could nominate yourself at the beginning to keep the time – however, make sure you do manage the time effectively and calmly.
  • Is the discussion fulfilling to the brief? - Having this at the back of your mind will allow you to ensure that the discussion is on track and gives you the opportunity to bring any irrelevant tangent back on task.
  • Am I being a good team member? – As well as demonstrating strong capabilities for the role and meeting the brief, are you also demonstrating other skills too: strong communication and interpersonal skills; team work; problem-solving; and giving constrictive feedback to others in the group, for example.

Example scenarios

We have provided five example scenarios below for you to practice and will help in preparation for a role play assessment:

Internal negotiation

You have been working for the firm for 6 months as part of a team and enjoy the work, but you feel you’ve not been given the same opportunities others with different managers have had. There always seem to be excuses from your manager. Others have had regular performance reviews, action plan, projects to work on, extra responsibility and have been forward for training. You have a meeting coming up with your manager and want to resolve this. You want to persuade your manager to give you the opportunities and have a confirmed action plan. You want monthly reviews, action plan, work on project x, and have time to shadow others.

Angry customer

You are a graduate trainee working in the customer relations team for a large retail firm, a customer has come in to speak to a member of staff to make a complaint. They are threatening to go to a consumer watchdog. Your objective is to resolve the issue with minimum financial and reputation damage to the company.

Consulting

You are a consultant who has been tasked with building relations with a client and finding out why their business is failing. Your objective is to identify the root cause of problems that the business is experiencing without offending the client and bring this back to the firm to discuss.

Difficult or vulnerable patients

You are a doctor / healthcare / social care specialist and after running tests on your patient you discover that they have an illness (you can choose one). You have to break the news to them and provide further support. Your objective is to manage the patient and help them realise their options (invasive operation, exploratory with 6 weeks’ recovery) as it is life threatening.

Sales

You are doing door to door sales, you want to persuade the next person that opens their door that they should buy a swimming pool. You need to come up with realistic solutions to overcome any objections.