The role play interview: tips and reflections on acting the part.


More employers are using the role play interview to help choose between candidates. It helps them to see whether you can react appropriately in a ‘real life’ situation.

From bomb scare scenarios to recruiters pretending to be angry teenagers, here are some of our reflections and top tips for ‘acting the part’:

1.   Understand the company, role and job description inside out.

Sophie, a University of Leeds graduate, had a scenario for a recruitment company which involved approaching a potential client to win his business. She needed to persuade him by responding effectively to his objections.

It was only at this point that Sophie realised she hadn’t actually done enough research into the role – she had no idea what to say and started to wonder why she had even applied!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

Understanding the role will give you some clues as to what your role play may include. It will also help you know what skills and qualities the employer will be looking out for.

For example, if you are going for a sales or marketing role, be prepared for role plays that include trying to persuade clients to buy your products (Explore Learning and Sagar Wright are just a couple of examples of employers using these).

For a customer facing role, be prepared for role plays dealing with difficult customers or maintaining excellent customer service (used by companies such as Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Sky and Marks and Spencer).

2. Understand the task and immerse yourself in the role play.

I once applied for a role working with autistic children. The employer pretended to be a 3-year-old girl who liked to throw toys and I had to keep her focused on pointing at word cards.

This was a very bizarre experience, and my first instinct was to laugh out loud at the grown woman throwing crayons across the room. Apart from a small smile that unfortunately slipped out, I remained focussed, drew on previous experience and managed to keep to the time and the task.

The employer said it was my grasp of the objectives that most impressed her and you will be pleased to hear they offered me the job.

Carefully read the brief and be a good sport

Feedback from employers and participants highlighted the importance of fully understanding the task and being able to apply this on the spot. This shows a quick and adaptable brain and the ability to make good decisions under pressure.

3. Be yourself but professional and engaging

Darren applied for a role working with long-term unemployed clients. He needed to have a serious meeting with a client (played by the recruiter) who refused to search for work. The ‘client’ was a challenge and Darren (forgetting he was in an interview) somehow got himself into a debate on a recent bugbear. Needless to say, the recruiter was not impressed.

Stay calm

In a real situation, you would always need to be professional despite your own feelings or the actions of clients, customers or colleagues. But don’t be a robot; let you personality come through without compromising your integrity.

So remember…

  • Understand the role you are going for and take time to consider what type of role plays might come up
  • Read or listen carefully to the task and make sure you highlight the key skills they are looking for
  • Act professionally but still show them your personality and interpersonal skills.

What Next?

Practice really makes perfect, so pop into the Careers Centre for practice, tips and feedback on your role play. Check out this video to see a real role play interview in action.

In the meantime, you can also check out GradJobs and Prospects for more ideas.

Louise Harrison: Careers Assistant

Fancy sharing your own experiences of role play interviews? Leave a comment below.

1 Comment

Filed under Interviews

One response to “The role play interview: tips and reflections on acting the part.

  1. Thanks for this article Louise. It was very interesting. There’s so much rubbish on the internet that it’s refreshing to find something that’s genuinely useful/helpful for candidates. (I laughed at the image of you in the role-play with the lady pretending to be a 3-year-old, that must have been quite the challenge!)

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