A roleplay is known as a simulation exercise, i.e. it simulates key aspects of the role you have applied for giving you a chance to show how you would behave/ react to different scenarios in practice.
You will probably be given some information to read through before the role-play so you have a few minutes to prepare for the discussion or situation ahead. You are likely to have to interact with one or two other people, probably actors. They will have a script and a character that they will remain as for the duration of your interaction. You will need to deal with the person or people, using your skills and experience, as you see fit.
Assessors will observe you to see how you interact with others, deal with problems, make plans, resolve issues, make other people feel etc. It will be surprisingly easy to forget that they are there once the interaction gets underway.
Your roleplay might be set within a clinical environment, or if you are going for a more senior or management position may involve you dealing with a staff member in order to manage their performance or get to the bottom of a problem.
You will be yourself and you will deal with the scenario as you would if it was real. The other person or people involved will be actors.
The scenario may be internal i.e. you are talking to a member of the team or service user, or external i.e. outside service providers, agency, stakeholders etc. It will be made clear before the meeting who to expect.
The scenario may not be set within the organisation you are applying to but a fictitious parallel organisation. This is to maintain a level playing field for all candidates and not allow any advantage in case there are internal applicants.
There will probably be a timeframe on the discussion; you won’t be expected to carry on indefinitely! It usually won’t last more than 15-30 minutes.
When you enter the room the role players will already be in character so as far as you are concerned you will feel like you are simply dealing with a situation involving new people as you might on any normal day. The role-players will behave in a very natural way so it won’t be obvious that they are working to guidelines or a script. They will respond depending on what you say so it will feel like a real conversation.
What is being assessed
This will vary depending on the specifics of the role and what the organisation is prioritising but will often cover how you gather information, react to others, show support, cooperate, identify key issues, resolve problems, establish next steps, set expectations, show integrity, communicate, listen, deal with conflict, respond to challenge, influence…etc.
The role-play will be relevant to what you already know how to do so don’t be daunted. There would be no point setting up a scenario which isn’t relevant to the role (even if it doesn’t seem familiar, the skills you need to demonstrate will be).
How to handle your biggest role-play fears
I won’t know what to say.
Ask questions to take the pressure off you and give you more information
I won’t understand what is expected
The information provided will help. Also, ask the role-player to confirm your understanding or provide their own summary of what is going on
I’ll say the wrong thing
You’ll say some things you wish you could re-phase and other things you don’t think twice about- this can happen in any conversation thats important to you so try not to worry.
I’ll do it wrong
This is your chance to show how you would handle the situation in your unique way. There won’t be only one correct way to do it, life isn’t like that and nor will the roleplay be.
The role-players will be difficult
The role-players will have their agenda but they will also respond to you, as is the case in most normal interactions. If you are hostile you might get a less conciliatory response in turn. If you are open-minded, enquiring and empathetic it will break down barriers. Role-players are there to get the best from you and will do this very professionally. It is in no-ones best interests to make you feel intimidated or uncertain; the assessors won’t get to see your potential if you aren’t comfortable.
I’ll run out of things to say
Use your instructions to set some objectives for what you want to achieve in the meeting. Work through these, asking plenty of questions until you feel you have solved the issues. If you do this you won’t need to add anything extra.
I won’t get my words out right
The best approach to keeping your nerves in check is to find out more; what the employer are likely to be looking for, strategies for getting the discussion under control and guidance on how to direct the interaction to a successful and impressive conclusion. This sort of info is quite specialised so you may need to get some help- which we can do!