Dec 09

Assessment Centre Role-Plays: What’s the big deal?

Role-plays or interactive exercises are often a part of a selection process. So it makes sense to be prepared for them.

The basic principle of a role-play or interactive exercise is that you are due to meet an individual, for example a peer, direct report or partner, and there is an issue or challenge that needs solving. This could be poor performance in the team, some on-going collaboration problem between the organisation and a stakeholder or it maybe a straightforward sales role-play.

Prior to the meeting you are given a paper feed with lots of relevant information (and maybe some not so relevant) and you have a period of time, say 20 minutes, to read, digest and form your plan of attack. You will then have an additional period of time to conduct the meeting, where you need to convince the role player to take a particular course of action that you believe is the most effective and solves the problem.

In essence you meet someone, have a chat, sort the issue and walk out of the room for tea and medals. Easy.

But invariably candidates execute these exercises very poorly and often it’s the reason they fail the process. The question is why?

In our opinion there are three main reasons that role-plays become a big deal:

1) The first reason is stress. There is no doubt that stress and nerves play a part for many candidates. This is totally understandable, as the outcome of a selection processes is always important. Whether it is the kudos of a new role, an increased salary or the extra annual leave that is the motivation for going through the process – the result always matters.

2) The second reason is that there is no logical flow to the exercise. Candidates ramble and waffle on, not knowing where they are going or how they will get there. If they don’t know what’s going on– how on earth will the role-player?

3) Finally, and maybe the most common, candidates simply dismiss what they already know and approach the exercise as if its something completely alien to them. They take a radically different approach to what they would do normally in the workplace, forgetting all the training and experience that they have gained over years and so become ineffective in their approach. #epicfail

What’s the solution to better performance?

The very first thing to remember is the exercise is just another meeting and probably very similar to those that you (hopefully) prepare for in your job many times each and every day.

With that in mind, lets deal with the three reasons for poor performance in turn;

1. Managing Stress

Some stress is good. It means that the process matters to you and you care about the result. So don’t beat yourself up if you do feel stress and nerves – most of your competition will be as well.

In our opinion, the best way to mitigate stress is to be prepared and find out as much as you can about the exercise.

The fact is however, that most candidates just don’t understand what is expected of them and what the role-play exercise is actually assessing. They essentially go into the exercise ‘blind’ with maybe only a vague understanding of what is expected of them. #bonkers

To be successful it’s essential that you learn about competency based assessment theory and how this knowledge can be utilised to help you perform at your very best in the exercise. At a basic level, you at least need to know what competencies the exercise is actually assessing. If you don’t know this, you should, and you should also be thinking how you could deliver against them.

As we say at bselected: Know what to expect, know how to prepare and know how to deliver.

2. Structure is Essential

The key for success here is that you need a plan and a structure to help deliver it.

If you don’t have a clear and simple structure you are setting yourself up to fail. Structure will help keep you on track toward your goal and also help the role player to know where you are going and, importantly, why you are going there.

bselected recommends our unique PASSC© structure for role-plays. This simple structure helps you plan the meeting and navigate a path to success.

3. Be Authentic

Finally be you! Or, maybe better put, be the very best version of yourself on a workday.

Almost all candidates perform more effectively when they approach an assessment centre exercise as if its just another work task, albeit under more time pressure. Use your experience to help shape and tailor a solution to the problem that you have been set.

These exercises are not trying to trick you – there is no hidden agenda. If the issue is to sort out poor performance in the team, then put a strategy in place to remedy the issues. Far too often candidates overcomplicate the exercise, and themselves tied up in knots. #keepitsimple

We often see candidates change their usual approach to meetings in these exercises and read into them something that is not there. This results in a stilted, inauthentic and ineffective performance.

Follow these three points and remember to #bemorenormal and there is nothing to fear about role-plays! Good luck!

To learn more about essential competency based assessment theory & how bselected’s PASSC© structure can help you smash the role-play book a personal consultation here or if you wish to chat through give us a call on 0161 327 2126