It’s a New Year symbolising the opportunity for new beginnings (for a Roadmap to Success click here). 2018 may mean a promotion, or even a change of your employer (read our article titled “Am I Being Paid My Worth” here if you are still undecided about making a career move).
If you do seek greener pastures in the career domain, there is a high probability that you’ll be subject to psychometric assessments.
Role plays are used often as part of an assessment battery. Popularly referred to as a simulation or immersion, role playing offers the assessor a unique perspective that traditional assessments do not. For example, if you complete a personality inventory, and a question asks if you are a resilient individual, you may answer “hell yeah”. The issue is that your perception of yourself, and how you behave in reality, may be two different things. If I put you in a situation where you are put under severe pressure, the assessor will then objectively measure your performance. Not surprisingly a professional’s judgement may be rather different to your own.
The reality is that you will probably need to engage in such an activity at the very least once in your life. Role plays are a vital element of data, although the vast majority of candidates shudder at the very thought of engaging in such.
After assessing thousands upon thousands of candidates (no exaggeration here), I have outlined EIGHT recurrent things individuals seem to get wrong. Take heed of the EIGHT tips below, and cream your next role play.
Tip #1: Dress the Part
There’s little you can do to prepare for an assessment session. Typically candidates are welcome to dress down for their assessment, seeing as the interview process with the prospective or current employer is already out of the way. However, if you are subject to a role play as part of your battery of assessment, dressing professionally will not only make you look the part, but will contribute to you feeling confident too.
In my personal opinion, the unspoken rule for the attire when attending an assessment session is to wear what you wore to the job interview.
And for goodness sake, keep your shoes on. I hear you laugh? One of my most unexpected moments was when a candidate, playing the role of a strategic advisor addressing the mayor (in other words, me), decided to take her flip flops off for the presentation. That’s just… odd. Although a bit funny at the time, this behaviour was not professional in the least.
Tip #2: Begin when it Begins
When I was a Psychology Major, I would get highly annoyed when people – after learning what I was studying – would ask the cliché question “are you analysing me?” Fast forward a decade, and guess what? That’s exactly what I do for a living. As a Psychometrist, my title is interchangeable with ‘Behavioural Specialist.’ I analyse your e.v.e.r.y. move.
(*Disclaimer: I am only analysing you when I am in work role. To all my friends and family – CHILL).
What baffles me is, even though the candidate has been briefed that the encounter begins the second the assessor walks through the door, I have been often asked things like “Can I start?” or a superfluous comment like “Gosh I hate role-playing”.
According to research, human beings naturally assess one another a fraction of a second upon meeting. If this is a natural human reaction, can you imagine the assessment a behaviour specialist is making when met with such a poor introduction? In fact, even after the role play has concluded and I tell you to “take off your role playing hat” – I am STILL assessing you. Heaving a sigh of relief, or dropping your head to your desk, can leave a tainted taste in my mouth even after a successful delivery.
In essence the second the role play begins – begin.
Not sure on how to start your roleplay? Time for our next tip…
Tip #3: Probe
It’s astounding how about the vast majority of candidates dive into the business case study without considering that their assessor is yet another source of information. Whether you’re required to appease an angry customer, sell to a prospective client, solve a businessman’s complex problem or win back the contract of a disappointed client – do not make assumptions about the detail!
Most role players make the fateful mistake of not inviting the customer / client / business partner / manager / journalist to share their own insights. Few candidates see the encounter as a dynamic exchange between two humans. Especially if you are feeling anxious because half your business case study left you with more questions than answers (it was designed that way – just by the way), ask questions.
Tip #4: Look at the clues
If you have been given presentation material (such as a flip chart and markers) you may want to map out your ideas visually – no matter how juvenile your hand drawn presentation may appear. If a calculator was included in your assessment pack, there is a high probability that you may need to consider doing some calculations.
This may sound like fairly obvious tips – but once again, a large number of candidates ignore these really simple cues. Pay attention.
Tip #5: Plan your Time
I can pretty much guarantee you that you WILL run out of time as you prepare for your role play. Role plays are synonymous with the words “pressure test”. Planning and organising, resilience and time management are competencies that are included in most role plays. The trick here is to PLAN. Understand that only a miniscule handful of the population will be able to work through every bit of information. Take a few minutes to page through your entire brief, and then consciously decide where you where you are going to focus your attention on during your preparatory time.
Tip #6: Build rapport
Do not under estimate the benefit of attempting to build rapport by making use of social niceties. This could be anything from offering your counterpart a beverage, asking “how’s the family?” or even a simple ‘how are you’ will go a long way. Even if your efforts are shut down, the fact that you tried to set a warm tone will be to your benefit.
Tip #7: Fake it till you make it
Even the most successful CEO candidates experience a degree of anxiety during an assessment session. A little bit of anxiety is fuel to your capacity to apply razor sharp focus to the task at hand. Too much anxiety, however, can have a negative impact if you become overwhelmed by your nerves.
I have been sometimes surprised by some candidates who, after the role play has ended, admit that they were extremely nervous for the engagement. These candidates carried themselves off so well, that even as a trained professional, their anxiety levels appeared rather low even when internally their heart was racing.
Remember to breath, speak s-l-o-w-l-y, ask questions (if anything to give you a chance to catch your breath), and don’t fidget. Sit or stand up straight, maintain a healthy level of eye contact, and watch your hand gestures; elaborate arm movements, whilst theatrical, can allude to anxiety.
My favourite visualisation before a stressful event is to picture the poise and serenity of a duck gliding through water. What no one can see below the water is how furiously those little paddles are kicking.
You may experience high levels of nervousness internally, but it is absolutely possible to mask it to even the most trained professional.
Tip #8: You can’t dodge a curveball
Every single immersion I conduct (I am trained on ten different simulations) contains a curveball. It’s difficult to know what that curveball may be before the encounter begins, but in few sophisticated cases some of my candidates were able to predict some of the curveballs I threw at them. Although impressive, it’s highly unlikely you may be able to predict such. However, simply knowing you should expect the unexpected may help you to know you’ll need to think quickly on your feet.
“You may take off your role play hat now – we’ve now concluded our session”
The thought of engaging in a role play with a complete stranger trained to analyse every inch of your behaviour and response is enough to rattle the most contained individuals. It’s a misconception to think that you need to be a gifted actor to be competent to perform well in a role play. I am assessing you on a variety of competencies, such as your capacity to problem solve, applying an eye for detail, resilience, confidence, active listening, articulation and about a hundred more (not all for one immersions so RELAX!). Out of all those competencies, I’m certainly not looking at your ability to win a Golden Globe. Promise (unless of course we are hiring an actor – and I have unfortunately never had that opportunity!).
Give it your best shot and remember – the immersion is only one slice of the assessment pie. Even if you feel like you flunked, that’s okay. You’ll do better each subsequent time.
By: Marzenna Almendro
Our contributors collectively boast a wealth of experience in assessments, HR, organisational development, change management and more!