How to Nail a Role Play Interview.

Three little words that serve to strike fear into the hearts of candidates the world over… ‘role play interview’. Tough to prepare for, challenging to execute and thoroughly intimidating, the prospect of completing this exercise can be daunting even for the seasoned professional.


But fear not. With an understanding of the purpose of role plays, alongside a framework for you to prepare with and use on the day, it is more than possible to perform well. Here are some tips to help you tick the right boxes.

What is a role play interview?

A role play is a mock simulation of a real-life scenario. When this exercise is employed in an interview, the purpose is to place the candidate in a situation that resembles the typical conditions of the job and to see how they perform.

Role plays are widely used in recruitment, especially for customer facing or people management roles. Generally, the interviewer will take on the role of a customer or employee, and the candidate will be asked to complete a task (here are some examples). This might be to sell a particular product, resolve a grievance or coach a team member. The basic principle is for the candidate to successfully complete the mission to the best of their abilities.

How should I prepare for the role play?

It’s important that you prepare for your role play long before you receive the brief on the day of your interview. Firstly, consider the skills and capabilities that the interviewer is likely to be looking for you to demonstrate.

For a sales or customer service role, they will be looking for you to show an ability to ask great questions, listen effectively, overcome objections and close the sale at the appropriate moment. You’ll need to evidence excellent communication and reasoning skills. Check out our prep sheet for customer service roles for more detail on what interviewers will be looking for.

For a people management role, they will be looking for you to listen and show empathy and will be expecting to see your coaching and motivational abilities. Practice using a coaching model such as GROW to frame your questions.

If you’re applying for a sales job, it’s likely that you will need to sell a product during the role play. To help you through the process, consider learning about and using a framework such as the 7 steps in order to shape the conversation.

If it’s a customer service role you’re applying for, it’s likely that you will need to resolve a complaint. Again, it’s useful to have a framework to guide you through the situation, such as this one.

On the day.

When you’re handed the brief on the day of the interview, your biggest asset will be your ability to manage your preparation time. Read the brief thoroughly, at least twice, looking for clues as to what the interviewer might be expecting. Consider the specifics of the situation – what, precisely, is the intended outcome they are looking for? What are the obstacles that you are likely to face? Reflect on similar situations you may have handled in the past – what worked well? What didn’t?

Most importantly, try to relax. Take deep breaths and clear your mind. Write down any questions you would like to ask during the role play. Consider how you will handle unexpected objections. And always keep your eye on the outcome.

With the right preparation, there’s no need to fear a role play interview. Remember, the interviewer isn’t trying to catch you out – the purpose of the exercise is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and abilities. By following our tips you’ll feel prepared and confident on the day.

Kate Jones writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice.