My role-play skills were okay, but they weren’t great. Last summer I was unsuccessful in applying for a graduate scheme after attending an assessment centre. I feel that, had I been better in the role-play activity, I might have got the job. So when I found out last November that Frontline was holding a workshop to improve role-playing skills, I decided to go along.
Katie, Frontline’s Recruitment Director, was very friendly and made everyone feel comfortable straight away. Because there were only a few of us, she suggested that we move from the lecture-style seating and make an informal circle at the front. We spent a few minutes discussing our various experiences with role play and assessment centres and got to know each other a bit better.
We then watched a short video which showed a Frontline applicant taking part in a role-play at the assessment centre. The applicant was on the phone to her ‘manager’ and had to tell her that she had not completed a vital report because she was overwhelmed with her workload. Because we weren’t involved in the activity and could see it through the eyes of a third person, it was easy to critique the applicant’s approach. She seemed reluctant to admit that she had not completed the report, instead emphasising how busy she was. From this, I learned that it is always best to get to the point straight away. However, she was also quick to think of ways to resolve the situation, which showed me that it is good to think outside what you are being asked to do and consider possible solutions to the ‘problem’ you are given. I also saw that the ‘manager’ was careful to re-clarify what the applicant was saying, which helped her get to the point, and showed support by agreeing to the suggested solutions. It was interesting to see a role play from this perspective.
After discussing the video, we broke up into groups of three and acted out our own role plays. We were given three scenarios, and in each of these one person was the applicant, one person was the actor and one person was the assessor. During the first scenario I was the actor, playing against the applicant. I found it pretty tough as my applicant had to take her cues from me and I had to offer the right reactions to get her to fully explore the scenario. I was really hopeful that my applicant would reach the expected conclusions and when she did a good job I felt really happy and proud. Playing this part made me realise that the staff at assessment centres put a lot of effort into their activities and they want you to do well at them too!
I took a turn being the assessor, which again gave me the benefit of being able to see the situation from a third point of view, and then it was my turn to be the applicant. I was a little bit nervous but at this point I had seen a role play acted out twice and had also been the actor myself, so I felt I had more knowledge of how to go about it. In my scenario I was a member of staff in an independent shop and had been there for years. I had problems at home and a college course to attend in the evenings, and the manager had just gone on holiday. He had left a young member of staff in charge, who had only worked there for a few months and she had a pretty radical idea to make more money – leaving the shop open for a couple more hours each evening, which would make things difficult for me. This member of staff and I had to have a discussion about the idea. Katie played the other member of staff and I found it very easy to get into. We explored all the benefits and possible negative consequences of leaving the shop open later and came up with some good solutions. In the end, our characters compromised, deciding to do a trial run. According to my assessor the role play went well as we did a good job debating different options and had approached the situation from all angles.
We got together as a group and thought about why role-play is needed in an assessment centre. It is something every graduate dreads and seems to be a lot of effort for everyone involved. The truth is, prospective employers need to see how you’d react to certain situations. And the role-play format not only makes the situation seem more real, but is a good way of testing how you would act under pressure. After all, in a work environment, stressful situations arise every day, and being able to deal with them confidently is important. Towards the end of the session Katie gave us some general tips on how to prepare for assessment centres so we could arrive calm and focused on the day ahead.
To conclude, we learned a bit more about Frontline and how to go about the application process. For those of you who aren’t aware of what Frontline do, they train up talented graduates to become social workers in just two years. Participants learn on the job, working closely with the people who need them most. It is challenging but also incredibly rewarding and you have the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.
This session was very interesting, enjoyable and a good way to practice role-play in a ‘safe’ environment. A month ago I went to another Assessment Centre and I got the job. I now have a graduate scheme lined up for when I finish university. I feel that my performance was largely improved thanks to Frontline. If you get the opportunity to attend one of Frontline’s Roleplay workshops, I fully recommend it.
Thank you, Frontline, and a huge thank you to Katie.
For more information about a career with Frontline visit http://www.thefrontline.org.uk/