Sometimes a job interview involves more than an exchange of questions and answers. Here’s how to prepare and take advantage of these opportunities to show your value.
Q: I had an interview recently where they asked me to do a role-play, and after the second interview, I was asked to write an article. Is it common for employers to ask an applicant to do tasks like these? What’s a reasonable amount of work to expect to do as an applicant, and how can I prepare?
A: What you experienced is becoming increasingly common. Unfortunately, organizations don’t always share how they approach the selection process, though they should. Although these kinds of activities add challenge for the job candidate, look at them as another opportunity to show the value you’d bring to the organization.
Since you may not know in advance what an employer will ask you to do, it’s a good idea to prepare for some common scenarios. Most likely you won’t be asked to do a role-play or share a writing sample until after you’ve had at least one formal (not screening) interview. Fortunately, the best practices for preparing for an interview—identifying examples of your past work that show your strengths and researching the organization that posted the job—will also prepare you for role-playing.
Although you may not like them, role-plays can be valuable to the hiring manager because they illuminate your understanding of the role and showcase how your background fits the position. To get more comfortable, practice with a valued colleague or coach.
Role-plays can be valuable to the hiring manager because they illuminate your understanding of the role and showcase how your background fits the position.
Some organizations are asking candidates to participate in a business simulation, which is, to some people, easier than a role play. Before the interview, the organization sends a real situation to the candidate and asks them to prepare to share their thoughts on how they would handle it. Then during the interview, they discuss the scenario with the person who would be their manager. Take these exercises seriously and practice your responses in advance.
If you are asked to write a short article and you have something already written that seems appropriate, it’s OK to ask if you can provide that example instead of writing something new. A well-managed organization will accept something you’ve already written if it fits what they’re trying to learn about you.
If the position doesn’t involve writing, a writing assignment may be a clue that this is not the kind of employer you want to work for. Be as accommodating as possible, but don’t give more than you’re comfortable with.