Role play in interviews

I went for an interview a couple of months ago for an Agile Delivery Lead role. It was a public sector job which I would have really enjoyed, but the interview left me dazed and confused!

As I went I to the room and sat down, the person leading the interview explained what would happen. “First we’ll ask some questions about your experience, then we’ll go into the role play.”

I must have looked confused, as he then asked “You have been told about the role play, haven’t you?”.

Of course I hadn’t. I had been told about a presentation, which I never got details for. I was half expecting them to ask me where mine was, but they didn’t.

The interview

Once we had been through about 4 questions, he explained what was going to happen during this role play exercise in more detail.

“Here is a brief. We are going to leave the room and we want you to set out your user stories. When we come back we’ll do a planning session”

The brief was fairly straightforward, a login and outline of functionality for an online personal salary system. So I sketched out some brief stories on post it notes with acceptance criteria, as best I could, given the vague brief.

The role play

The 3 interviewers came back into the room and the fun began. They took on the role of front end developer, database developer and a product owner of sorts.

Unfortunately the role play had them turn into the most awkward, belligerent, argumentative people I had ever met!

Now, I understand the idea of trying to test me. Trying to see how I would handle an awkward situation is a good idea. The problem was it turned into a farce. Every sentence I uttered, every suggestion I made, was met with resistance and excuses about why it couldn’t be done. It was so unrealistic I just about gave up.

What happened?

Now some might say that I failed.  I didn’t rise to the challenge. To be honest, if that was a measure of what I might face in that organisation, I didn’t want the job.

Is that a representation of the type of people they had hired previously? Did they think I might face that in the job?

Once the role play was over, I just sat, bewildered and exhausted. They thanked me and that seemed to be it.

“Do I get a chance to ask you some questions?” I asked.

“Oh. Yes. Do you have some?” came the surprised response.

I did, but the problem was, as I asked my questions, I didn’t know whether to believe their answers. I was almost too scared to ask them any.  I had spent more time in their presence as these awkward, horrid individuals than I had being the nice people they probably were. They had totally twisted my view of them.

I can honestly put this down as one of the most bizarre, surreal and unhelpful interviews I’ve ever experienced.

Hopefully it worked for them.

Thinking back it worked for me. Interviews are supposed to be 2 way events. You are supposed to be assessing if you want to work for that organisation, as well as them deciding if they want you. This sometimes gets lost in the nerves and performance of the event.  This time I was clear. There was no way I was going back!

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