Responding to criteria: What role do you play?

When giving examples both for applications and interviews, one of the questions that can be included in the response is: What was the situation and what was your role?

In referring to your role the most obvious response is to refer to your position role and/or title. For example:

  • As manager of the people development team
  • As project manager of three big projects
  • As team leader

This is certainly one option to use. There are other options to consider which can add strength to your response.

Roles can be divided into two types:

  • Formal roles, including job title and other organisational titles such as delicate.
  • Informal roles, which are the ones you choose to play in a specific situation.

In any given situation you can be playing multiple roles. In describing informal roles, capability frameworks supply a number of terms. It would be worth rereading capability frameworks to identify all of these words. Examples include: coordinator, mentor, negotiator, coach.

There is also a range of other informal roles that can occur in a job situation. These include terms like champion, change agent, gatekeeper, commentator, spokesperson, resource allocator, liaison contact, campaigner.

One way to approach responding to the question ‘What was your role?’ is to take these steps:

  • Work out all the formal and informal roles you played in the situation you are writing about.
  • Explain whether this role was chosen, elected, invited, nominated.
    Incorporate these roles into your response.

Let’s look at an example. The capability is ‘Communicates with influence’. You are invited to give an example of a time when you had to explain a technical issue for others who were senior to you but who are not familiar with the material. Part of your response is to include what the situation was and what your role was.

You are a finance person providing monthly reports to managers, indicating progress against budget. The report includes details of variance between budget and expenditure. One manager is unable to grasp what variance means. Their knowledge of accounting is minimal and they have already demonstrated some impatience with understanding financial management. You have taken steps to explain this concept to the manager. Using the above steps you list the following roles:

  • Finance Officer (formal role)
  • Finance translator (informal role)
  • Report interpreter (informal role)
  • Manager enabler (informal role)

Most of these roles are chosen, ones you have identified as important to achieving results in your job.

Your response might then go something like this:

“As Finance Officer I provide monthly reports to managers indicating significant variance between budget and expenditure. One of the managers has difficulty understanding the concept of variance and is not highly financially literate. My role is to translate and interpret this information to enable managers to fulfil their responsibilities…”

From here you would then proceed to explain what steps you took to help the manager understand this information.

So next time you are faced with giving an example involving explaining your role, think more broadly about what the term ‘role’ means so that you can give a broader, stronger accounting of your contribution to that situation.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.