Just when you have completed your application form and passed your interview, you are usually faced with the next stage: the in-tray exercise, which is a type of assessment that’s rising in popularity among employers during the interview process.
A typical example of an in-tray exercise is one where you are asked to assume the role of an employee on a typical Monday morning in the office. Faced with a pile of emails, voicemails, notes, letters, documents and report-based tasks, the simulation is designed to see how you handle real-life working situations, while dealing with the time-sensitive nature of task deadlines. While in-tray exercises require you to put pen to paper, the e-tray exercise requires you to follow an email-based format. Both usually involve selecting an answer from a number of multiple-choice options, as well as being asked to justify your decisions. How do you make sure that you are successful with your next in-tray/e-tray exercise? Follow these five expert tips:
Preparation is key. The nature of in-tray exercises makes them unique compared to other forms of interview you may have faced. Speak to your Careers Advisor and see if they have any mock in-tray exercises that they can give you to practice. Along with e-tray exercises, you can readily access them online. Speak to other professionals within your network who have hands-on experience of this type of assessment. Finally, look up the company you’re applying to: what do they prioritise?
Read all of the information carefully
Most in-tray/e-tray exercises last between 1-2 hours, so it can be tempting to just ‘skim’ the information and spend more time on the decision-making and justification. However employers are also looking for someone with attention to detail, so be sure to spend enough time on reading the information properly! Look out for subtle hints and underlying themes that lie within the text which could help you to justify your decisions later on. Make notes as you go along for easy referral when you come to write up your response.
Categorise and Prioritise Tasks
With a variety of different resources to manage, it can be difficult to know where to start. Therefore, start by dividing the tasks into the following categories:
Urgent – Which tasks must be tended to right away because they’re time-sensitive
Wait – Which tasks can be postponed until the urgent tasks have been tended to
Drop – Which tasks, if any, can be dropped completely as they don’t need to be addressed
Delegate – Which tasks can be delegated or passed on to another member of your team
Manage your time effectively
Time will be up before you realise. As this exercise is designed to test how well you cope under pressure, allocate the time effectively across the tasks that have been set and remember to keep an eye on the clock to see how much time you have left.
While you need to keep an eye on the clock, try not to be pressured into doing as many things as you can before the timer runs out. This task will also test your ability to be thorough and accurate. It is better to do a few tasks well than to do many tasks inaccurately. When reporting or presenting your decisions, be sure to have a justified reason as to why you prioritised task A over task B.
For many it can be a daunting experience, but remaining calm and going through the exercise one step at a time can work wonders. Most of all, the transferable skills you gain will be valuable to you to understand what day-to-day life could be like in the workplace. Why not apply these skills in practice by applying for a position with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.