In-Tray Exercises for Graduates

Nowadays, an ever increasing number of employers incorporate into their selection process in-tray exercises to test the candidate’s ability to evaluate information to take the appropriate courses of action. Find out what these in-tray exercises are and see how to improve your performance.



What is In-Tray Exercise

This type of exercise usually stimulates situations that you are likely to face on the job you are applying for. You may be presented with various scenarios that will be related to the workload of the target job and your task would be to manage these scenarios in quick and effective manner. For example, the typical scenario may be that you have returned to the office after being on holiday for two weeks and you have two hours to clear the in-tray before an important meeting. Alternatively, the scenario may be set up that after busy week the work has piled up and you have to prioritise task before a big meeting at 09:30 AM. In most graduate in-tray exercises you will be usually asked to respond to each and every item within the in-tray.


What types of exercises are there

Graduate in-tray exercises usually given to candidates at the assessment centres may come in variety of forms; however, the most popular form is in-tray that contains of up to thirty items of information. This information may be presented in the forms of letters, memos, phone messages, faxes, documents, reports or e-mails as well as planner or calendar. These items must be acted upon and managed in specific period of time. Additionally, you may be provided with supplementary or supportive information such as organizational charts or memos which could help you to make well informed decisions when deciding upon and tackling particular tasks.


What do I need to do in In-Tray exercise

Usually, your main task is to read through the information and sort out the items in accordance of priority. You need to identify higher and lower priority tasks and act upon them accordingly. You will need to explain what type of action is required and how you will handle each situation. For example, for some tasks you will need to write a letter or reply to an e-mail or perhaps delegate some of the tasks to your subordinates. You will need to skim-read all of the information provided and focus your attention only on the most critical information as you will be working under tight time pressure.


What skills are measured

The key skills and competencies that are measured in most graduate in-tray exercises are planning, organizing and prioritizing. In other words, these exercises test your ability to organize and prioritize tasks that relate to the job or role you wish to undertake. Additionally, in-tray exercise tests your ability to manage large amount of information in swift and accurate manner as most in-trays contain critical information as well as secondary information designed to distract you from more critical items. It is important to note that your performance is likely to be evaluated in terms of how well you can make decision within the time and information provided rather than in terms of mere solutions.