Of all the exercises you do over the course of an assessment centre, in-tray exercises are probably the closest it gets to the real experience of the job. In-tray tasks (sometimes known as ‘e-tray’ exercises) are designed to test your ability to deal with the requests, time demands and information overload that comes with being in an office. Your work emails will be like a spaghetti junction every morning; it’s your job to untangle it and figure out how to reply and what courses of action to take.
Communicating logically, clearly and appropriately in a professional environment is a key part of landing a graduate job.
Recruiters will want you to do this in front of them at the assessment centre so that they can see whether you can process things quickly, analyse problems, make decisions, take action, manage your time, work accurately and express yourself tactfully in the workplace. Time is precious on a graduate job, so you have to make every second count.
The exercise itself will consists of an in-tray of paperwork or an inbox full of emails that you’ll have to work through in a specific time limit. The objective is to read through the info, put it in order of priority, then explain what type of action is needed. Here are a few tips to help you out:
- There aren’t really right or wrong answers. The battle is won when you make quick and thoughtful decisions and work calmly under pressure.
- Read everything before doing anything. Then, assess the requests. Identify those needing immediate or urgent action; those you can delegate; those you can delay; and those you may be able to drop.
- Manage your time. Deal with everything in your in-tray or e-tray, but don’t rush and miss key information or act in a way that conflicts with a decision you need to take on another item.