In our last post, we discussed three In-Tray tips for passing your next In-Tray exercise. Here, we’re going to be taking a look at three more tips for passing In-Tray exercises!
There Aren’t Always Right or Wrong Answers – In-Tray Tips
In some cases, there isn’t a right or wrong solution to the task given. Instead, the assessors are trying to figure out what your course of action would be, and more importantly why you’ve chosen it. In the post-exercise interview, the assessors might ask you to explain your choice of actions for some questions. For this reason, you should always know why you’ve chosen a specific course of action over another. It might be the case that neither answer is right or wrong – the assessor just wants to get an idea about how you think and rationalise decisions.
Note: Just because there are some questions with no right or wrong answers, you should not assume that every task has no right or wrong answer. There will be plenty of tasks with a definitive course of action which is most effective.
Don’t Make Assumptions – In-Tray Tips
One thing you absolutely must not do when completing a task is jump to a conclusion. This can result in answers which aren’t properly justified, which in turn can reflect negatively on your performance in the post-exercise interview.
All of the information you need in order to make a decision is there in the documents you’ve been given. Your job is to deduce, interpret, and evaluate data in order to reach conclusions. If there’s a piece of data that you can’t find, then take another look through your material. It might be the case that you’ve simply missed it on previous readings.
In some cases, data might intentionally be omitted from the documents. For example, you might be asked to decide which business plan to move ahead with in the next year. You might have complete data for Plan A, but incomplete or inconclusive data for Plan B. In this case, the real task might be to acknowledge that Plan B’s data is inconclusive, and therefore Plan B should not be considered as the correct course of action.
Be Prepared to Read Between the Lines – In-Tray Tips
While assumptions should be avoided as much as possible, there will be a number of cases where you’ll have to read between the lines to glean important information. As mentioned in the previous chapter, there are sometimes ‘hidden’ themes in an In-Tray exercise that you’ll need to figure out in order to achieve the best mark. By reading between the lines, you have the best chance of finding these themes.
For example, one theme in the In-Tray exercise may be that the company is considering acquiring another smaller company in the near future. This might not be made explicit to you, but might instead be implied by the type of information that you’re given. For example, you might be given a report listing predicted revenue for the company in the current or next financial year, combined with a list of smaller companies in the same industry. On top of this, the director of the company might hint that ‘major changes’ are coming to the structure of the company, which in turn suggests that a merger or acquisition is set to take place. While this might not be obvious, some deduction based on evidence might lead you to a hidden detail which can completely change the exercise.
Keep an Eye on the Clock – In-Tray Tips
Time management is a vital skill in most jobs, and the In-Tray exercise is designed to test it. If you let time run away from you, you put yourself at risk of not completing all of the tasks. This will obviously reflect poorly on your application, so it’s important that you master your time management skills.
As previously mentioned, a sure-fire way of maintaining good time management is to keep track of the deadlines for all of your tasks and then prioritising them accordingly. This means that you have the maximum amount of possible time for each task, giving you more time to spend on them and decreasing your chances of accidentally missing the deadline. Make sure to prioritise your work.
Secondly, a great way of managing your time is to put aside tasks that you’re stuck on, and return to them later. It’s completely understandable to find some tasks tougher than others, but it’s important that you don’t get waste time being stuck on a task. Instead, put the task to one side and move onto another which might be a bit easier. This way, you’re maximising your productivity. If you have time later, you can return to the tougher questions and see if completing the other tasks has helped your position at all.
For more guidance on passing In-Tray Exercises, check out our book: In-Tray and E-Tray Exercises