In-Tray Tips – How to Pass Your Next In-Tray Exercise

In-Tray Exercise

If you’re applying for a graduate job or a graduate scheme, it’s possible that you’ll face an In-Tray exercise as part of the application process. In-Tray exercises are testing environments which assess your ability to receive, prioritise, and then complete a variety of tasks under a specific time-frame. Here, we’re going to be taking a look at the top 3 tips for passing any In-Tray exercise.

Read the Background Information – In-Tray Exercise Tips

When heading into the In-Tray assessment, it’s vital that you understand the role that you’ll be playing during the exercise. Everything you need to know about the role you’re taking on will be made clear in the background information stage of the In-Tray assessment. This will usually include your job title, the scenario, key upcoming events, the names and positions of colleagues, and more. This section may also include details on company policy or other protocols which you might need to follow during the assessment.

Many people might be tempted to briefly skim the background information, or skip it altogether, since the clock is ticking. However, the In-Tray assessment is about more than simply completing the tasks. The assessors want you to show that you’re capable of reading, interpreting, and implementing information to arrive at the best courses of action and correct answers. For this reason, you must read the background information closely so that you pick up all of the key information. If it helps, underline or circle key points so that you can refer to them quickly.

If the background information is quite dense, quickly write down some notes containing the key details so that you can refer to them easily. This way, you won’t have to keep trawling through the entire background information section of the exercise while completing tasks.

Prioritise Your Tasks – In-Tray Exercise Tips

This has already been mentioned briefly in the previous chapter, but it’s extremely important that you prioritise each task set out before you. Generally speaking, there are three criteria which you should use in order to prioritise your tasks:

1. Urgency – The closer the deadline, the sooner it needs to be done. As a rule, you shouldn’t leave any of these tasks until the last minute, because you never know if another task might appear and take precedence. Complete tasks based on their urgency as much as possible.
2. Size and Complexity – The bigger a document, or the more complex a task, the more time it’s going to take to complete it effectively. You should try and complete the bigger tasks as soon as possible so that you can get them out of the way, making room for the smaller tasks.
3. Importance – This is slightly more abstract than the other criteria, since the importance of a task will depend on your scenario. For example, if you receive a task from the director of the company you’re working for, then it might take precedence over a task assigned by a team-mate. There’s no real trick to this: just use your own judgement to figure out which tasks are more important than others.

Read Every Item Before Starting – In-Tray Exercise Tips

While a lot of the key information will be supplied in the background information document, there might be more key details in the other items for the entire exercise. Therefore, it’s important that you read every document before you get started, since some new information in a document could change everything about how you approach the tasks.

In addition, reading every item before getting started allows you to prioritise everything effectively. You don’t have to read each piece closely before starting since you’ll do that later, but at least skim through each document for important details before starting on anything.

For more guidance on passing In-Tray Exercises, check out our book: In-Tray and E-Tray Exercises.

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