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In-tray and e-tray exercises

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Date posted: March 5, 2012

The following article has been posted by Nik Shah from WikiJob….

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This post is for graduates and job seekers on how to prepare for In-tray or E-tray exercises. Now you’re probably wondering what are In-tray or E-tray exercises, but I’ll get onto that in a moment.
Firstly, most graduates tend to apply to big corporate companies that have graduate schemes and to help these companies recruit the right candidate, they hold assessment centres. Assessment centres are group events that allow companies to test candidates in a variety of different scenarios and through a variety of business world assessments. One of the main tests used are called In-tray (or E-tray) exercises.
Right, so what is an In-tray exercise? This exercise is usually a paper based business simulation of real life work scenarios and is used to test a candidate’s skills that can’t be assessed through job applications or traditional face-to-face interviews. Sometimes these exercises can be conducted electronically, when they are referred to as an “E-tray exercise”. The exercises usually last between 60 and 90 minutes. You will have to work quickly to absorb lots of information and manage demands on your time, whilst deciding how to respond to each in tray item. The In-tray exercise items will be specifically designed to measure job skills such as:

  • Ability to organize and prioritize work
  • Analytical skills
  • Communication with team members and customers
  • Written communication skills
  • Delegation
  • Extract information from data provided
  • Making calculations
  • Dealing with company and client problems

Whether it is a paper or electronic version, the basic principles of the In-tray exercise remains the same.
My first encounter with an In-tray exercise at an assessment centre was not the greatest. This was my first assessment centre and I little idea of what to expect from the day. I knew the basics of what might happen; some competency based tasks, interviews, etc. But I had no real idea what an In-tray exercise was going to be. Before the exercise began the assessors gave a brief outline of what it was going to be about, handed over the test documents and we began. I got the notion of to do, but I did not manage my time well. I just didn’t realise that you had use your time efficiently as you were trying to organise complex information in a limited time allocation. Because of this I knew I missed out some key points in the exercise and this was probably one of the main reasons I didn’t progress to the next stage of the selection process. However, I did feel a little frustrated towards the company conducting the assessment centre, as I was not informed before the day that there was going to be and In-tray exercise. Usually companies will inform you before the actual assessment centre of exactly which tests will take place and may even provide access to practice tests to help you gain experience of taking these unfamiliar types of tests.
Whether a company lets you know what to expect or not, it is always best to be prepared for all eventualities. To help prepare for In-tray and E-tray exercises, check out graduate jobs preparation website WikiJob.co.uk. There is some great advice and tools on there that candidates can use to help prepare for the various assessment centre tests, including in-tray and e-tray tests, group exercises scenarios, situational judgement tests and even verbal and numerical reasoning tests.
Good luck in your interviews!

Footnote from SEECC: The Careers Centre offers University of Reading students the opportunity to take practice tests from SHL. Graduates… please email us to request to take an assessment. We will then email the details to you. Please specify whether you wish to take the verbal, the numerical or the inductive assessments or all three – Request to take SHL assessment

Also, take a look at our Assessment Centre posts too!


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