In most in-tray exercise you will be provided with an overview
of an organisation and your role within it. Some assessment centre include the reading of these items and all
overview details as part of the allocated time for reading
through the documents included in the exercise, whilst others
give you 5-10 minutes to read the overview before presenting you
with the in-tray items. The time allocated will vary depending
on the particular exercise but it is usually somewhere between
When you have worked through the in-tray items you will then be given a series of multiple choice questions and an answer sheet. For more senior positions the two parts are often followed by a third section which provides you with an opportunity to explain your chosen answers to the assessors face-to-face.
The in-tray exercises or in-basket exercise is designed so that anyone can undertake the exercise and have equal opportunity to produce maximum marks. You do not need to have specialised knowledge of the market sector or industry as all the information required to make a decision and select one of the multiple choice answers is provided in the overview documentation. Many of the tests in the instructions will tell you to use only the information provided in the exercise.
The most important aspect of the in-tray exercise is to ensure
you have fully understood the role you are playing and the
objectives of the organisation. Secondly, it is vital that you
pay attention to the small details as the authors of the
exercise have often included incorrect dates for meetings, old
correspondence, missed spelt names and created double bookings
to test this skill. It is these small details which are
influential in why you select certain options in the answers and
are often during test exercises to show you why a certain answer
reflects poorly on your skills and lack of attention to detail.
It is these small details which are useful to bring out in a
discussion or justification if this is part of your in-tray
This type of exercise provides all the information they require you to evaluate and use when making your decision. Beware of bringing in additional information from your own experience as this may cause you to over complicate the issue being presented in the in-tray item or document. For example, the items show that you have problems with a member of staff, when a questions ask about the individual be wary of trying to solve this problem.
The question may be asking how you would prioritise the urgency of addressing this issue compared with others raised during the exercise. It could also be asking whether or not you would deal with it personally.
Different questions will test your ability, in terms of:
The exercise is looking at how effectively you can evaluate information, priorities any required actions and decide on a final outcome, it is not looking for a solution. It is also assessing how well you work under pressure and with minimal information.
You may also be interested in:
How should I approach the in-tray exercise?
Do all in-tray exercises include a justification section?
Does it matter if I don’t complete the in-tray exercise?
What if I don’t fully agree with any of the in-tray exercise answers?
Is it acceptable to choose ‘none of the above’ as in in-tray exercise answer?
Will I have the opportunity to discuss or justify my in-tray exercise answers?
What should I do if there is insufficient information to answer an in-tray question? and
How should I deal with in-tray items that conflict?