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An e-tray exercise is simulated and computer-based, and it may be a part of an assessment centre. The candidate has to reply to several messages in the inbox after reading them. Depending on the job position or the company recruitment policy, this interview technique may be used to assess the potential employee's ability to undertake the duties stipulated in their prospective roles.
An in-tray exercise helps assess how one carries out day-to-day tasks in the workplace, such as answering calls, replying to emails, and compiling reports and resolving complaints. On the other hand, e-tray exercises are computerized scenarios where potential employees are presented with emails, memos, letters, articles, reports or policy documents; and they are required to act on them competently within slated timelines and sometimes, under increased pressure. Usually, in-tray exercises are long with open-ended answers that require up to 2 hours to complete, while e-tray exercises commonly have multiple-choice answers with new task frequencies that accelerate as time passes.
· Be prepared
Upon applying for a job, it is assumed that one is competent and has a good understanding of the job role. With this in mind, it is a good practice to research and reacquaints oneself with the specific roles, skills, and tasks that the job requires before the interview. This helps one prepare for the possible content that the interview will entail. Additionally, there are free in-tray and e-tray simulators and tests online to give a preview of what to expect during the actual interview.
· Pay attention to detail
In high-pressure situations, some candidates may tend to skim through the less important information e.g. the instructions for the interview and dive right into the questions. It is important to pay attention to detail, no matter how insignificant or unimportant it may seem. If instructions are misunderstood or read incorrectly, the candidate may fail to provide the correct answers to the questions. One example can be a question that asks candidates to select the ‘least possible answer’ instead of ‘the most correct answer.’ If the candidate provides ‘the most correct answer’ in this case, they will be wrong. Read all the instructions carefully and thoroughly; note down any important details, like names, dates and action points; and make sure you understand each question clearly before providing any answers. Ensure that you are doing only what you have been asked to do and nothing beyond the scope of the instructions.
Before starting the exercise, the candidate should analyze the tasks at hand and organize them in order of priority, starting from the highest to the lowest. Look for any associated deadlines or task links while prioritizing to ensure nothing has been skipped or repeated. Usually, employers are keen to recruit employees who are organized and have a good workflow that makes their delivery efficient and flawless. In connection to paying attention to detail, analyze any organizational charts provided to establish if there are other employees to whom specific tasks may be delegated.
· Don’t over-think it
According to the job position, in-tray and e-tray exercises may be straightforward and realistic. In a bid to impress employers, some interviewees may tend to overthink situations and scenarios; thus leading to complicated solutions to the tasks at hand or totally missing the point of the task. Always respond to only the information presented regardless of your in-depth knowledge of a certain area of expertise or subject matter. Also, stick to the information provided; i.e., what you have been asked to do and nothing more. This is a situation where your common sense may come in handy.
· Time management
These aptitude-based exercises may be timed to assess the potential employees’ time management skills and how they work under pressure. By preparing in advance, reading the instructions carefully and prioritizing tasks, the time allocated for the tasks can be managed well. Ensure that each task has been completed successfully before moving to the next one. At the same time, make sure not to dwell too long on one task, jeopardizing others. If tasks are rushed and not performed rationally, there is a high risk that some questions may be skipped or not answered correctly; and in some situations, where ‘go back to previous task’ options are not available, these errors may not be fixed.
As per the company recruitment policy, e-tray tasks may involve an extensive amount of writing, since they are usually email-based; while in-tray tasks may have limited writing involved. It is important to note that the exercise scenarios may not offer spell-check and grammar correction services. Thus, you may be required to proofread and correct the work yourself before submission. A quick trick is to use words that you are familiar with, can spell comfortably and can use in a sentence correctly. Avoid unnecessary jargon or vocabulary that may change the whole context of the answer or make it unnecessarily complicated. It is also important to maintain an appropriate style, format, and tone in the email responses to mirror a professional image of the company. Moreover, avoid the use of slang or informal speech unless instructed.
· Stay calm
Working your best when under pressure is rarely the case when the clock is ticking and the potential employer is watching your every move. Try some calming exercises, such as taking deep breaths to keep your nerves under control. Consider the exercise like a normal office day and do what you would normally do in a logical, rational and organized manner. Reflect on past pressure intensive situations that you had been through and use that experience to guide you through the exercise. Some employers usually keep a keen eye on potential employees’ performance when the pressure is heightened for making sure that they retain their competency and do not negatively affect the quality of work they produce.
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The data science team found that candidates increased their scoring accuracy through practice and went into their assessments more confident. Remember, you need to practice to make sure you familiarize yourself with the test formats, work on your accuracy and experience performing under time pressure.