An e-tray exercise is presented online and usually forms part of an assessment centre. It involves providing a candidate with numerous pieces of information which vary between emails, memos, letters and so on, on a computer screen. The candidate is required to prioritise the tasks contained in each piece of information by dissecting the important and critical tasks that require immediate attention, against those that are of lower priority.
E-tray exercises are administered under an uncontrolled situation, without an assessor present. However, it is advised that the assessment be completed solely by the candidate who is applying for the job. A time limit is applied and is often cited by job applicants as one of the most challenging aspects of an e-tray. It can be used for many jobs and positions that often require planning and organising.
What does an e-tray exercise assess?
E-tray exercises assess candidates’ ability to perform the necessary functions of the position they applied for. For example, organisational skills that cannot directly be assessed by traditional psychometric tests. Typical skills and attributes that are assessed include:
– Ability to prioritise important work
– Decision making and prioritisation
– Organisation skills
– Time management and awareness
– Computer literacy
– Understanding of organisational issues i.e., culture/change
What tasks are in an e-tray exercise?
At the start of an e-tray exercise, a computer or folder containing the information will be presented to you. Carefully listen to the instructions and use the information provided, decide what actions to take. But, don’t forget to keep an eye on the time limit given. The main tasks that you will complete in an e-tray exercise include:
1. Drafting email replies – ensure you use your grammar and spelling skills effectively.
2. Analysing information – for example, this could be in the form of budgets, sales figures, or research results. Try and complete this accurately but in a timely manner.
3. Making phone calls – communicate your response clearly and at a good pace.
4. Delegating work – if working in a team-based scenario, someone may be asked to delegate the work to other team members who are more suited to the task. Ensure that you speak up about your skill set and availability, explaining on this basis what task you would best align with.
An e-tray exercise will most likely start with a background scenario, usually something related to the job you are applying for. Typically, you will be given 1-2 hours to complete the task which will consist of a large number of items to see how well you can handle several complex tasks in a short time period. Some tasks may be easier than others and require a yes or no answer, others may include drafting a reply to a complaint or delegating tasks to colleagues.
At the end, you may be debriefed by an assessor and asked to discuss the decisions you made and the reasons why. Also, you might be asked to prepare a memo outlining your priorities for action or make a short presentation.
How to pass an e-tray exercise – 4 useful tips
It is often helpful to create three piles based on priority, using the information you have been provided with. The 3 piles may be determined by the urgency of attention required – i.e. high priority, low priority and those that lie somewhere in between. Once this has been established, you may wish to work through each pile, assigning an order for completion.
2. Keep a check on the time
Keep a check on the time and spread your time accordingly across the tasks. Do not spend too long on reading all the content. There is nothing worse than running out of time and having no or little time to complete the task.
3. Stay calm
In an e-tray exercise it is important to stay calm and show you can cope with the pressure of the activity, sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong answer but be prepared to justify your decisions. If you are not given complete information, you may have to make assumptions. If this is the case, try and make them realistic.
4. Read information carefully
Read all the information you have been given carefully. It is important to do this rather than launching into questions as this way you will know where to find the information for all the questions.
To be successful, make sure you practice carefully for the e-tray exercise. Try and ensure you follow the tips above; they will help you feel more familiar and at ease when completing the exercise. Practise Assessment Centre Exercises and over 100 job assessments on GF. Register with your University of Warwick email address via the Warwick Welcome page:
Written by Fern McCann LLB and Peter Thornton BA MA, Consultants at Graduates First in collaboration with the University of Warwick Careers team.