A written or in-basket exercise will basically involve you working your way through a lot of unfamiliar information, tackling difficult questions and writing pages of answers – all within a very tight deadline
An in-basket or e-tray type exercise will contain a number of items to represent an email inbox or paper in-tray. Each item will have a different task to respond to. It depends on the role you have applied for as to what type of tasks you would expect to turn up in your in-box or on your desk. For instance, if you have a customer service role you may expect to deal with complaints, follow up enquiries, complete paperwork and keep records. In your in-basket assessment exercise you would have to do similar things. This gives employers a chance to see how you would handle these things in as close to a real situation as possible (without actually putting you in the job!)
Case study or analysis exercise
A case study or analysis exercise may present a single complex situation or problem for you to evaluate and propose recommendations. If you are applying for a job which involves managing projects for instance you may expect to have to deal with liaising with partners, analysing data, trouble shooting problems, managing teams and monitoring progress. In your ‘fake’ assessment exercise you can also expect to be presented with a task which involves you tackling similar things.
In each of these cases the written exercise represents a realistic ‘job simulation’ i.e. the employer is hoping to see how you will perform in a ‘dummy’ situation to be able to draw conclusions about how you would get on in the actual job.
Your assessment exercise may not be set within a familiar environment. This is to make the task fair for everyone. Imagine that if you are external to the company and the exercises are set within that company itself; that would be quite an advantage for any internal candidates applying for the role. Many organisations will choose a generic external company to base the exercises in so that everyone is approaching the task from a level playing field. The content will often be parallel to the actual organisation you are applying to i.e. if you are seeking a post in a hospital you may be set exercises based in a local government department because there will be parallels in terms of structure, size, values, standards etc. The service provision may be a little different but actually, when it comes to evaluating performance figures and areas of deficit/ opportunity, it won’t make much difference whether it’s in a hospital or a government agency as the facts will be there in front of you to interpret in your own way.
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