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E-tray Exercises

28 September 2015 |

Some firms also require candidates to complete an e-tray or email simulation test. These can take many different forms so please bear in mind that this advice is general and you should research into the specific test set by the firm to which you are applying.

E-tray exercises are typically based within a programme that looks like an email client (such as Outlook), complete with an inbox. Emails typically flow into the inbox over a defined period of time. These emails generally simulate the types of emails you may receive when actually undertaking the role for which you are applying and candidates must respond (accurately) to these emails, usually under time pressure.

You will probably be provided with ample information from which the answers to the emails can be ascertained. The information in the test I completed was presented in a series of documents contained within folders and sub folders. Some tests are in a multiple choice format, requiring candidates to choose the answer that is most applicable (and sometimes also the answer that is the least applicable).

The content of emails could relate to a whole host of tasks. You may be asked about the amount owed by a particular client to date or whom a particular email should be forwarded to. You may have to solve specific problems. You may have to decide how best to delegate a particular task or which emails/issues should be prioritised. You may be required to provide an update on a particular matter. These tests tend to be more specifically designed by/for the firms that set them, so be prepared for anything.

Your organisational and time management skills, ability to work under pressure and proficiency using computers are being tested. Employers are also assessing your attention to detail (thus ensure you read and follow any instructions you receive throughout the tests carefully), your ability to interpret ample information in short periods of time, your ability to prioritise and make quick decisions and (depending on the questions) your commercial awareness.

When completing an E-tray exercise, be sure to keep track of how many emails you have responded to. I forgot to do this once and the test I was doing gave no indication of how many emails I had answered, which meant that I found it difficult to pace myself. If you are given reading time, make sure you read all the available documents as you will then know which specific document(s) to reference in order to answer particular questions that are raised. I got bogged down writing notes and only managed to read through around half of the documents provided before emails started flowing in during one test. The test would have been far less stressful if I had taken a different approach.