By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

InBox/In-Tray Assessment

Uncovering how an Employee Will Perform on the job

InBox Assessment

© Veer

You've got a job opening... again.

The last two hires didn't work out so well. Their resumes had all the necessary qualifications; and in the interview they gave all the right answers. They were both pleasant and appeared capable. You really believe that each of them would turn out to be a fabulous employee. But when it came time to actually do the job, they were both disasters.

The first one had no clue how to prioritize her activities and she ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to meet deadlines and failing miserably. The second wasn't much better: he could organize his day but couldn't solve a problem to save his life. He was constantly at the door, asking you to make decisions and tell him what to do.

You can't go through this again. You've now learned the hard way that what an employee says that he or she can do or will do is often very different from what he or she actually does do.

So you've got to find a way to assess how an employee will actually perform when faced with the reality of daily tasks. What do you do? You use an Inbox or In-Tray Assessment.


The name of this technique could lead you to believe that this approach is only good for selecting junior staff. Read on, and find out why this isn't the case!

Candidates can tell you just about anything to get the job you are offering. In an interview, the person sitting in front of you is ideal. Well. maybe they tend to be "perfectionists who really want to do the job right", or they are "a bit too over-zealous at times." They assure you however, that they have "made great "

Seriously though, if you want to find out how a person will perform, have them show you.

With an Inbox Assessment, you give candidates a real taste of "a day in the life of the role" and then evaluate them on how well they handled or managed the variety of directions, demands, requests, and questions that crossed their desk.

You're looking to see how well they:

  • Prioritize.
  • Organize.
  • Analyze.
  • Plan.
  • Delegate.
  • Communicate.
  • Solve problems.
  • Make decisions.

Essentially, an in-tray exercise is a simulation. You are simulating the types of things a successful candidate would encounter in his or her in-tray on a daily basis. Various types of correspondence, including faxes, emails, and memos, are given to the candidate, who is then required to sift through the information and decide what to do with each item — and then describe why they chose that course of action.

Examples might include...

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