Assessment centers, part 2

Are you ready to take the in-basket exercise?


My July article on career advancement began a discussion on how to excel on promotional examinations that used an assessment center process. The article concentrated on the in-basket and provided a sample test for readers to take. Since all my articles build on one another I recommend a quick review of my July article (by clicking here) before proceeding.

The previous article pointed out that a police supervisor (sergeant and sometimes Lieutenant’s) or manager (Lieutenant and above) often deals in their day-to-day work with memorandums, written and oral complaints, investigative reports, internal documents, letters, and telephone calls. In the in-basket exercise you and the other candidates (depending on the number, this is sometimes done in groups) are seated together in a room at desks or conference tables. The monitor places a large manila envelope in front of each candidate, containing the "in-basket" (of day-to-day paperwork) relevant to a typical sergeant or lieutenant-for example-in your department.

Your instructions are to answer the questions in writing, and the test monitor doesn't answer any questions concerning taking the test. You're told exactly when the test will begin (and end), when the manila envelopes can be opened, and at times the written directions may be read individually by each candidate. When time is up, each candidate puts all the material back in the manila envelope and returns it to the test monitor. All of the in-basket responses must be in writing. The problem is, you also have been given an individual schedule with specific times at which you are to be in other rooms, taking other assessment center tests.

In our practice test you were givens two hours and thirty-five minutes to work on your in-basket. In the mean-time you would be moving from the in-basket to other examinations such as the employee conflict, leaderless discussion, situational exam, and a media exam for example. Time and the ability to organize your work are important components of the in-basket exercise. As mentioned earlier, the clock is used to put candidates under pressure, so use it to your best advantage. Read the instructions thoroughly. Make certain you know what role you’re playing. What are the duties and responsibilities of the rank you’re testing for? What authority do you possess? Who are your subordinates and superiors? Prioritize your work. Briefly glance through all of the paperwork in your in-basket and rearrange it from top to bottom from most to least important. Look for due dates and other indicators that work needs immediate attention. Complete the exercise with the goals of the department in mind, not of individuals.

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