What Is an in-Basket Test?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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An in-basket test is a type of proficiency test that can be utilized in a number of business settings. Used by companies as well as non-profit organizations, the ultimate goal of this type of activity is to ascertain how well an individual is able to manage multiple tasks in terms of prioritizing those tasks in logical sequences and then moving forward to successfully manage those tasks. This type of evaluation test can be utilized to assess the abilities of any employee from an administrative assistant or clerical worker to measuring the proficiency and expertise of a potential senior executive.

The basic process for an in-basket test involves the creation and presentation of a number of different job-related tasks to the individual. The reference to an in-basket has to do with a common approach used in many office settings of having an inbox or in-basket in which pending projects are placed. Either literally or metaphorically, the candidate is provided with a number of tasks, most of which have some sort of deadline attached. From there, the candidate must sort through the work load, determine which assignments require immediate attention and resolution, which can be delayed for a short period of time while more pending matters are addressed, and which tasks can be completed once the more important activities are completed.


With an in-basket test, the idea is to evaluate how well an individual can manage multiple tasks while also allocating time and resources in a logical manner, ultimately resulting in completing all tasks within the time frame allowed. The range of tasks included in this type of evaluation will often depend on the scope of responsibilities that the individual would assume, if hired for that position. Increasingly, many employers create an in-basket test or evaluation to get an idea of how well potential employees think on their feet, respond to changes in situations that may also require re-evaluation of priorities, and in general manage the tasks to best effect.

Along with use in the hiring process, the in-basket test can also be a helpful tool in evaluating current employees for promotions. By creating scenarios in which those employees must use their abilities to prioritize and allocate resources to the completion of essential tasks, it is possible to get an idea of how well certain employees would function in positions carrying more responsibility. From this perspective, this type of test can be used to identify what additional training may be required before an employee is ready for promotion, as well as provide insights into latent talents and abilities that those employees possess.


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