How to Test Prioritisation Skills of Candidates

Vicki Mann

Posted 26/04/2023
by Vicki Mann

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How to Test Prioritisation Skills of Candidates

As your business continues to grow and move forward, it has never been more important to hire the right employees for each role. When we talk about the 'right' employee, we mean the candidates that have all the necessary skills needed to manage their workload and perform well. One of the most essential, and often overlooked skills required for any workforce to succeed is prioritisation skills. 

The ability to prioritise tasks efficiently and effectively is especially important if you're hiring for roles that involve project management, a high pressure workplace, and meeting strict deadlines. While we hope that most candidates will have the right skill level, the reality is that not everyone will have what it takes. This is why it's crucial to assess their abilities early on in the hiring process. 

In this blog, we'll be exploring the different ways employers can measure a candidate's time management and priority setting skills effectively.

What are prioritisation skills?

Prioritisation skills, also known as organisational and time management skills, is the ability to identify and rank tasks based on their importance and urgency. People who have high levels of prioritisation skills are able to focus on the most urgent and important tasks first to make sure that they're meeting their set deadlines. Strong time management also involves ensuring that low priority tasks are also managed effectively while avoiding any distractions that can get in the way of their productivity.

Effective task prioritisation and time management involves considering different factors such as deadlines, resources needed, impact on goals, and any potential consequences of not completing the task on time.

Why are prioritisation skills important?

Prioritisation skills are crucial in the workplace for a number of reasons, and in the following sections, we'll explore those that are the most significant, those that can have the most successful outcomes.

Increased productivity

Without good time management skills, you may see your workforce begin to struggle with meeting deadlines, increased stress levels, and decrease in their overall productivity. By effectively prioritising their tasks, your employees will be able to make the best use of their time and resources and focus on the most important tasks at hand to help your company achieve its goals.

Maintain employees mental health

Effective time management is also important in maintaining your employees work-life balance and overall happiness. Employees who are able to manage their time and workloads efficiently are less likely to experience burnout and are instead more likely to to feel satisfied with their work. 

Efficient project management

Strong prioritisation and time management skills are crucial in project management, especially for large projects with multiple team members. With the right time management strategies, even the largest teams will be able to complete their projects on time and within budget, all while avoiding any obstacles or distractions that may hinder success.

How to test a candidate’s prioritisation skills

Now that we've broken down how essential time management is, here are some ways you'll be able to assess your employees, or potential employees, skills in prioritisation and time management:

Behavioural interview questions

It's important to ask the right questions during the interview process to ensure that all candidates have the right skill sets, including the right level of time management skills. Through asking the right questions, a candidate's answer can provide insight into how they approach tasks and manage their workload. 

During a job interview, a recruiter may ask candidates to describe a scenario where they had to manage balancing multiple tasks at once or a moment where they've had to make a difficult decision regarding what tasks and resources to prioritise. Interviewers can also provide a hypothetical scenario and ask the candidate what time management process they would use to tackle the problem. Through using these targeted questions and analysing the candidate’s answer, hiring managers will be able to better gauge their skills and suitability for the role.

Pre-employment testing

Pre-employment assessments and screenings are becoming more popular within recruitment, and for good reason. While CV's are a great summary of a candidate's experience, it can be difficult to assess how well they're able to prioritise tasks and handle stress on paper. Skills assessments essentially remove that element of guesswork and are a great way of assessing how well a candidate does when faced with a simulation of the role, ensuring you're making the right hiring decisions.

In-tray exercises

While there are many types of skills assessments out there, we recommend using in-tray exercises to measure a candidate's prioritisation skills.

An in-tray exercise, sometimes called in-tray test or e-tray exercise, is a specific type of assessment that helps employers measure a person's ability to prioritise tasks and manage their workload. In-tray and e-tray exercises will typically involve a simulation of a typical working day rather than an assessment centre. 

During the in-tray exercise, candidates will be given a set of tasks, which they'll have to rank by priority and complete within a set time frame. The content of these tasks may include reports, memos, and emails (in-tray exercises involving emails are typically known as e-tray exercises). They're designed to be representative of what the candidate would actually be facing in the role they're applying for. 

In-tray exercises are excellent at providing a realistic simulation of the role. By evaluating a candidate's performance during the exercise, you'll be able to gain valuable insights into a candidate's abilities and determine whether they have all the necessary skills to excel at the role.

Group activities

Implementing group exercises are another effective way of evaluating an individual's time management and prioritisation skills. Group exercises typically involve a simulated urgent scenario where they must work together to complete the given tasks within a set time frame. 

Group exercises don't just help in testing a candidate's time management abilities but also provide insight into their leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. Some individuals find it more effective to create a to-do list before they tackle the tasks at hand, while others may be more inclined to delegate their tasks to other members of their team. Either way, group activities can be very useful in assessing their ability to cooperate with other people within a workplace setting while also managing their time and priorities well.


The ability to prioritise the right tasks is an extremely important skill for employees in any industry. With a strong grasp of time management, individual employees and entire teams will be able to manage their workload more efficiently and achieve their goals. By using in-tray testing, group exercises, and targeted job interview questions, you'll be able to accurately determine each person's prioritisation skills and make sure you're hiring the right candidate every time.

If you're interested in implementing in-tray exercises, or any other type of pre-employment tests into your hiring process, have a look at our complete range of skills assessments. With assessments available for every role out there, they're here to help you create the best hiring decisions for your company. Contact our team today to book a free demo for your business.

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