How I’d spend my first few months in a new job

Can you demonstrate your ability to meet the challenges of your new job and hit the ground running?

I was recently asked to write a plan outlining how I’d approach my first few months in the job I’m interviewing for.  A few people (a couple of recruiters among them) commented on how unusual the request was, but I think it makes a lot of sense.

The interview process can be a beauty contest, with its emphasis on scripted answers and connecting with the interviewer.  This task requires the writer to demonstrate an understanding of the role (which probably requires that he or she did a good job asking questions during interviews) and of organizational needs and priorities.  It also tests your writing and organizational skills and also provides some insight into your leadership and management style that may not come out through your scripted responses.  I kept mine to two pages, so I was forced to balance the creation of a simple, easy-to-understand strategy with the desire to give the hiring manager a sense that I understand the scope of the challenge and will hit the ground running.

The process will also help me in future interviews with this employer — assuming I get one — because I now have additional questions that I will bring to the table, because I’ve thought through ways I’d approach different problems the organization faces, and because I will have better examples of ways I’ve resolved similar challenges that I might not have come up with in a conference-room setting.

One tip:  There aren’t many good templates for this task, but Harvard professor Michael Watkins has written a great book on this subject called The First 90 Days, which provided me with a great starting point. 

All in all, I will use this in the future when I’m trying to choose between qualified job applicants who want to demonstrate their ability to help us achieve our goals.

Readers, how about you?  Have you been asked to do a 90- or 100-day plan?  How did you approach it and what impact did it have on your candidacy?

3 thoughts on “How I’d spend my first few months in a new job

  1. I prepared a 90 day action plan as part of my interview process using industry buzz words based on research of the company that I was interviewing with. I only presented it as I moved further along the interview process and used it as part of my answer to explain my strengths. I also used it as a follow up after asking the question, What are the top 3 things I can take off your plate in this position.

  2. I’ve actually been asked to do this several times and find the process to be quite beneficial. At first, it was annoying then I fell into a groove to use this to outline my thoughts based on the conversations to date and how I would address them. I generally give people a 30, 60 and 120 view as to what I plan to do and also use this to drive agreement and clarity. Not many people do this so it can be a great factor to separate yourself from the masses.

    Have fun with it and use it as a competitive advantage.

  3. Here are a pair of comments I’ve received from posting a link to this blog with my LinkedIn groups.

    I have. This was actually a good exercise also for myself. With this, I was able to prove my interviewer that I had complete control of the position which positioned me as a better candidate, and for the interviewer this worked as a very good filter. (Alejandro).

    Peter, thanks for posting this question, which I have anticipated, but haven’t been asked yet. However, I did prepare myself, and found “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” (George B. Bradt) particularly helpful. It is an action and communication plan broken down like a project plan. The book is very thorough, easy to navigate, and presents an accessible plan for leaders at all levels on how to hit the ground running and be successful in your new job. It explains how you take control of all steps, from well before Day One, all the way through defining the Burning Imperative, building team confidence and changing the culture. Very complete with lots of examples and tools. I also found it very helpful to remain focused on the future, and this is a great way to do it! (Eric)

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