By Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox
Faculty Member, School of Business at American Public University
Last in a series, Ask the Experts: Interview with Senior Director of Top 25 Forbes Global 2000 company.
The interview participant asked not to be identified so as to speak candidly. Throughout his career, he has served in various corporate roles from president to general counsel. In those capacities, he has interviewed and hired hundreds of employees and now shares with our readers how they can best position themselves to land the job of their dreams.
Question: The first 90 days on the job are critical. Why are they so important? What can a new employee do to create a lasting, positive impression?
Answer: Your survival, or not, is determined in the first 90 days. If I’m going to cut you from the team, I’m going to do it early so neither one of us invests unwisely. This is the period when you will hear my expectations and have the opportunity to demonstrate what can be expected of you. The first 90 days sets the stage for the kind of relationship you will have with your boss, co-workers, peers and customers.
Question: What are the best qualities a new employee can exhibit in the first 90 days?
Answer: Obviously, you’ve done something right to get hired. Now show your manager that he was right in selecting you. Be the person your résumé said you were and the person your interview demonstrated you were. Be professional; dress well and treat people with respect. Be on time, which by the way, means be early. Be communicative. Ask lots of appropriate questions, take notes, write easy-to-read emails.
The key is for you to clearly understand, “How will I know if I’m successful?” Schedule a time to sit down privately with your manager and get his description of what success looks like. Then write an email back to your manager citing the top three to four things you’ve learned from the talk. This drives alignment and proves that you are professional, on time and communicative.
Question: Have you ever decided during the first 90 days that a new employee wasn’t going to make it? What tipped you off?
Answer: Of course, and unfortunately more than once. I recall one hire in particular. The person was not who he represented himself to be in the interview. I knew in the first week that he wasn’t going to make it. So, less than three weeks into the relationship, I let him go. He showed up late. Always had an excuse. Never took ownership of tasks or early misses.
Question: How can a new employee best integrate herself in your company culture during the first 90 days?
Answer: First, listen twice as much as you talk. Second, find the one or two people that your boss defers to and emulate them. You need friends and advocates. Third, exceed expectations. That doesn’t mean show off. It means being prepared in a meeting. It means being on time – again, that means always, always be early. It means listening, taking notes and being a go-to person if you are called upon.
Question: What should an employee do after his first 90 days to ensure he remains on a positive trajectory with you and your organization?
Answer: Ask for feedback. Seriously. Schedule time with your boss to periodically review your progress, both good and bad. If you wait until a performance review, you’ve waited too long. You should never be surprised at what your boss or peers think of you.
In Summary, Here Are the Top Three Things You Can Do During the First 90 Days
1. Learn your manager’s definition of success.
2. Ask for periodic, formal feedback.
3. Listen and communicate efficiently.
About the Author
Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox has 20 years of professional business experience as an executive, attorney and entrepreneur. Alexandra has earned a Juris Doctor, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Global Executive Doctor of Education and a B.A. in English Literature. She has authored many published articles covering business and employment topics, as well as poems in a variety of literary journals.