How do you answer the “First 90 Days” question?

Transitioning into a new role is one of the most challenging time in your career. Success or failure in your first few months is a strong predictor of success.

While most candidates spend time preparing for typical interview questions, they often overlook the importance of preparing for the first 90 days question. Answering this question effectively allows the hiring manager to see you as someone who understands that transitions have a significant impact on performance, not just for yourself but also for your colleagues, direct reports, bosses, and other stakeholders. In this article I’ve highlighted 3 things you should consider when preparing for this question.

Don’t play it safe

Well, don’t play it too safe. Simply saying you’d speak to stakeholders in the first 3 months and come up with a plan, won’t cut the mustard. Obviously don’t go the other extreme and criticise the company’s products – they could be the brain child of the person sitting opposite you.

Do your research beforehand, on competitors, market trends, feedback from customers/suppliers and analyse their financial statements. Understand the hiring manager’s key challenges and what their priorities are. A great way of presenting ideas of how you can add value is through asking questions. For example “Have you considered X?” Share your experience of delivering on similar projects and how they added value.

Inspire Trust

In the words of Stephen Covey “The first job of any leader is to inspire trust”. When presenting your ideas, communicate your message with clarity and care. Explaining why you’re suggesting what you’re suggesting can be useful and if appropriate linking it to the company’s mission.

Another way to inspire trust is by showing respect to all stakeholders. Actively listen to their responses and acknowledge their skills and expertise.

Adapting to new culture

Showing how you’ll adapt to the new culture is crucial. Michael Watkins of “The First 90 Days” highlights that failure to do this is the most significant downfall of newly hired managers. Show how understand that your success will be contingent on building strong relationships with peers. Flag how you’d create a network map to identify key stakeholders of “go to” people in the organisation and how you’d identify opportunities to build supportive alliances. Reference how this speeded up your integration in previous companies.


By keeping these three considerations in mind, you can effectively answer the question about your first 90 days and demonstrate your readiness to succeed in a new role.

About the Author

Laura McGrath is a qualified executive coach, EMCC Certified with over 20 years’ experience in executive search and recruitment.  She’s the owner of iSoar, and has coached leaders through successful career transitions. For a consultation, please call 087 669 1192 or go to

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