If you do any research at all before your job interview–and you had better–you’ve probably got some answers down pat: where you went to school, work history, greatest accomplishment, biggest challenge–the normal stuff.
Then there are the weird one or two pet questions that every interviewer has. They might be trick questions, or maybe not. There’s no planning for those, you just have to do the best you can.
But there is one question that only the savviest interviewers ever ask. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll never hear this question … but if you do, you had better have a good answer ready:
“What do you plan to achieve in the first 90 days that will make me glad I hired you?”
If you haven’t thought about it beforehand, this question can knock you for a loop. But a well-prepared response can make you look like a genius. Why? Well, by default, most interview questions are behavioral–they focus on what you have done. Thing is, we can’t control the past: it’s what happened, and that’s that. But what you say about the future can be very revealing, in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways:
- It shows you’ve done your homework.
Face it, if you haven’t put much thought into this interview, there’s no way you can even start to answer our million-dollar question. But if you’ve done your due-diligence, you should have an idea of what the company does, what their vision is, and what their needs are. You don’t have to have a fully formed plan here, but you do need to be able to give an answer that demonstrates a working knowledge of the business.
- It shows you’re ready to work.
In this day and age, most new hires don’t have the luxury of a lengthy learning curve. Employers need new people who are ready to go from Day One. No one will be expecting you to have an in-depth understanding of the company, but showing you know enough to start contributing right away–and want to start contributing right away–can make an interviewer feel good about hiring you.
- It shows you’re a good fit.
Every company has a different culture, one that’s reflected in its people. Your answer here should demonstrate that you’ll mesh with the culture immediately. Let’s say you’re looking for an HR job. Some industries–financial, medical–are more rigid, both historically and by necessity. If you talk about coming in first thing and re-writing the rule book, that’s going to make people uncomfortable. By the same token, some businesses–web developers, ad agencies–can often have a looser environment: insisting your first moves would be to mandate a corporate dress code might have the employees coming after you with pitchforks and torches!
- It shows you’re qualified.
Entrepreneur Monica Eaton-Cardone said it best: “Success is a combination of the right knowledge and skill set, as well as hard work and the determination to succeed.”
- It shows you want the JOB, not just the position.
Finally, having some ideas on how you can make an immediate impact demonstrates your work ethic and attitude. Interviewers are quick to sniff out candidates that are only looking for a pay bump or new resume fodder. Detailing your initial goals shows you that you’re after something more: you want to do the work. And in some ways, you’re saying that you’ve already started.
As you can see, an interviewer can gain a lot of knowledge with a question like this. Of course, like we mentioned, there’s a good chance you’ll never be asked … but the cool thing is, the question is reversible: if you REALLY want to make a great impression, wait until the interviewer asks if YOU have any questions, then ask “What’s the best way to make you ecstatic that you hired me within the first 90 days?” Not only will it make you look smart and interested … you’ll also gain some good information for when you ARE hired.