As your career advances, you’ll find that closing that final interview with a bang and subsequently getting an offer takes more than strong answers, recognition of a good fit, and great chemistry with the hiring team.
In fact, for many higher-level jobs, you can probably expect to present some of your intellectual property. This is an opportunity for your future leadership team to see what they’ll really be getting if they hire you.
One smart way to differentiate yourself as a candidate is by developing a solid 90-day plan if you’re asked to present something in your final interview. This is an opportunity for you to articulate how you’ll show up to solve the problems the employer is hiring you to manage.
A 90-day plan shows the employer three key things: your understanding of the mission for which you’re being hired, evidence that you have the goods to make your manager look like a rock star for hiring you, and your ability to plan and execute quickly to make an impact for best results.
As you move up and your title changes, your time to deliver results is intensely scrutinized, and at a more accelerated rate. The truth is, you’ll have approximately 90 days to prove you’re an asset to the company. With that said, here’s what employers are looking for:
1. Clear Priorities
After an in-depth interview or two, you should have a very clear idea of the specific things you’ll be expected to deliver and how hot each issue is. You want to learn the pain points that are keeping the employer up at night.
Based on the interviews you’ve had, the research you’ve done, and the questions you’ve asked, you should be able to smoothly articulate the most important issues and priorities that you’ll address in the first 90 days.
2. SMART Actions
As you build your presentation out, you’ll want to include specific tasks you plan to accomplish and in what timeframe along with what people or resources you expect to need in order to make those things happen. Use the SMART acronym: Set goals that are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. No time like the 90-day plan for that. And all of your actions should tie back to the priorities you’ve identified in the first step.
3. Well-Defined Success Measures
One benefit of creating this timeline is that it gives you the opportunity to set the definition of success as early as possible. You and your manager must align on that, or there’ll be tension. After all, you don’t want a to build a plan that delivers success in the form of improving time to market the latest app, when your future boss thinks success is doubling the revenue in six months. Make sure you have a very clear understanding of the company's wants and needs and have your goals reflect that knowledge.
4. Quantifiable Impact Measures
List specifically how you want to measure the success of your actions. And make sure you’re aligned with your boss and the organization on what that looks like.
You can also include a test for the “so what” factor in your presentation. The real measure of your work is the impact it has on the organization. As a result of the actions you’re outlining, do you anticipate sales increasing by X%? Expenses being reduced by Y%? Resolving a hiccup in the manufacturing process that saves $X per quarter?
An action without impact is a task. As you identify your specific action strategies, and how you’ll measure success, make sure you also tie it to the impact that action will have on the organization. Ask yourself, “How will the organization be better when I deliver on these outcomes?” and then show that!
An essential part of any 90-day plan is building a report out. As you put your thoughts to paper, be sure to include the summary of actions, progress, and updates your manager will see each week. Design your report out in an easy to follow summary you can update each week. Think of it as a mini billboard of your accomplishments.
When you do, you’ll be building a visual story of your pathway to success, enabling your future manager to easily share your success with higher ups, and report on what an awesome hire she’s made. And what boss doesn’t want to get high fived for that?
You don’t have to be in a VP or C-level interview to use this great technique for differentiating yourself from the competition. I encourage clients in even the early stages of their careers to think about how they would approach a new position, what their plan would be. If you can find an opportunity to show the hiring manager how you organize your thoughts, and how you’d develop a strategy for approaching the new position, you’ll give yourself an edge over the other candidates.
Whatever level job you’re applying for, it’s smart to think about how you’d make an impact in the first 90 days. Be aggressive but realistic about how you’d get quick wins, and address pain points you’re aware the employer needs your help with. This approach goes above and beyond the standard interview Q&A.