How Will You Spend the 1st 90 Days in Your New Job?

This question comes up more often than not during interviews, and it’s important for candidates to not only understand the question, but be able to N-A-I-L the answer without hesitation. I’ve seen some answers that were nicely thought-out and…well, some that were really pretty… interesting.  ‘Awful’ might be a better way to put it. Companies want to evaluate your  experience, education, and skill set to find out if you’re going to fit in with their culture, and once they’ve gone round 3rd base with your candidacy, they’ll want to see how you think on your feet. Plain and simple. No need to fear the reaper – with the right preparation you will do fine.

The fight for talent in our space is fierce, and it’s going to get much more competitive as the weeks and months continue. Many of our clients aren’t just asking candidates the ’90 day’ question – they’re asking that final round of candidates to give the management team a presentation on exactly how they’ll spend their first few months on board. These presentations, while scary to some, are a great barometer on how you present to an audience, handle pressure, and think on your feet.

Knowing a candidate will be able to hit the ground running is top of mind for the hiring manager. They need productive teams, so each new team-member needs to be “up and at ’em” from day one. Let’s face it: in the HCIT marketplace there are very few companies with a multi-national and/or multi-billion dollar status. In the HCI Top 100 (HCIT companies ranked by revenue), there’s a – fairly telling – HUGE revenue cliff after the top 10 or 15 companies. What does this mean, exactly? Most of the companies in this space are made up with early stage or start-up companies and have little to no training or on-boarding. That means it’s critical to find people that can scale with little or no day-to-day hand-holding. They all want skilled, ready-to-go-to-work talent!

The next time the ’90 day’ question comes up, make sure you are prepared with an answer that speaks to your conviction and passion. It could make the difference between receiving an offer… or not.

Go get ’em!

About the author


Tim Tolan

Tim Tolan is the Senior Partner of the Healthcare IT and Services Practice of Sanford Rose Associates. He has conducted searches for CEOs, presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents of business development, product development and sales. Tim is also the co-author of "The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition – Finding Talent Your Competitors Overlook," available on Amazon.


  • This is a good post, Tim. The title alone immediately made me think of Michael Watkins’ novel, “The First 90 Days”, which is apparently a great read! I am also happy to see that many companies on the HCI-100 list have offices in the Atlanta, GA metro area (my current place of residence)!

  • Ryan: Thanks for your comment! And, yes Atlanta is one of the top HCIT markets in the US. I lived there for many years and love Atlanta. You are in the right market at the right time!

  • Tim,

    While certainly a great barometer to gauge a candidate’s ability to think on her/his feet, it seems like a “How I’m Going to Spend My First 90 Days” presentation could be a potential minefield, too, since her/his suggestions may very well “out” someone in the room who isn’t doing their job sufficiently. How do you recommend a candidate approach this in a PC kind of way – do you suggest sticking to “safe,” more general kinds of presentation topics like “analyze, familiarize” kinds of topics?


    p.s. Ryan – I highly recommend reading “The First 90 Days” – great read!

  • G-

    If it turns out to be a minefield both the client and my firm would rather know that – sooner rather than later. What I have learned over the years is that by asking a candidate to give a presentation like “My 1st 90 Days” we learn a lot about how they are wired. If the answers are “too safe” that also sends a loud message about the way they think. All in all – I think the real pro’s nail these types of presentations (all day) while the professional wannabe’s blow up. It’s just part of the vetting process for some organizations. The cream always rises to the top!

  • Great post Tim and you are right the question presents a potential minefield and requires the candidate to REALLY research the company and the specific job. I have seen were the best answer could be “well, I am going to take my time to get to know everyone and how the processes work and then I will work to incrementally improve them,” and I have seen other situations where the best answer is “I am going to rip out all the current processes and build new ones from scratch, additionally I will focus strongly on recruiting a new management team to replaces the current one”
    The book that Ryan mentioned, “The First 90 Days” does a terrific job at teaching that one must first understand the situation before suggesting an approach. Otherwise, Mike Brady will rule the world and we would all live in “Brady Bunch” houses! 🙂

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