Help Them Say Yes: Provide a 90-Day Plan

excerpted from The Ladders Newsletter - March 6, 2006

By Barry Zweibel

It's one thing to be able to answer interview questions well. It's something else entirely to be able to get an offer. One way to 'sweeten the pot' is by offering something that most applicants do not -- a written summary of the steps you'd take during the first ninety days of employment. In doing so, you show that you're:

  • seriously considering what it would mean to work there
  • completely understanding what the job entails
  • taking the initiative to further differentiate yourself from the other applicants
  • able to communicate through the written word
  • willing to share your insights and observations, without cost or obligation

Focus on the Foci

While creating a 90-Day Plan may seem onerous, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't even have to provide a calendar of events. All it needs to do is provide some additional insights into how you'd approach the job if it was yours. Think of it as providing a few missing pieces to the puzzle they're trying to solve about which applicant would be best-suited for the position.

The key is to focus their attention on your understanding of -- and ability to address -- four major aspects of the work at hand: problems, processes, projects, and people.

Remember, you don't have to completely address each of these foci to maximize the impact of your 90-Day Plan. You just need show that you (a) understand the issues involved, and (b) have a plan for working them. Let's take a closer look at doing exactly that:

  • Problems -- Pick a problem, any problem. Chances are good you'll have several to choose from. Most employers bring on new-hires to help deal with immediately pressing and/or urgent issues. Show that you know what the big ones are and offer your thoughts as to how you will quickly come up to speed and start handling them satisfactorily.
  • Processes -- Sometimes the problems that organizations face are more chronic in nature. Bottlenecks, inefficiencies, conflicting priorities, etc. all slow down an organization's ability to be crisp, agile, and progressive. You probably noticed several such process breakdowns during your interviews. State what you found and frame your approach to turning them around.
  • Projects -- Surely there are also some major projects and key deliverables that you will be responsible for if hired. List them out and highlight what you see as potential trouble points, along with some solutions for mitigating those risks. If you're thinking about some new initiatives, this would be a good time to include them and their underlying rationale, as well.
  • People -- While executives are typically hired because of their functional expertise, their success is usually more a function of their leadership acumen. Frame your plans for creating and sustaining support, respect, and regard from your staff, peers, boss, and other key stakeholders. Use this as an opportunity to articulate your Leadership Message and how you will assess if the right people are in the right roles. Indicate, too, how you will learn who needs what from your organization, and what your organization needs from whom. Focus on leadership, communications, camaraderie, and collaboration.

Based on the specifics of the particular opportunity you're pursuing, you might prefer to address a different combination of foci and approaches. If that's the case, then good for you! The more situationally-specific you can make your Plan, the more relevant and better-received it will be. So feel free to use this format as is, tweak it, or completely rework it, based on what makes most sense to you.

Begin with the End in Mind

Are you still thinking that this is waaaay too much work -- especially for an employer that hasn't even hired you yet?! It doesn't have to be. In fact, just spending 30-60 minutes per focus point might be all you need to create a fact-based, hit-the-ground-running, summary document. And, if you "begin with the end in mind", as Stephen Covey suggests in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the task will be far less burdensome because you'll probably start asking far more focused questions during the interview process than you might have otherwise considered.

By the way, take note if you really don't want to develop a 90-Day Plan as it might indicate that the job isn't one you'd really like to have. Better to realize that before you accept the offer, yes?!

But assuming you follow-through, a 90-Day Plan gives a prospective employer deep insight into who you are and how you work. And, by providing it voluntarily, you create a far more compelling justification for hiring YOU, rather than someone else who merely answered the questions they were asked.

All things being equal, who would you hire?

© 2006, The Ladders

Barry Zweibel, MBA | Master Certified Coach, is president of LeadershipTraction. He can be reached at 847-291-9735,, or

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