How to Use a 90 Day Plan as the Last Step of the Interview Process

When new employee onboarding is done correctly, it leads to higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, decreased turnover, better performance levels, career complementing, and lowered stress.  What’s constitutes “done correctly,” however, is largely in the eye of the beholder.

One of the most effective techniques that a hiring manager can use to improve their onboarding process is to utilize what I call the “30-60-90 Day Plan” at the final stage of the recruiting process.  By this point, the manager has completed all steps of the interviewing process, reviewed the results of the requisite skills tests and job fit assessment, and have check the candidate’s prior manager references.  The decision has all but been made, but this one extra step can produce a fantastic lift in the onboarding process (and catch a few mis-hires, as well!).

What is a 30-60-90 day plan?

A 30-60-90 day plan is a brief (2-3 page) document that summarizes the specific, measurable and actionable outcomes that this candidate will commit to achieving at thirty, sixty and ninety days on the job.  It’s the blueprint that the new employee will use to navigate the first three months on the job.


Why use a 30-60-90 day plan?

There are three reasons to use a 30-60-90 day plan as part of the hiring process.  First, it allows to you observe the candidate’s approach to creating a plan for themselves.  Second, it gives the candidate very clear goals for their first three months in the role.  Third, it gives the hiring manager a blueprint for onboarding the new employee over the first three months.


When do you ask the candidate to build a 30-60-90 day plan?

The ideal time to ask for the candidate to create a plan for their first three months is immediately following your final interview step.  When contacting them after the interview here’s what you’ll want to say:

[Candidate name], I really enjoyed our discussion.  Based on what we covered, I’d like to move forward with the final step of our process; that final step is for you to build a plan for your first three months on the job.  The reason that we want you to take a crack at this plan is 1) so you have an opportunity to think through how you’re going to accomplish the goals that we discussed throughout the interview process, and 2) so that we’ll have a roadmap to make sure we’re on track for your first quarter in the role.”


What do you ask the candidate to deliver when they build a 30-60-90 day plan?

You’ll email your candidate a template of the plan to get them started (after all, you’re looking to gain insight into their planning and goal-setting process, not their ability to create forms from scratch!).  You’ll instruct them as follows:

Based on the specific outcomes we discussed for your first year in this role, I’d like for you to think about the first ninety days on the job and what things you’ll need to accomplish during that time to make measurable progress and generate momentum towards the yearly goal.  Please write down the specific, measurable and actionable outcomes that you’ll accomplish at thirty, sixty and ninety days on the job.  When you’re done, save the file and email it back to me, and we’ll set up a time to walk through your plan.”


How do you review the 30-60-90 day plan with the candidate?

The most important dynamic in this discussion is that the candidate is the one doing the talking.  This is your opportunity to listen, observe, and coach with targeted questions.  Let the candidate take you through the details of their plan, and withhold your desire to interrupt with feedback.  At the conclusion of their presentation, ask questions to vet their assumptions.  If they’ve made incorrect assumptions about the tools or resources that they’ll have at their disposal – and they inevitably will – let them know exactly where they missed the mark, and ask them what if anything they’ll want to do differently given this new information.  Add any ideas or thoughts as you deem appropriate, but remember that this approach works only if the candidate comes away feeling like it’s their plan.


How do you utilize the 30-60-90 day plan to onboard a new employee?

The payoff from this effort comes into plan on day one of the new employee’s tenure on the team.  On the first day, sit down with your new team member and let them know that you’re going to review the plan they created.  Reconfirm the thirty, sixty and ninety day outcomes to which they have committed. Ask them if there’s anything in the plan that they’d like to discuss or change before they commit to moving forward.  Modify as appropriate.


What happens is the new hire misses the goals that they’ve established?

Through this process, you’ve obtained your new hire’s commitment to achieving outcomes and a plan that they themselves created.  If they don’t deliver, it’s on them.  It’s their plan, and it’s their commitment.  This approach takes the emotion out of giving performance-related feedback to a new hire who’s struggling to meet goals.

If the candidate misses their thirty, sixty or ninety day goals, the coaching conversation is fairly simple and straightforward:

  1. “Help me understand what led to your being unable to achieve the goal and plan you set for yourself.  Was it resources?  Was my direction clear?  Was there an unforeseen obstacle?”
  2. “What are you going to do differently to get back on track for the next thirty days?”
  3. “How are you feeling about the plan you’ve created?”


Parting thoughts

The 30-60-90 day plan is a simple and powerful tool. It aids in employee selection, and it’s the roadmap for the new hire’s onboarding program.  When using this approach, it’s nearly impossible for your new hire to be surprised by your expectations of them.  More importantly, a failure to achieve the desired outcomes falls on their shoulders, not yours.

For a free, downloadable 30-60-90 day template, click here.