How to Answer: What Would You Accomplish in Your First 30/60/90 Days on the Job?

 One of the more common questions at a job interview is, “What would you accomplish in the first 30, 60, or 90 days on the job?” If this is your first entry-level job, the answer to this question can be hard to anticipate—but it’s not impossible. With proper planning, you can come up with a realistic, honest and enthusiastic answer.

Understand what’s expected during the first three months on the job.

First, let’s take a look at what this question is actually asking. Why the numbers 30, 60 and 90? These numbers correspond to standard cut-offs for your first three months on the job—30 days, 60 days or 90 days. Interviewers ask this question for a number of reasons. They want to see how you think about ramping up in your new role, how fast you’ll complete the onboarding process and what types of goals and standards you hold yourself to, especially in a new environment.

This onboarding period may seem daunting, but it can be an exciting time, too. You will learn a lot about your duties, your supervisor, company culture and workplace etiquette. You also will learn a lot about yourself and how you fit into the larger organization.

Do your research.

Even if you’ve had an internship in the field before, you can’t really know what a job entails until you’ve worked full-time in the role. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your research to get a fuller picture. Here are some ideas for where to look for a dose of realism (and some healthy inspiration):

  • Job listings—Do a quick Google search for similar roles and titles to get a sense of what those responsibilities look like.
  • Employee resumes—Perusing the online resumes of young professionals in your intended field can be invaluable. Resumes provide more in-depth information than company profiles and bios. Again, start with people who are just a couple of years more experienced than you to see what they’ve accomplished.
  • Talk to someone—Arrange an informal meeting with someone in your intended field, preferably someone around your age and experience level. Explain that you would like to get started in the industry and have questions about what to reasonably expect during the first three months and the rest of the first year on the job.

Prepare your answer by outlining your goals for each month.

After you’ve studied up on what you may be doing at your job, think about what you can realistically accomplish during this initial period. What kinds of concrete goals can you set? What projects are you excited to take on? If possible, stick to quantifiable results. Then practice your answer to the interview question. Try to condense your response to 3-4 sentences.

Say something like: “In addition to getting to know the team and getting fully up to speed with the role, there’s a lot I want to accomplish during my first three months in the role of editor. During my first 30 days, I want to get a sense of our blog’s editorial goals and use those to create a new blog design. After 60 days, I want our blog redesign launched and to have at least 50 contributors writing for the website. After 90 days, I want to switch the efforts from building the team to tracking growth, and I’m hoping that we can have 100,000 unique visitors by then through utilizing our marketing channels and those of our contributors.”

Always have a backup answer ready.

If you don’t a clear idea of the exact goals for the position or what you would like to accomplish, there are some things you can touch on that are relevant for almost any role. This can serve as your backup answer and you should always have one ready.

Say something like: “Within 30 days, I plan to get to know the people I’ll be working with the most and to be comfortable with them. Within 60 days, I plan to have a solid understanding of the industry, the company and the competitive landscape so that I can hold my own in any conversation about the company. Within 90 days, I plan to meet the goals that have been set for me.”

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Take an Exit Interview and find answers to common interview questions such as What Are Your Strengths?

How to Answer: Tell Me About a Challenge You Had to Overcome in the Workplace

 This is a tough question because you’re forced to talk about a difficult time with a complete stranger. Fortunately, it’s also a great opportunity to turn a big challenge into a great accomplishment. In fact, we like to think of it as a related question to “Tell me about an accomplishment you’re proud of.” Why do employers ask this question? It’s because they want to know that they’re hiring someone who has the ability to think on their feet and who is resilient when facing challenges.

When answering this question, start by giving context for the situation and then showing how you worked out a solution to the problem. Try to keep your answer short and focused. After all, the interviewer is really looking for what you took away from the situation and doesn’t need to know the full backstory of what happened. If you need help structuring your answer, remember this acronym: S.T.A.R. It stands for situation, task, action, and result.

Here’s what they each mean and how you can use them effectively.

Situation

First, articulate to your interviewer the situation you were in so that they have context. What was the problem and how did it come up? In one or two sentences, create a clear picture so that hiring manager is able to visualize the challenge. If possible, keep things professional by focusing only on problems that have come up in class or at a previous job.

Say something like: “During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan.”

Task

Talk about the task at hand and tell your interviewer what each person was responsible for doing, so that they get a sense of how you fit into the team. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail but do set the scene with one or two sentences about the roles everyone played in the project.

Say something like: “We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again.”

Action

Once you’re done setting the scene, explain the actions involved in overcoming the challenge. Talk about your thought process and the steps you took to solve the problem. Again, one or two sentences is all you need to convey this.

Say something like: “I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck.”

Result

While you should be honest and speak about a true challenge you’ve faced, be sure to end on a positive note so that your interviewer sees you as a proactive problem solver and a team player. Quantify your results if possible. It’s a great way to demonstrate the impact you’ve had on a project or company, and it lets the interviewer know that you’re focused on results.

Say something like: “The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Here’s how to tie this all together:

“During my summer internship at a public relations firm, a client suddenly wanted to change an entire campaign strategy two days before launch. The client was unhappy with my team’s first draft, so we were tasked with redoing the entire plan. We organized a late-night brainstorm that evening. After hours of work, I asked to take the lead on putting together a new deck. This was challenging because it was my first time putting a deck together and also our one chance to make the client happy again. I overcame this challenge by looking at previously successful presentations for the client, analyzing the feedback they gave on our initial presentation and incorporating all of the team’s ideas into the new deck. The client was ultimately thrilled with the fresh plan, and all of the new ideas we included!”

Answering “Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome” is a great way to show potential employers that you’re able to think on your feet and to solve a problem effectively. This is a skill that interviewers are looking for in all of the candidates they hire and answering this common interview question effectively will serve you well at interviews for both internships and entry-level jobs.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Find an Internship as an Underclassman and find answers to common interview questions such as How Would Your Friends Describe You?.