To make a good impression, make it quick
Time may be shorter than you think to make a good impression on the job.
Think of a clock starting to tick when you show up for your first day of work as a reminder that some employers — 9 percent, according to a new study — will make a determination about your performance in less than a month.
A majority of employers surveyed by placement agency Robert Half Finance & Accounting say they will make up their minds in fewer than three months.
Only 4 percent of companies surveyed were prepared to give newbies “as much time as they need” to learn the ropes, the survey found. Instead, employers are looking for people who can prove themselves quickly, according to Bill Rushlander, division director at the downtown Pittsburgh offices of Robert Half.
“‘I need the applicant to hit the ground running,’” many employers will say, Rushlander said. “A majority of companies have a 90-day rule.”
Robert Half called more than 2,200 chief financial officers in a random sample of companies in more than 20 of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country. The Menlo Park, California-based company released the survey in March.
Job search giant Monster.com says more companies are using probationary periods for new hires as a hedge against poor hiring choices — and to save money since wages and benefits can be less for probationary employees. Job candidates who accept a tryout generally view it as unavoidable.
But making that good impression and succeeding at a new job begins before long before the first day, Rushlander said. Some simple questions during the interview can make all the difference before the typical three-month probationary period expires.
Rushlander advises applicants to help manage their supervisors’ expectations. Start by asking questions, he said.
“Let them know that you’re open to constructive criticism,” Rushlander said. “I want to succeed here; how can I succeed? What do I need to do in 90 days so you feel I’ve mastered what I need to do?”
Building a book of business, which can be part of some sales jobs, may require longer than three months, so finding ways to measure progress along the way is a good tool in measuring performance. The applicant would do well to focus on measurable skills as much as possible, Rushlander said.
“Be on the same wavelength as the boss,” he said. “Ask, ‘Can we establish some common goals here?’
“Don’t just assume that you and your manager are going to be on the same wavelength.”
Here’s some more advice for getting through probation: Show up early to give yourself enough time to settle in and organize your day; check in weekly with your boss to get feedback on your progress and to discuss further training; invite colleagues to lunch or coffee to gain insights about the office culture; build trust with co-workers early.
Consistently missing deadlines, frequent absences or tardiness can be a red flag for problems ahead, Rushlander said.
Monster also advises probationary employees to discuss wages and benefits up front. Employers can delay benefits and compensation can be lower for probationary employees than regular employees, so it’s necessary to budget accordingly.