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What will you try to accomplish in your first few months? I was surprised with this on a preliminary phone screening interview for a technical position and my answer was, to be honest, not good. Notwithstanding that, even after a few days I am still not sure how to answer. I am not sure what the recruiter is getting at.

EDIT:

I gave what I felt like, was a rambling, possibly incoherent response. Saying something to the effect of: Creating the space to accomplish the tasks and learning ahead. Even now, after I've had time to reflect, it feels vague and unsatisfying.

Can anyone enlighten me on how to be more concise?

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    Only the recruiter knows "were he is getting at"... we can't (still) read minds. – DarkCygnus Aug 19 at 22:35
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    How do you know your answer was not good? If you know that somehow you know the ways you can improve it then... – DarkCygnus Aug 19 at 22:36
  • I was thinking this was a general question, asked and answered frequently. Like, where do you see in 5 years – grldsndrs Aug 19 at 22:42
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    Yes but (1) only you know what you will try to do in the first month at work, (2) only you know why "your answer was not good" and (3) only the recruiter knows what they were seeking to hear in your answer... If you enhance on (2) perhaps we can give you better, more focused answers – DarkCygnus Aug 19 at 22:44
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    I felt like my answer was rambling. – grldsndrs Aug 19 at 22:47
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I am still not sure how to answer

Well, what will you try to accomplish in your first few months? Do you expect to be using that time learning the existing systems? Do you intend to spend the time building relationships? Will you try and ensure that the team is following modern best-practises? Will you keep your head down and get the lay of the land?

What I'm trying to get at here is that the way to answer this question (and all interview questions) is honestly. If you answer honestly about your intentions and they don't like it, then you wouldn't have had a good time at the job anyway.

If you're not sure what your intentions are then just say that, and follow up with your reasoning about why you're not sure yet and the broad outlines of what you'd do to determine what you'd like to accomplish when you've learned more about the job and/or workplace.


In response to your edit about being more clear and concise:

A technique I like to use is to give a brief one sentence "executive summary" at the start, then go into more detail about what I mean. If you need time to think before you have a clear summary ready then say that, maybe with a compliment about the question. So (I'm trying to guess at your intentions based on what you wrote in your edit) something like

Wow, good question... I'm not sure yet. When I join a new team I like to start by learning about the tasks I'll be performing, and I've found that the best way to do that varies at different companies. So I expect I'll spend my time learning the appropriate ways to get up to speed, and getting more in depth knowledge of the tasks I'll be performing and the best way to perform them.

I'm not suggesting that this is a perfect answer (or the one that I'd give, or you should have given), but it' an example of the structure I'd use in an answer of my own.

  • @darkcygnus If I accept this answer, I guess my answer was not as 'not good' as I thought. – grldsndrs Aug 19 at 22:46
  • So, perhaps, it was because you were (are?) unsure what you really want to do in your first months of work? (don't see why you mentioning accepting this answer, but I suggest you wait at least to see if you get others. Only accept an answer if it worked for you). BTW, you pinged me (@) here but as I hadn't commented here yet it didn't ping me. The System only pings if you previously were in the comment section or if it was your post – DarkCygnus Aug 19 at 22:49
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    @grldsndrs definitely don't accept this answer yet. The next few hours usually seem to be a quiet period for this site. If you wait for a day or two you'll likely get a few different perspectives, and people will have had time to vote on how useful they think each one is. – Player One Aug 19 at 23:01
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    Honesty is 100% the best policy, but you want to think through questions like this ahead of time so you're not put on the spot. I like the quoted sample answer above, but realize there's a fine line between coming across as "golly I just don't know where I'd start" and being honest about needing to immerse yourself in the new environment before you can know where to start. – dwizum Aug 20 at 13:35
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    Also, for questions like this, it's important to judge the interviewer's appetite for answer length. If they're expecting you to talk for a few minutes, you don't want to give a one-liner. Expand a bit on how you would learn the new environment, what habits or patterns you find useful to make sure you're staying on top of work tasks while still learning, how you approach integrating yourself into a new team and learning the methods for setting priorities and so on. – dwizum Aug 20 at 13:37
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A key question for you to ask in your interview is "how will you and I know I am succeeding in this job?"

Then the question about your work in the first few months will have some context in your conversation.

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If I were the one asking this question in a preliminary phone screening, I think what I'd be trying to get at is, "How familiar is this person with the company's mission and the work that we do?" In other words, how serious is this person about working with us? Did he take the time to learn about how we operate, our goals, and the challenges we face? What aspects of the job will he be able to start on right away and what will we need to train him on? Since you didn't provide any specifics about the job, I can't suggest a specific answer, but here are some general pointers.

Be as specific as possible but don't try to talk about things you don't really understand as they'll most likely be able to see through it. Also, don't oversell yourself by making bold claims you won't actually be able to deliver on. There's nothing wrong with saying things like, "I haven't worked with x before so I'll take some time to get up to speed," as long as you follow it up with, "I do have a lot of experience with y and I have some ideas that I think could really help optimize your workflow."

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