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How to Answer the Interview Question, “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

How to Answer the Interview Question, “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

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One of the most challenging questions that you may be asked in a job interview is, "What will you do in your first year in this role?".

With so many variables and unknowns, you may feel that it's almost impossible to answer. After all, you don't have a crystal ball to help you to see into the future.

But what if we were to tell you that you can anticipate this question, and with a bit of preparation, provide a response that will impress the hiring panel?

Recruiters may ask you, "What will you do in your first year in this role?" to find out more about you as a candidate. They want to know about your ambitions and priorities.

It's less about the technical projects you will be working on and more about how you see yourself fitting in.

Your response could help a recruiter understand that you seek a long-term career with this company rather than a short-term job where you are only motivated by the paycheck.

Alternatives to the Interview Question, “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

There are many different ways that this question could be phrased. Expect to be asked similar questions such as:

  • What would be your priorities within your first 30 days?
  • Tell us about your strategy for the first 60 or 90 days in a new job role.
  • What would you like to accomplish within the first 30 days of this job?
  • What could we expect from you in your first three months?
  • What do you want to achieve in this job role?
  • What is your approach to starting a new job?
  • Where do you see yourself in a year?
  • What do you think is achievable in three months/six months/a year?

As you can see from these questions, the recruiter is seeking to find out how you would work with the existing team.

It allows them to understand if you could hit the ground running and have in-depth knowledge of the industry to implement new ideas and changes.

Why Do Recruiters Ask this Interview Question?

There are many different facets to this question. As we've mentioned, your response will predominantly confirm to a recruiter whether you are looking for a job or a long-term career.

But if you plan your answer carefully, you can explain how you prioritize tasks.

You can also show your approach to working with and collaborating with co-workers. And you can refer to how you plan to make improvements, demonstrating your knowledge of that business and the wider sector.

Your answer can also align your personal career goals with the needs and desires of that business.

Ultimately, your response should demonstrate that you know exactly what the prospective employer is looking for.

In addition, you want to give them confidence that you have all of the attributes they need.

How Does It Differ From Questions Such As, “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

Although questions such as "Where do you see yourself in five years?" are similar, there are a few minor distinctions.

Looking ahead to the immediate or long-term future is much more about your overall career path. It's about articulating how you see yourself growing and evolving, and what your ambitions are.

In contrast, questions about shorter timeframes (such as 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or even a year) are more about how you plan to fit in. They are about showing that you can work independently while simultaneously becoming a team member.

It's much more about how you work and what you would like to do for that company, rather than your ambitions.

What Answers Are Employers Looking For?”

As you prepare your answer, consider breaking the question into three distinct components.

Show That You Are Career-Minded

The recruiter wants to know that you plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps you want to talk about members of the team that you would like to work alongside and learn from.

Or maybe there is someone who you would like to act as a mentor to help you develop and grow your skills.

This question is about the goals you would like to achieve within your first year.

For example, if you're working in a marketing role, perhaps you want to undertake training in Google Analytics. Or maybe you want to learn the basics of how to use Photoshop or other software.

Is there any further training that you think you could benefit from? If so, mention any online course platforms that offer the opportunity to upskill yourself.

If you can verbalize what attributes you would like to gain during your first year, the recruiter will feel confident that they are choosing a candidate who can be proactive and can identify how they will continue to improve and grow.

Discuss Your Strategy for Getting Started

This could be about observing the internal systems and processes. Or learning about the priorities of different departments so you can see how everyone works together as a team.

You could expand upon how you learn quickly and what your style is.

For example, are you a list maker? Do you rely on project management software? Do you prefer written notes? How can you explain the way that you work most effectively?

Show How You Intend to Positively Impact the Company

As part of your pre-interview research, you will have learned much about what you know about that company and what draws you to that industry.

Use this knowledge to explain what steps you would take to improve the employer's business strategy.

For example, if we stick with the marketing example, is there any new technology that you think the company could benefit from?

Perhaps you can see areas for improvement on the website, or you believe that they need to make immediate SEO improvements.

While you don't want to be critical, you shouldn't be afraid to say what you think the prospective employer's weaknesses are, as long as you can explain how you believe you can convert those weaknesses into strengths.

How to Prepare for the Interview Question, “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

Now that we know the three elements you should include in your response, it's time to think about finding out the information you need in your answer.

There is a lot to think about regarding pre-interview preparation, and it's important to use your time wisely.

For example, you don't want to research each anticipated question individually. You'll quickly run out of time and will be caught off-guard if a question comes up that is slightly different from the ones you’ve rehearsed.

Instead, make comprehensive notes during your research which you can refer back to.

As a rule of thumb, if you concentrate on who the employer is, where they stand in their marketplace, what the job role entails and what skills they are seeking, you'll be giving yourself a good base for preparing an answer to almost any interview question.

How to Answer the Interview Question, "What will you do in your first year in this role?"
How to Answer the Interview Question, "What will you do in your first year in this role?"

But if we look closely at the interview question, "What will you do in your first year in this role?" there are a few specific areas that you should consider:

What Does the Job Description Say?

Does it outline any critical tasks or projects that you will be working on? Can you look at what that company has done historically and whether there is scope for improvement?

What Are the Hiring Manager’s Expectations?

From the job description and your background research of the organization as an employer, you may understand what that company is looking for.

For example, are they seeking a candidate with more focus on technical skills, or are they keen to take a chance on someone who will fit in seamlessly but needs additional training?

Is this an employer known for taking on inexperienced people and spotting their potential? What do they need the final candidate to be able to do?

If it's a managerial position, is it more about account management or people management? If you are clear on what they are looking for, you can align your response with their expectations.

What Do You Want to Achieve by the End of the Year?

If you've done your research, you'll have a clearer idea of their strengths and weaknesses.

How can you bring your previous experience to the role to make improvements? Perhaps it's about helping the team to work more efficiently. Or maybe it's about drawing different departments together so that everyone is working toward the same goals.

Maybe your goals are more technical – for example, it could be about improving a website or increasing social media engagement.

It could even be about fostering better relationships with the local community.

Is There Any Training That You Need to Undertake to Help You Achieve This?

If you know your weaknesses, how can you overcome them?

Whether you are undertaking additional training out of hours (at your own expense) or you are requesting that the company funds your training and development, how can you show how they will benefit from it?

You may even want to say that you would use your first year to assess the skills and competencies of the rest of the team, so you can identify how to improve everyone collectively, rather than just you as an individual.

Mistakes to Avoid

As with any interview question, it's essential to know what you should be saying, but it's also important to know what you should not be saying.

When discussing your goals for the first year, make sure that you are not unrealistic.

You want to give the employer a reasonable expectation of what you can achieve. If you promise too much, you'll either seem overconfident (bordering on arrogance), or you will be setting yourself up for a fall.

You also need to be conscious of tailoring your answer to the job role itself.

For example, don't talk too much about overhauling entire systems and processes straight away. There may be reasons why methods are in place, and you need to take the time to consider how the company works before making any changes.

Remember to be actionable about what you are suggesting.

It's not enough to say what you want to do – you need to be prepared to explain how you plan to do it.

This shows that you have a strategy in place. You may wish to reference how you intend to write a 30-60-90-day action plan to help you get started in your new role.

Example Answers to the Interview Question, “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

Let's revisit the various alternatives to this question that we mentioned at the start of this article.

We can create some helpful response examples now that we know the kind of information to include in our answers.

Example Interview Answer To: “What Will You Do in Your First Year in This Role?”

I'm keen to continue learning new skills and work with a talented team to ensure that we are working together as effectively as possible. My initial priority as the team manager will be to understand the individual role that everyone plays.

Next, I want to make sure that there are elements that allow everyone to work to their strengths. This could be through identifying opportunities for further training, or it could be about making the most of professional networking opportunities or mentorships.

In any managerial role, the first year is the most crucial in terms of setting expectations and laying the groundwork for success. It's not about updating systems and processes. Instead, it's about understanding how everyone can use their own experience and training to succeed. I believe that once the correct foundations are set, then almost anything is possible.

Example Interview Answer To: “What Do You Think Is Achievable in a Year?”

I think that this is a job role where it's crucial to hit the ground running, as there is a lot to do. However, from researching your most recent campaigns and comparing them to those of your competitors, you could benefit from some minor tweaks and updates rather than a complete overhaul. I don't think it's unreasonable to aim to improve product sales by 15% to 20% over the next 12 months.

My first impression is that your website could do with some refinements. For example, the user experience wasn't the easiest – I think there are some ways to change the navigation to make the customer journey clearer. This should improve the conversion rate, which will naturally increase sales. If I broke this down over a year, I would estimate that the first few months will be devoted to analyzing the site traffic and creating a plan of action, then working with the web development team to improve the navigation, test and implement changes. From there, we can refine our conversions and improve our SEO by working with copywriters and specialists to improve the website.

By the end of the year, if we make these small tweaks, I'm confident that we can have a functioning site that will have increased traffic and generate more sales. Once we have this data, we can then create a longer-term strategy that looks at building upon this success.

Example Interview Answer To: “What Is Your Approach to Starting a New Job?”

This is a complex question to answer because I am new to this career. I only graduated this summer, so my experience is limited to internships and work experience opportunities. However, based on what I know, my initial approach will be about taking the opportunity to learn from others – particularly more experienced members of the team.

I believe that I have the technical knowledge and a theoretical understanding of the role based on my studies, but I'm well aware that things can be very different in practice. That's why I want to work alongside others who will answer any questions that I have, so I can learn the best-practice ways of working.

My style is to make as many notes as possible and to use lists to write down every task that I need to do. I am a quick learner, and I believe that once I've been shown the ropes, I'll quickly be able to adapt to your style of work, and be an asset to your team.

You can see how a recruiter would be impressed by these responses. Each one makes it clear how the candidate approaches their work and offers some constructive suggestions for improvements.

They show that the applicant is looking for a long-term career while focusing solely on the employer's needs rather than their own.

Final Thoughts

At some point, you are likely to be asked an interview question such as, "What will you do in your first year in this role?" or, "What do you want to achieve in this job?".

These aren't trick questions, they are designed to give a recruiter an insight into you as a prospective candidate.

Hiring managers ask these questions to confirm that you want to remain with them for a long time and that they can understand how you plan to hit the ground running.

With careful preparation and anticipation of this question (and its variants), you can easily find an answer that wows the recruiters.

Your response should show that you've researched the company and you know what they need. It should draw upon your previous experience and knowledge and confirm that you have the skills that they need.

Above all else, it should remain positive – the interviewers will welcome constructive criticism if you can show how you plan to make positive changes.

In short, your response should excite the recruiter and make them want to hire you based on what you think you could do for them.

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