Critical: What Managers Should Ask at the 90-Day New Hire Performance Review

You learn a lot about a new employee during their first few months on the job. While the hiring process provided insight into their skills and experience, you can’t truly judge a new hire until you have seen them in action. 

In fact, the 90-day mark is the perfect time for a new hire’s first performance review. Connect with their manager and find out if your new addition is heading in the right direction. 

What is a 90-day Review?

A 90-day review is used when hiring new employees or transferring employees to new positions. After the first 90 days, a manager reviews employee performance, goal progress, and discusses future onboarding and training plans. It’s important to come prepared for the 90-day review with an agenda and questions to ask.

90-day Review Questions

What questions should be on your mind at a 90-day performance review? Let’s review some simple “yes” and “no” questions you can ask the new hire’s manager and the right action to take for each answer. 

Did we make the right hire?

Get right to it and consider if you hired the best person for the job. 

Yes: The employee has the right skills and personality. Great!

No: Uh oh. Start documenting. Hopefully, you’ve already taken a few notes along the way.

Is the employee progressing?

Keep in mind, it takes most people some time to find their way in a new job. But by the three-month mark, the new hire should be starting to focus on the right tasks and objectives. 

Yes: The employee is right where they need to be, at the right pace.

No: Do you need to provide more training? Does it look like the employee might be overqualified and need additional responsibilities?

Does this person fit in on the team?

While some people are more reserved than others, every employee needs to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues. 

Yes: The employee has made friends and is contributing to the team.

No: A loner? Should you facilitate some interactions – team lunches? Shadowing opportunities?

How has onboarding gone? Has there been enough support for this person to succeed?

Consider if your organization has done enough to welcome the new hire. They should have been briefed on organizational policies, trained on processes and best practices, and had all their questions answered. 

Yes: The onboarding program has worked.

No: Sporadic and intermittent support has left the employee without a clear sense of purpose or direction. This is a management issue and usually means a formal onboarding program needs to be developed. 

Would the employee benefit from a mentor?

A mentor helps guide an employee through the challenges they’ll face in their new job. If you find the new hire is struggling, pairing them with a senior employee could be the solution.  

Yes: A mentor would help the employee advance and acclimate. The job is complex.

No: At this time, the employee is doing well and seems to be getting along well at this time.

Have there been any red-flag behaviors?

Unfortunately, interviews rarely expose any negative behaviors a person will bring to the workplace. 

Yes: Uh oh. Document. Discuss issues with the employee right away. Set expectations, initiate progressive discipline, or terminate.

No: Good news.

Does the company offer additional training that might help the employee?

Some new hires have a lot of potential but need to be taught what is expected of them. Find out if the employee could produce better results with additional training.

Yes: It’s important to get this done before the employee feels alienated and unsupported, and you want the employee to be a productive member of the team.

No: Consider mentors and team activities to help bring the person along.

Is this person addressing the problem they were hired to solve?

Every new hire needs to have a purpose. Discover if they’re focused on tasks and projects that fill the gap in their team’s operations. 

Yes: Congratulations. You’ve hired well.

No: Set expectations. Go through the job description with the employee. Be sure the employee knows why they were hired so that they may try to reach the bar.

Does this person have the skills to succeed?

Anything but a “yes” to this question indicates that your team made a hiring mistake. 

Yes: Great! Good job hiring.

No: Did you check references? Does the employee need a lot more skill or a little more skill? Are you willing to start over? Is it easier to provide the training to acquire the skills?

Does this person have managerial abilities?

Some junior employees are leaders in the making. Ask the manager if they’ve seen any behavior that suggests the new hire has management potential.

Yes: Consider additional learning opportunities to help the employee see multiple aspects of the company in preparation for possible advancement.

No: That’s okay, too. Is the person stable and able to do the tasks they were hired for?

Have you taken the time to build the employee/manager relationship?

Ask the manager to consider if they’re doing their part to form a professional bond with their team member. 

Yes: Great job. It’s not easy to build relationships and onboard when everything else still needs to get done.

No: Time to engage. The employee will make the best fit if they understand expectations and feel a sense of direction – that comes from the employee/manager relationship.

Does this person need help fitting in?

You want employees to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Find out if the new-hire butterflies phase has passed. 

Yes: The employee is shy. Consider team-building activities or assignments that require interaction with others.

No: The employee is able to navigate socially.

Open-ended 90-day performance review questions

The right “yes” and “no” questions will give you a solid idea of if the new hire is succeeding in their role. However, these open-ended questions will fill in the blanks and help you determine if you’ve hired, trained, and onboarded the right person.

What has this person been able to accomplish in the first 90-days?

Take stock of what the new employee has been able to accomplish so far. Their manager should have set some basic performance goals during the onboarding period so find out if the employee has met them or is making significant progress. 

What are three things this person needs to work on to improve?

This exercise encourages the manager to consider all possible areas the new hire could improve and come up with three recommendations. They should then discuss them with the new hire and provide feedback and guidance as the employee strives to improve.