When you land a new job, you’re done with your job search, but you’re not done with your work just yet. Of course, you’ll have the work of the new job. In addition, however, you have the work of getting up to speed in your new role. Your new employer hopefully has an onboarding plan in place to ramp you up to full productivity sooner than later. However, don’t assume your employer has a plan to train you properly and come prepared with your own.
Here are 10 questions to ask your manager when starting a new job:
1 - What can I do to prepare before my first day?
Start your job even before you start. Contact your manager before your first day to ask how you can prepare. In case your new employer does have an onboarding plan, your manager can let you know what that is. If not, your manager can think of ideas of what you can do to help yourself. At the very least, your manager knows you’re a proactive employee who wants to be ready Day One.
2 - What should I read, who should I talk to and what training should I attend to get up to speed?
If your manager has no ideas, you can prompt them by asking for reading material, introductions to colleagues and training. If you ask this question in advance, your manager has a chance to make arrangements – send you material, schedule meetings, sign you up for training. If you ask this question on Day One, it gives your manager ideas for what you can do your first week.
3 - What are the priorities for: first day, first week, first month, first quarter?
Depending on how proactive your manager is, they may already have your assignments planned out. If not, asking for the priorities prompts them to dole out work for you and share the deadlines you should know about. Even if they don’t have your first quarter planned out, they might be able to give you an idea of what’s coming up. At the very least, they’ll see you’re thinking ahead.
4 - What meetings should be on my calendar?
Your manager may forget that there is a quarterly all-company meeting, or a bimonthly department meeting, or even a weekly check-in with them. Some managers are more prepared than others for absorbing new hires. New hires for a less prepared manager may hear about recurring meetings last-minute, even though they are planned well in advance. By asking upfront, you are ready whether your manager is or not.
5 - Who will I be working with? Who should I meet?
Ideally, your manager has thought about all the key colleagues you’ll be interacting with and has a plan to introduce you and help you get acclimated to who does what. If not, this question will prompt them to make those introductions sooner than later.
6 - How frequently do you like to meet?
Some managers don’t have standing meetings with each person they manage. Some managers like to meet weekly; others may want to meet more or less frequently. Do not assume that how your previous manager handled meetings and check-ins is how your new manager does things.
7 - What kind of status update or reports do you want?
You want to be prepared for your manager check-ins. Or if there are no recurring meetings, you want to know the best way to communicate about your work. Again, don’t assume that this new manager wants the same level of detail or information format that your previous manager did. Confirm what they expect to see from you.
8 - What should I do when I have questions?
Years ago, when I was working in HR for a global media company, I hired a very talented junior marketer, who called me in a panic and fearing for her job. I was surprised that she wouldn’t be doing well since she was one of my top hires that year. According to her, her manager was ignoring her, and she felt uncomfortable asking him questions. I checked in with the manager, and he told a completely different story. He thought this new hire was amazing and felt she was coming along effortlessly because she never had any questions. He expected her to interrupt him in his office whenever she had questions, and she was waiting for more regular check-ins that he never scheduled with any of his team. Different expectations for communication led to completely different experiences. Luckily, they cleared the air, she got comfortable “barging in” (that’s how she characterized interrupting him), and he felt comfortable keeping his “open-door policy” (that’s how he characterized his no-meeting, ask anytime style).
9 - How does the feedback/evaluation process work?
While you’re confirming with your manager about how often you’ll meet, what kind of updates they want, and how best to communicate ad hoc (e.g., questions that arise on the fly), you also want to ask about the more formal evaluation process. Your HR manual may give information on the annual review process, but ask your manager to ensure they follow that procedure or do something different. If there is a company-wide review process, ask to see the feedback form. This way, you know well in advance how you’ll be evaluated.
10 - How am I doing? What is working well? What can I improve?
You don’t need to ask for feedback after the first day, but certainly you should ask within the first week, and you should ask more frequently in the beginning until you get confirmation from your manager that you’re on the right track. No news isn’t good news – it’s just no information, and when you’re new to a company, you need information so you can adapt to that company culture and make any changes to your work style and output sooner than later.
When you’re new to a job, it’s the best time to ask questions. Everyone around you expects you to have questions. Questions show interest and enthusiasm for the work. Your manager will be relieved that you are thinking about how to be more productive and successful on the job.