Pre-Hire Performance Plans – Whats, Whys, and How Tos

Making the Case for Pre-Hire Performance Plans

We’re all familiar with the term Performance Plan that is used to describe a series of steps or activities sequenced in a way to achieve a specific goal or objective.  There are all kinds of performance plans, most used to lay out the activities and results required of a company, a team or an individual covering a specific time period. Many companies, teams or individuals regularly prepare weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual performance plans.

Unfortunately the performance plan language is most frequently used in situations where an employee is in trouble, either with their conduct or their results, and a PIP, a Performance Improvement Plan, is used to lay out what specifically the employee needs to do or change what they have been doing to avoid termination. Given the number of times PIPs come up when googling Performance Plans, it is no wonder performance plans are so often viewed in a negative light.

Less well known are what is called “30-60-90 Day Plans”, typically introduced during the onboarding process to describe what an employee needs to learn or do during their first 90 days on the job to be fully ready to perform on their 91st day after hire. These types of performance plans are designed to get a new hire off to the right start, armed first with what they need to know, and secondly what results they need to deliver, to contribute to the organization’s success.

Most 30-60-90-day plans are written either by a hiring manager or a member of the HR team right after the employee is hired and is about to be “onboarded.”

A much less well-known version of a performance plan is what we call a Pre-Hire Performance Plan (PHPP) a type of plan introduced during the hiring process as a way to lay out for a job candidate what a newly hired employee is expected to do, know, or deliver by when if hired. PHPPs are very much like on boarding plans but are given to a candidate before they are hired and are used to describe the hiring manager’s expectations for “success.” Long story short, a PHPP is a “results focused” definition of the hiring manager’s expectations.

This blog is written to make the case for Pre-Hire Performance Plans; describe how they are used in the hiring process plus outline why a company might choose to incorporate a PHPP into their hiring process. We will also provide our readers with some ideas and insights into the how to’s of creating a PHPP. 

What is a Pre-Hire Performance Plan (PHPP)?

Feeding off the brief definition provided above, the content of a PHPP looks very much like a 30-60-90 day on-boarding plan in that it lays out what needs to happen by when after an employee is hired and begins work. While most PHPP’s are focused on the first 90 days post hire, for more senior roles that time frame can and often should be expanded to include the results to be obtained during the employee’s first year on the job.

A PHPP often includes a statement of the context in which the expectations are to be achieved to clearly spell out the challenges likely to be faced during the plan period.

How are Pre-Hire Performance Plans Used During the Hiring Process?

A PHPP is used to identify the “best candidate” for the job – the behavioral way. It is typically a document given to 2-3 “finalists” who have already been screened to have the base experience and/or skills needed. These finalists are asked to review the plan and come to their interview prepared to provide examples of situations where they have faced the same or a similar set of expectations.  During the interview they are asked for specifics of their experience – what they did, the results they achieved, what they learned that might help them address the requirements of the job they are interviewing for. The PHPP can play a key role in the candidate selection process as the candidate’s answers to questions relevant to the PHPP almost always reveals which candidates are most prepared to achieve the results described in the PHPP.

What are the Key Benefits for Using a Pre hire Performance Plan?

There are many benefits for using a PHPP in addition to the role it plays in employee selection.

  • A PHPP ensures your hiring decision is focused on predicting performance or results, avoiding personal bias. And that is a trickle-down benefit that keeps the entire team or organization focused on performance/results. Having a PHPP in place shows just how serious you are about hiring the right employee and how focused you are on results.
  • A PHPP engages the high talent candidates during the hiring process in ways that traditional hiring processes do not. High talent candidates are attracted to challenges and will automatically self-reflect on the skills and abilities they can use to address these challenges.  Increased engagement = more offers accepted, often circumventing the type of competition based on costly pay and benefit packages.
  • A PHPP takes the mystery out of expectations…making it clear what is to be accomplished by when. High talent candidates don’t like surprises….and want to know exactly what will be expected of them.
  • A PHPP helps the recruiting team develop a job relevant preferred candidate profile. Knowing what a future employee must produce by when, makes it easy to get realistic about what qualifications are needed to succeed once hired.
  • A PHPP kick starts the onboarding process…. shortening the time it takes to get a new employee off and running.
  • A PHPP provides a way to get some early warning signals that you’ve hired either the right or the wrong employee.  A new employee who isn’t reaching the milestones spelled out in their Pre-Hire Performance Plan can be spotted early, the reasons for the performance shortcoming addressed in real time, as they come up.  This process avoids the more traditional, often long-drawn-out methods of assessing a new hire that results in too much time and resources invested in the wrong employee.  With over 50% of new hires turning into hiring errors, the earlier a “bad hire” is detected the easier it is to minimize the wake of an underperforming employee left in their role too long. The phrase “take the time to hire right, and fire quickly” comes to mind.  The PHPP is an invaluable tool to do just that.
  • A PHPP plays a key role in creating a culture of personal accountability and productivity. It keeps the hiring and orientation process focused on hiring and developing employees who have the necessary experience and talents needed to reach and exceed goals.  It can play a pivotal role in creating a performance focused culture.

How to Create a Pre-Hire Performance Plan

Creating the PHPP is, of course, the difficult part.  There are many multi-day workshops created to train managers on how to create the right performance plans. What I’d like to do in the context of this blog is to give you a limited list of “things to consider” when creating your PHPP.  I will also share some examples of the PHPPs we’ve helped PACE clients create and use in their hiring process.

  • Envision a SIMPLE ROADMAP. Identify the priority achievements for each segment of a progressive timeline.  Make sure you’re not expecting too much too soon and have clearly spelled out how the employee’s plan accomplishments will be measured.
  • Make sure you include a clear description of the context in which the PHPP will be achieved. The reality is that many new hires run into issues with a new job, not because of shortcomings in the skills or abilities needed to do the job, but because of the context in which the work is performed – a failure to adapt to that context.   Spell the context out clearly so that your PHPP comes alive for a potential candidate.  “You will be replacing a valued employee who is retiring after 15 years.  She will have very big shoes to fill and unfortunately there is not a lot of documentation available on how she does her job that makes her so good at it.  You’re going to have to absorb most of the how to’s in the 3 weeks we have arranged for you to overlap with her.”   
  • Organize plan objectives into segments…
    • The first thirty days is typically a period of LEARNING so the plan needs to identify the key elements of the job the employee needs to learn and a brief description of how they will be learned.   You will meet with your boss at least twice to get clear on the department’s current projects and how you are expected to contribute. 
    • The second thirty days should be focused on DOING…putting into play the knowledge and skills learned in the first 30 days, and re affirming the employee’s ability to execute the base expectations. Spell out what work the employee should be regularly performing and how they should obtain feedback on their performance.     You will actively perform assignments given to you by the VP and obtain feedback from that VP on how you performed.       
    • The third thirty days should be focused on demonstrating the employee’s ACCOUNTABILITY and INITIATIVE. The components of the plan should show the ways in which employees can demonstrate that they have a firm grasp on how their role contributes to the team’s success. You will have mastered the reoccurring/daily/weekly work assigned to your role plus will have presented some of your own ideas on ways your role might enhance its contribution to the team’s performance.     
  • Make sure your PHPP provides answers to key questions…..
    • What skills or knowledge does the new employee need to either bring to the table or learn quickly?
    • What resources are available to facilitate the required learnings?
    • Who are the people (i.e. stakeholders) who will play a role in the employee’s success? Who do they need to meet?
    • What projects or initiatives are currently in play that the new hire is expected to contribute to?
    • What recurring problems or challenges will they likely encounter and need to address?
    • What will the new employee need to do to establish their credibility with others?
    • What are the specific tasks that make up the employee’s daily, weekly, monthly requirements?
    • How will those tasks be taught – by who? Using what resources?
    • How will the employee get involved with other areas of the company besides their own team?
    • What kind of feedback will they be given to let them know how they are doing with their plan? How will it be solicited?
  • Adjust how you break down your PHPP into performance periods based on the complexity and scope of the role. Most if not all jobs benefit from a a PHPP covering a 90-day timeline.  Some higher or executive level jobs will require you to expand your plan to lay out expectations for first year results.

Examples of Pre-Hire Performance Plans

We’d like to share examples of PHPPs we have developed with customers in the last 12 months.  The first is the PHPP for a VP of Marketing so that you can get a sense of what that type of high level PHPP might look like. The second is the PHPP for an Administrative Assistant in the Marketing Department.

Please note how each plan spells out the “context” in which the results will be delivered and the extended time period covered by the executive level plan.

PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for a service that will actually “make a difference” to who and how you hire, contact us at 425-637-3312 or fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

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Diclosures, Recognitions, and Thank Yous.....

The PACE team would like to acknowledge the influence and inspiration of Lou Adler, CEO and founder of an international consulting and training company, whose teachings and writings played such a key role in the development of our RESULTS FOCUSED hiring model. Although we have not been formal students of his program, throughout our career in recruiting and staffing we have followed Mr. Adler’s blogs on LinkedIn, read his books including Hire with your Head published in 2021, and have incorporated some of the descriptors he has used to explain the underlying concepts of his hiring model, into our own.

Our RESULTS FOCUSED hiring process has evolved from our own experience in hiring but at critical points has been influenced by Mr. Adler’s presentations and writings. We will be forever grateful for his ability to so articulately describe and explain the what’s and whys of evidence based hiring process which are the principles underlying the hiring process Mr. Adler has created and our own hiring process. The influence he has had on the hiring community across the globe has made it so much easier for us to move forward with the confidence that our own insights on hiring have universal legs to stand upon.

To learn more about the training  Mr. Adler’s company, Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems, might be able to provide to your hiring managers,  we encourage you to contact his team at or call them directly at 949.612.6300

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