On probation: getting off to a flying start

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050712_0028_0193_jshs Starting a new job is intimidating enough, without the knowledge that you have three or six months to prove yourself worthy of the position. June Frame from medicalsalescv.com explains why she feels a probationary period doesn’t have to cause feelings of insecurity, but can be a positive opportunity to achieve early success.

The most important thing to remember when on probation is that your new company wants you to do well. Right from the start it will be supportive in helping you to adapt to your new role and to succeed in it. During these early days, your progress will be reviewed and any additional support that you need identified and provided for you. Without a probationary time, there would be a greater risk of new employees struggling or perhaps failing altogether, especially if they are inexperienced or new to the industry.
The initial training course (ITC) is an important part of your probationary period. Feedback on your performance while on the course, e.g. exam scores, will be shared with both you and your manager. Once you have completed your ITC, your progress continues to be monitored and reviewed in the field.


Setting objectives

How you are reviewed during your first months will depend on individual company methods, but generally you can expect an initial meeting with your manager, where:

  • the probationary process will be explained to you, how long it will last and the criteria for success
  • you will discuss any feedback from the ITC, and if any training or knowledge gaps have been identified, your manager will have recommendations how these might be met
  • some objectives will be set for you to work on in your early days out in the field.They will be reviewed regularly, usually in one-to-one meetings with your manager and often involving a field coach.

From the outset, any objectives set at the start of your probation should be clear and agreed between you and your line manager.They will be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based) and either quantitative, which are easily measured, or qualitative, which focus more on key behaviours and capabilities.

“I see the probation period as an opportunity to prove myself, to the company,my manager and peers. Achieving real success in the first three to six months is not only immensely satisfying from a personal perspective,but it goes a long way to becoming a top performer for the company”

Quantitative objectives are: sales against target, call rates on customers, number of meetings held, delegates at meetings, electronic recording of calls etc. There may be more, including achieving required scores in company core skills requirements, such as selling or product knowledge. Qualitative objectives focus more on the key competencies and behaviours expected by the company, such as team working and communication, attitude and business skills.

Reviewing performance

A typical review with a manager or field coach would involve:

  • a review of current performance against objectives – acknowledging successes
  • an opportunity to raise any concerns you might have
  • identification of any areas where further support (training, mentoring, additional field coaching etc) might be beneficial
  • documentation of the content of the meeting, as well as action points and objectives for the next review.

As with appraisals, there should be no surprises during these reviews and a good review will serve to motivate a new employee. It is important, therefore, to maintain ongoing and open communication with your manager, who, having chosen you for the role in the first place, wants you to do well. Critical to the success of a probationer is how they are managed. High achievers agree that the best managers are supportive, fair, consistent, motivational, and even inspirational.

At the end of the probationary period, when your manager is satisfied that all the criteria has been met, written notification from the HR department will confirm that you are now a permanent member of the team.

Voicing concerns

Generally, a probationary period should be a positive and motivational experience for all parties involved. However, there are occasions when the manager will have concerns about certain behaviours that are having a negative impact on performance, such as timekeeping or attendance, for example. If this happens, it would be discussed initially with the new employee to establish if there are any underlying factors which can be dealt with at a local level. If, despite all efforts in terms of support, the performance required has not been achieved by the end of the original timeline, the manager may decide not to confirm the post. It will then be necessary to determine whether, with additional support and training, the new employee can meet the required standard. If that is the case, the probationary period can be extended. In extreme cases, if it is clear that the individual is unsuited to the role, the line manager may then have to discuss termination of the appointment. This action is a last resort because many managers feel that the failure of an individual to complete a probationary period successfully represents a failure on their part too.

Getting the best start

Duncan, a highly successful healthcare representative in the North of England, is enthusiastic about what can be achieved in these early days: “I see it as an opportunity to prove myself, to the company, my manager and peers. It is beneficial in providing a focus on what is expected of me within a specific time, which translates to a sense of urgency in terms of getting to grips with the role and bringing in business quickly. Achieving real success in the first three to six months is not only immensely satisfying from a personal perspective, but it goes a long way to becoming a top performer for the company”.
To ensure a sucessful probationary period, use it as a platform to launch a successful career with your new company. Make the most of all the resources that are available to you and if you start to have concerns at any point – voice them straight away. Remember that you are part of a team and that for the team to be successful, you must be too.


Medicalsalescv.com specialises in working with individuals to secure their ideal job within the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. From writing compelling and concise CVs and cover letters through to personal coaching for interview, we offer solutions for candidates which greatly increase their chances of succeeding in the application and selection process.