To business plan, or not to business plan: that is the question

As more candidates for senior roles are being asked to write a business plan, I thought I’d look into why. Is this a way for candidates to showcase themselves and their approach to strategy and planning? Or is it a way for employers to acquire strategic plans without paying for them?

(Spoiler alert: It’s not the latter).

Is this a white elephant I see before me?

Now I can’t talk about business plans without discussing the job interview. There’s lots of current debate* as research suggests that job interviews may not be as useful as employers think.

Performing well in an interview may demonstrate how good a candidate is at presenting the best version of themselves, but is it really a good indicator of how well they’ll perform in the job? There. I said it.

One way to approach job interviews differently is to shift the focus away from questioning and ask candidates to present a business plan detailing what they’d do in the days, weeks and months after getting the job. 

Think about it for a minute. If the interview is structured as a presentation, the candidate should come prepared. They should know what you need, what they can do for you, and how they’ll do it better than anybody else. Ah it’s starting to make sense now.

Business plan, business plan, wherefore art thou business plan?

So what exactly should a plan contain? Perhaps the most obvious but crucial of all things is to understand the company, it’s values, major problems, and market. They’ll want to see that you know your stuff, you’re asking the right questions and that you can think strategically. 

The final plan may not be what they’re looking for, they may be more interested in how you approached the task OR they may want the final plan and all the nitty gritty. They might want to see an executive summary, a description of the business you want to create, a list of activities needed to achieve that and your financial predictions.

Nobody said it was easy. If you’re looking for a definitive guide, there isn’t one. Sorry.

If plans be the food of love play on

I think it’s safe to say that the job interview is here to stay, but perhaps the focus will move away from competency based questions that may not tell us anything, and more towards a business plan presentation and discussion. 

Understanding what a candidate can do for your business hinges on how well they understand your needs, and less about how well they can answer pre-prepared questions. An informal chat afterwards provides the opportunity for meaningful discussion, without the artificial pressure and awkwardness of vetting questions.

What are your experiences of business plans?

As a candidate are you filled with dread or do you welcome the opportunity? As an employer, have you found them to be useful predictors of job performance? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please drop me a line in the comments here or over on email at 

*There’s lots of questions and debate which I can’t do justice to here. For more information please read more at and