10 Steps for Acing Your Performance Review

  • Copy by: Elle Harikleia
  • Feature Image By: Decoist

Performance reviews are the opportunity to showcase great work, brainstorm career goals, and strategize with management about work for the next year. Whether these happen for you annually or more frequently, most of us either write up a review or meet with our bosses one-on-one. To help you strategize beforehand, here are a few tips to have you prepped for review day!

1. Know Company Culture

First and most importantly, you need to understand the annual review process for your company. For example: How many managers check performance reviews? Which performance objectives will be measured? These key questions give you a sense of how to tailor your narrative and will set you up for a successful review.

2. Document

There’s nothing worse than scrambling to put together a performance narrative the day before your review meeting! Keep a running Word or Google document throughout the year where you can save emails, notes, and projects detailing your exceptional work and contributions to your team. This way you’ll have a robust catalog of examples to draw from when you need to highlight your efforts.

3. Research Raises

Depending on your company, this may or may not be the best time to ask for a raise. In some organizations, your manager might use your performance review to tell you about percentage increase in salary—which is usually already agreed upon by management. At this point salary negotiations may be challenging, so be sure you’re attuned to your company culture on when and how to ask for a raise.

4. Self-Assess

Take the time to truly reflect on your performance and goals prior to your performance review. Did you do what you set out to do? What got in your way and what could you have done differently? How did you help others on your team? How did you go above and beyond? Having honest and objective answers to these questions puts you in the right frame of mind to talk about your performance. It also allows you to have concrete examples to back up any broad statements you make about how well you’ve done over the review period.

5. Focus on Impact

When talking about your work, focus not just on what you did but why it was important. For example, instead of “I brought on three new clients this year” you should say: “The three clients I brought on this year opened up new markets for our company and increased my department’s profitability by five percent.” For some reviews, it might be appropriate to even go a step further and add: “Through this client acquisition I improved my business development skills and expanded my network by working with the marketing division.” This detail emphasizes how your skills have improved throughout the reporting period.

6. Long and Short Term Goals

Performance reviews are a great time to strategize with management on your long-term goals and discuss where you want your career to go. This is also the time to turn these objectives into specific action items over the short term. For example, you might say to your boss: “I would love to take the lead on a team project in the next two years. What could I be involved in this year to start building toward that goal?”

7. Speak the Language

Give yourself a leg up on the written narrative by having example performance review references handy. We suggest 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews and Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals. A bit of research can give you new ways to write about your work and impact, along with examples of work that is worth highlighting.

8. Constructive Criticism

Whether you know it’s coming or it’s a surprise, be sure to respond professionally to constructive criticism. If you are expecting a challenging review, come prepared with suggestions for correcting any issues and an open mind to feedback. If you’re in a review meeting and you receive significant unexpected critique, it’s OK to say you weren’t expecting that feedback. In this case, you might consider asking your manager if you may take a day or so to reflect, and that you’d like to schedule a brief follow-up meeting where you can discuss moving forward.

9. Be Professional

It will reflect strongly if you’re well prepared and treat your performance review professionally. Dress up, be well rested, and arrive ready to engage and take notes. A great manager will also take this as an opportunity to solicit feedback on their performance. Have a few constructive, honest points ready for this possibility and address things that are working well and also things that can be improved.

10. Take Initiative

Even if your company doesn’t mandate performance feedback, set up an annual time with your boss to review your performance. Not only does this allow you an opportunity to address feedback and goals, but it also makes the next performance review part of an ongoing dialogue to grow your career!

What tips do you have to ensure a successful performance review? Let us know in the comments!


  • I tried to ask for a higher salary when I started my job but didn’t get anything. I think that there is still bias against women, especially in technical fields, and our lower salaries aren’t necessarily due to us not asking for it. We need to stop saying that it’s completely our own fault that we get paid less.

    • Linda L

      I totally agree with your point. Placing blame or making excuses isn’t the message here. Empowerment & confidence are critical, but most women are taught to be compliant & accepting of what life brings them & don’t learn to go after what they want or deserve.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that this isn’t good advice, because it is. It just seems that every time I see the statistics about how women make less than men, it is often followed by how women need to negotiate more.Or how women take time off to have a family. We need to write more about what companies and hiring managers (both men and women) can be doing to help this issue.

        • thebluehaiku

          I totally agree with you! I also think this article gives good advice for those of us who are too timid or humble, but at times it can be irritating. Women have also been valued less by others (not just themselves) and this is a very real contributor to income inequality. Gender stereotypes often play in the favor of men in the workplace and I wish there was some space to talk about that too.

    • Desiree

      I think it’s important to point out that your new job made a good decision here…successful companies usually want to see how you work in their environment before investing more in you. Maybe after 3-6 months you can go back in, with your silver platter full, and bring up the higher salary. Just a thought!

    • Kay

      I agree with you. In some cases, it may be a subconscious bias. Have you read Sheryl Sandberg’s book about this issue? It is great that you put yourself out there and asked. Regardless of the outcome, it is sure to be a valuable learning experience and useful to look back on in the future.

      • Yes, the difference is that men ask for raises (and often overestimate their worth & value). No one gets a raise by not asking.

  • Rebecca L

    Love this article!! Excellent advice!

  • Katie H

    Such great advice. I am so grateful I was told this by older people in my life. Even if I hadn’t of gotten a higher salary because of negotiating (which I did), I would still have felt so much better knowing I did everything I could.
    And Lenka, I think you’re right- it’s not completely our own fault, but not negotiating at all definitely feeds the problem.

  • Jessica

    I work in the music industry & most of the company I work with is men. My first year was insanely up & down. I wouldn’t get projects because they didn’t think I had “thick skin” blah blah blah. My boss(man) wanted me to succeed though and would say “be a bitch, but be nice about it.” I am now the nicest bitch EVER and had a perfect review and got a $5000 annual raise my first year. I also planned VIP experiences for a whole tour for 3 major artists! It has been the greatest learning experience of my life. Oh! & dressing to kill always helps;)

  • Tuts

    I once asked a headhunter that for a new salary that was almost double my current to which he agreed and that freaked me out because I started to think I have to prove more so decided not to go for the job.
    So I would like to add something else which to be super confident in what you’re asking for.

    • Winter White

      I totally understand how you feel because I too, have thought that more money means I have to work harder and prove myself but I think that’s totally in our heads. I’ve worked with men who don’ t have as much knowledge as me but had the confidence to make everyone believe they did! It’s exactly like you said confidence is the key!

  • Hollye Jacobs, The Silver Pen

    This is so so difficult. Thank you for these fantastic points!

  • As someone who worked in corporate America for 14+ years before leaving and branching out on my own, I think the one thing missing from this list is to be badass enough to leave if the powers that be do not see your value.

  • Misha

    It is always great to hear from other women about negotiation. I was afraid of bringing up salary/compensation/etc. when I signed my employment agreements last summer for my first “grown-up” job; I gave a salary range I hoped for (albeit it was low) and since the annual figure was in that range, I accepted on the spot. Fast-forward 12 months when my employment agreements needed to be re-signed, including my compensation schedule. I was told in my performance review that I would be given a raise, but when I started looking at my old pay stubs, I figured out I was being underpaid (my “paid” vacation was really unpaid). As soon as I received copies of the new agreements to sign, I flatly refused to sign and set up a meeting to begin negotiations. It was tough for me at first to stand up for myself, but after just one meeting I felt empowered. I stood firm to what compensation amount I believed I deserved (based on the original agreed-upon compensation, the promised raise amount, & my reasons for more compensation). It took three meetings with my employer, but at the end of that third meeting, I was offered a figure that was even higher than what I was negotiating for! I realize there are other factors that come into play with negotiation other than self-empowerment, but if you are ever in the position to negotiate for salary or benefits, I encourage you to ask for what you want!

  • lauren atkinson

    Thank you so so much for sharing this! I am currently job hunting and this is incredibly helpful right now. It’s a little discouraging when you think you’ve found you’d love to do, but know you’re being offered lower money than you deserve. Sometimes, it’s ok to say “no” and keep looking for something that fits every need.
    I’ve also decided not to turn down interviews and to allow it to get to the negotiation stage before turning something down– it’s amazing practice for when I find what I really want!

  • Love it, Everygirl! Great advice!

  • Great article, especially for a college student like myself who will be entering the full time work force next year.


  • I need to bookmark this page for when I hopefully get a new job.

  • This post comes to the most perfect time, as I’m going to ask for a raise next week!! 🙂

  • Winter White

    A book that really talks about this and goes into more detail is Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” she has chapter all about negotiation techniques that is so totally spot on! I encourage women whether in corporate America or not to read this book, it really talks about the psychology of women in the workplace and how we can better “lean in” to our own success.

    • Heidi

      Please do not buy this book. I would hate to see Sheryl Sandberg make $$$ off women any more than she has. She is filthy rich, but in spite of that, I understand that she was seeking an “unpaid” intern to be her highly qualified assistant in NYC. After much outrage, it appears Ms. Sandberg shut down her ad for the intern. It’s one thing when women are explointed by men, but it rises to another level when it is the women doing the exploiting. Both wrong.

      • Britney Beeby

        Heidi, I have to disagree with you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lean In, and many of us who are geared towards rising up the ranks in or companies/careers really value her insight. As Winter said, it’s all about ‘leaning in’ to your own successes. No one cares how much money she has made, that has absolutely nothing to do with what advice she gives in her book – she continually expresses the importance of women banding together, and being stronger as a unit.
        I have done numerous unpaid internships in order to further my career, and to work with Sheryl would be a learning experience like no other. There are multiple unpaid internships up for grabs right here on The Everygirl. Sheryl is certainly not exploiting women, if anything I feel that she’s championing our cause.

  • Lauren Weinstein

    This is good advice. I’m an attorney and thus have had to do a lot of negotiating in my career. I would add that listening is VERY important to any negotiation. Listen to what the other person is saying. You need to understand what the other party’s position is and why, whether it is your boss, your boyfriend, or opposing counsel in a lawsuit. That makes it so much easier to compromise on a solution that works for both parties. If you are completely ignoring the other side’s position, you are less likely to get what you want.

  • Britney Beeby

    The trick is to never be shy when asked “How much do you think you should earn?” in an interview. If you can sincerely say that you believe you should be earning X, then ask for it. People can feel that you take yourself seriously when you rate your work with a financial equivalent. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, she says that far fewer women go into their first job and negotiate their salaries, in comparison to men – this immediately puts us on a lower salary scale to men in the same position, potentially setting us back for the rest of our careers. As daunting as it might seem, employers prefer it when you are upfront with them. I went into a recent interview with this mentality, and negotiated a great salary at a fantastic company in a heavily male dominated field. Don’t be shy!

  • Brittney Castro,CFP®

    I do agree with you that both men and women need to come together to help with this issue in our economy. I was not blaming women but merely sharing that women can take control on their end by at least asking and continuing to ask for more. I have worked with women and money for over 7 years now and I know that women have different emotional roadblocks with money than men and so the more both genders are educated about these topics the better it will be for everyone to thrive in their financial lives. I love to hear all your opinions on this matter. Starting the conversation is the key part to effective change.

  • Haley

    At my current job as a designer at a boutique agency in Chicago, I negotiated my pay. It was stressful and a little tense, but I was well-prepared and confident! I received a higher salary than the original job offer and a few additional vacation days. I accepted the job when I felt the agreement was fair. I cannot stress how important it is to believe in yourself & do your research. Psych yourself up—no one else will do it for you. 🙂

    A great resource also worth mentioning is http://www.getraised.com. It’s designed for women seeking a raise. It guides you through all the steps of evaluating yourself in your career and current job position, and concludes with an outline of talking points for salary negotiation. This site boasts really high success rates. I haven’t used it, but when the time is right, I certainly plan on using it.

  • Kassandra

    Such a GREAT article! Women need to come together & make a change!


  • Marisa

    It’s true that women don’t always ask for more money in negotiations, but that is certainly not the MAIN reason for women being underpaid. There are all sorts of obvious and lurking factors for why women still continue to make less than men. Studies show that even if you control for certain variables, there are inexplicable wage differences and these likely come from hidden societal biases. I’m disappointed to see the Everygirl stand behind such a sexist view. It’s true the author offers good negotiation tips, but this is supposed to be a site that empowers women and to see this quote highlighted in particular is disturbing.

  • Miranda

    This is great advice, and I agree that many women do need to develop the skills to negotiate and to ask for more. But to say that the main reason that women don’t make as much as men is because we don’t ask is not only untrue, it perpetuates a lie about our society. There is inequality in the workplace, and it has less to do with women not asking than it has to do with sexism. The statements made in the header of this article imply that there’s nothing wrong with the status quo, it’s just that women aren’t making an effort. This is the last idea that women need to have perpetuated, because it rests firmly on the faulty assumption that we live in a fair, equal society. It’s exactly like saying “the main reason women are unhappy in their relationships is because they don’t ask for what they want.” While asking for what they want may increase their happiness in relationships, the fact remains that many of them are in relationships with people who are unwilling to give them what they want, and there is no amount of self-assertion that will change that — because a relationship holds two people and exists in a society that holds certain paradigms and you can’t say “if she’d only __, it would have worked out.” Furthermore, if you were to make the argument but substitute a different minority group: “the main reason African Americans don’t make as much as caucasians is because they don’t ask for more,” it reveals the inherent faultiness of the assumption. Minorities, women included, are doing better than they were decades ago, but there is still a huge disparity, especially in certain parts of the country where negotiation is just not going to cut it. Because the main problem is NOT that we don’t ask for it, but that we still live in a country where there is vast inequality, but we turn a blind eye to it and pretend that everything is okay.

  • the legal career girl

    This is an awesome article! Thanks for sharing this advice. I have to admit, I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating, but this piece has reminded me that there’s no reason I should feel embarrassed or awkward about the idea of negotiation.

  • This is probably the most important advice. I am a bit older the demographic on this site (ok, a LOT older) & I am just NOW getting the hang of this. I am so glad to see you younger dolls taking charge of your lives & knowing your worth. While it’s never too late & I am glad to FINALLY be getting there, I am glad to see YOU doing it now when you are so young! xo lulu

  • Sarah B

    When I was negotiating my salary for my current job, I was convinced I was going to get a different job I’d applied for with a higher salary, and used that as my bargaining chip. It was a risky move, but to be honest, my feelings on the job I was negotiating were take-it-or-leave-it, so I used the opportunity to teach myself negotiation skills. And it paid off– I didn’t end up getting the other job, but because it had seemed so likely at the time, I negotiated my current job up a full $10k (plus an additional week’s vacation) over their initial offer– a total of $23k more than I’d made at my prior job!

    I’m generally bad about asking for what I want, so this was a major victory for me. I’m still proud that I took the bull by the horns and asked for– and received– everything I wanted. If you end up in negotiations for a job you may not be totally excited about, use the opportunity to learn to negotiate! You might be surprised at the results.

    • This is amazing! Kudos to you for going for it, Sarah 🙂