Career & Finance

10 Steps for Acing Your Performance Review


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!