Here’s what you should do, today, to make sure your performance review goes as smoothly as possible:
Take look at last year’s review.
Reviews aren’t just about looking back; ideally, they’re also a time to set goals. Give yourself a refresher on what your goals were for the year, and where you were meant to improve, by examining last year’s written record.
If you’ve been with the company for less than a year, your job description is a good place to start. Just keep in mind that unless you were hired last month (in which case, hopefully you’re not already dealing with a performance review!) your job has probably changed. That’s where the next part comes in.
Write down all your accomplishments.
First, look at your goals or job description, and talk about how you achieved your objectives. Be as specific as possible, including numbers and percentages — and dollar signs, if you saved or made the company money.
Next, look at the duties and projects that you took on, beyond the official scope of your job. Again, you’ll want to quantify your achievements as much as possible. “I developed X product” is not as persuasive as “I developed X product, which was responsible for Y revenue.” Look for opportunities to demonstrate how you increased your value to your employer.
Get a sense of what to expect.
If you’ve only been with the company for a year or two, or the organization has undergone major changes in terms of leadership, you need a sense of how your employer does reviews.
“At some companies, negative comments on performance reviews are uncommon, so anything that’s not glowing is cause for concern,” Margaret Steen writes at Monster. “Other companies give every worker areas for improvement.”
The key, Steen says, is to go about looking for information in an “emotionally intelligent way.” In other words, don’t harass your supervisor with multiple questions about what you need to do to get all 5s on your review. Ask for a sense of how they calibrate performance, so that you can be honest and self-reflective.
Anticipate the negative — but don’t dwell.
When I first became a manager, my boss gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about performance reviews.
“If you do them right,” he said, “no one should be surprised. And if they are, that’s a management problem.”
Hopefully, your manager holds to the same philosophy. Regardless, it’s in your best interests to try to figure out what negative things might come up during the conversation. If you know you fell short on a given goal or expectation, come prepared to discuss it. It may allay your anxiety, and it will certainly make the conversation more productive.
That said, don’t volunteer your failings right off the bat during the conversation. Assess yourself honestly, but focus on the positive: your achievements, your progress, and how you’ve helped the company grow.
Set your own career goals.
Your annual review is also a time to set your own goals for the coming year. Are you hoping to develop your skills? Your manager might be able to connect you with training through the company, and make suggestions about areas of focus. Want a raise or a promotion? Lay the groundwork.
“Unfortunately, your review isn’t always the time for a raise, bonus, or promotion—but it is the time to ask about next steps toward getting there,” writes the Daily Muse’s editor. “Use your review as an opportunity to let your boss know how committed you are to your growth within the company—and, once you’ve talked about your goals and performance, to ask about a specific timeline for getting to that next step.”
Review preparation is also a good time to find out if you’re being paid appropriately for your job title, experience, and education. PayScale’s free Salary Survey can help you find out where you stand.
Tell Us What You Think
What else do you do to prepare for performance reviews? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.