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How to Prepare for a Performance Appraisal (+Free Template)

March 14, 2019

You've already worked harder, now it's time to work smarter.

Whether or not your company encourages participation in your performance appraisal, you don’t have to play a passive role in your review. Career growth comes to those who take an active role in where they're headed. A performance appraisal is more than just a meeting with your boss, it’s your chance to take control of what your job will look like over the next year. You should take an active approach to preparing for it by following some of the steps listed in this article.

How to prepare for a performance appraisal

You don’t need weeks to prep for a performance appraisal. In fact, you probably already have all the materials you need. It’s just a matter of sitting down for a few hours and gathering everything to set yourself up for success.

Don’t be one of those people who floats through their career – turn your performance appraisal on its head and get the most out of your review. This helpful guide will help you collect your thoughts, streamline your process, and prepare you for success in your next review.

What is a performance appraisal?

In technical terms, a performance appraisal, also known as a performance review, performance evaluation, or annual review, is a method companies use to evaluate and document the job performance of an employee.

What happens during a performance appraisal

This sounds much more daunting than the process actually is. A performance appraisal is just another way your manager can touch base with you and ensure you’re on the right path in your role.

Why is a performance appraisal important?

A performance appraisal is not just for the benefit of the company – it can be advantageous for employees as well. You can use your upcoming performance appraisal to keep yourself from becoming passive in your work, take charge of career trajectory, and be recognized for the incredible work that you do.

How can you use a performance appraisal to your advantage?

  • Position yourself for a raise or promotion
  • Ask to take on projects and work you enjoy doing
  • Talk with your boss about your career path
  • Ask your boss about continued education, training, or seminars
  • Address any concerns or questions you have about your job

Your performance appraisal is your time to sit down with your boss and bring everything to the table. Instead of seeing your review as just another meeting, try looking at it as your chance to position yourself for continued success.

Tip: Thinking of asking for more money? Read about how to successfully ask for a raise.

What should you bring to your performance appraisal?

Arriving prepared to your performance appraisal will help you take control and show your boss initiative. It will also help you collect your thoughts and prepare for any questions you may have during your review.

1. Job description

The first step you should take is dusting off your job description and seeing if the work you do has changed since it was last updated. If you’ve been with your company for longer than a year, chances are your job description no longer matches the work you actually do.

Tip: Review your job description at least once a year to ensure it’s up to date with the work you’re actually doing.

Compare your current role and daily tasks to your job description and highlight the differences. This is a perfect jumping-off point to show your boss how much value you bring to the company and how much you’ve grown since you first started. It’s also an easy way to breach the topic of a promotion.

2. Previous performance appraisal

If you’ve previously had a performance appraisal at your current company, you’ll want to look at that as well. Your manager may not remember the comments they had from your last review, and it may be to your advantage to remind them.

Tip: If you haven’t already, start saving all of your performance reviews as reference materials in the future.

Check the feedback and scores you were given the last time you had a review. This will help give you a sense of how you’ve grown and developed. Make note of the things you’ve improved on since your last performance appraisal. This will show your manager that you are capable of listening to and growing from criticism.

3. A self assessment

The best way to show you are being proactive about your performance appraisal is to do a self-assessment of your performance over the last year. A self-assessment is an honest look at your successes and shortcomings in your current position. You'll want to use clear and direct language when speaking about yourself in your performance appraisal. Researching some common performance review phrases is a great way to kickstart the process.

Take about 20 minutes out of your day and complete a self-assessment before your performance appraisal. Answer the questions honestly about both your triumphs and failures over the last year while creating a plan on how to improve.

Be prepared for your performance appraisal: Download FREE Self Assessment Template

4. Accomplishments over the last year

Once you complete a self-assessment, you can begin creating a list of your accomplishments over the last year.

What counts as a career accomplishment?

  • Projects you helped create or manage
  • Accounts you helped close or retain
  • Metric improvements you were responsible for, (email newsletter sign-ups, social media followers, website traffic, total sales, etc.)
  • Certifications, trainings, or new skills you’ve acquired
  • Company awards you’ve won
  • And other tasks designated specifically for your role

Isolate the three successes you’re the most proud of and think about how they’ve helped your team and the company overall. Your performance appraisal is as much about the wins you’ve had as it as about areas in which you can improve. Use this time as a chance to brag about yourself!

Tip: Having a hard time thinking what you’ve accomplished? Ask your coworkers what they think your biggest strengths and successes have been.

5. A list of your career goals

Now that you’ve laid the foundation down for what you’ve done, it’s time to focus on what you want to do. Use this time with your boss to discuss your goals for the next year. Your goals can be as lofty as your imagination can take them.

What are some career goals you can aspire to?

  • A raise or a promotion
  • An increase in a certain performance metric
  • Attending a conference or networking event
  • Leading a new project or team
  • Learning a new skill
  • Becoming a subject matter expert

Career goals can take some time. You should break your goals into short-term goals and long-term goals. It’s also important to attach an actionable item to each of your goals and give your manager something to work with. This will help you get the most out of your performance appraisal.

Tip: Talk with your manager about how they can promote your professional development.

6. Questions and concerns

A performance appraisal is the perfect time to address any questions or concerns you may have about your job. Create a short list of anything you’d like your manager to address and be prepared to talk about them at the end of your performance appraisal.

What are some questions you can ask during a performance appraisal?

  • Areas of improvement to focus on for the next year
  • A timeline for raises, bonuses, promotions, etc.
  • How you can become more of a leader to people on your team
  • What skills your boss thinks you should focus on honing
  • What does your career path at your company look like

These questions will show your boss that you are looking to proactively improve and that you are someone who wants to excel in your career. Create a document and update it year-round when you have questions or concerns that don't require immediate action. You can reference this list during your performance appraisal.

Remember, your boss may not have the answers right away, so it’s important to follow up after your performance appraisal. The key is being proactive and communicative even after the process is complete.

Now you're ready to perform under pressure

Once you’ve prepared for your performance appraisal you’ll be one step closer to taking charge of your aspirations and goals. This is just your first step to the next great thing in your career.

Looking for others ways to advance your career? Check out our carer advice hub for more information.

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