How to prepare for a performance review

Nothing sends shivers down the spine quite like a performance review. While technically a formal evaluation of your work performance (shudder), a performance review is actually a two-way conversation. Your employer evaluates your work, but so do you.

If you prepare effectively and go on the offensive, you can turn your performance review into an opportunity to show off the impact of your work. You might even get a raise. Follow these steps to learn how to prepare for a performance review and accelerate your career.

1. Identify your benchmarks

Your employer assesses your performance based on specific benchmarks, like a sales quota or KPI (key performance indicator). If you met or exceeded the benchmarks, your performance review will likely be positive. If you fell short of the benchmark, don’t start biting your nails just yet. You can offset missed benchmarks by highlighting the impact of the work and gathering feedback.

Before stressing about benchmarks, you have to know what they are. Check your onboarding materials, job training, and even the job description for specific benchmarks of your role. Does the job posting say the company is looking for an SDR to increase outbound sales? That’s your benchmark. In some cases, benchmarks may be less obvious, like a designer hired to optimize the company website. While harder to quantify, there’s still a clear benchmark: optimize the company website.

By what percentage did you increase sales? What were your KPIs? How many days early did you meet your deadlines? Find your benchmarks and honestly assess if you’ve surpassed them.

2. Quantify for specific achievements

While meeting benchmarks may be black and white, the impact of your work goes beyond binary benchmarks. Rather than defending your benchmark performance, go on the offensive by preparing a pitch that captures the impact of working toward your benchmarks. If you coded a new registration software ahead of your deadline, how did this registration software streamline your company’s virtual experience? How did the software save money or improve the company image? Quantify the impact of your work toward your benchmarks.

When quantifying your achievements, try to use impact statements. Rather than just sharing the tasks you completed, an “impact statement” highlights the impact your tasks made on the company. They generally follow this structure: ‘I accomplished [Benchmark] by implementing [Strategy] which led to [Positive Impact]’ or ‘I developed [Software] to accomplish [Benchmark], resulting in [Positive Impact]’.

3. Collect positive feedback

While quantifying the impact of your work beats qualitative descriptions, why not use both? After all, your work goes beyond numbers. What impact did you have on your work environment? How did you help your teammates? Did you win over customers or wow existing clients? Collect feedback from coworkers and clients with whom you work often. Present their positive feedback after you share the quantitative impact of your work. Not only will positive blurbs add a human element to your review, but feedback from others lends credibility to your self-evaluation, much like testimonials.

4. Set new goals

Based on your work so far and its impact, what comes next? Identify specific measurable goals going forward, at least somewhat informed by your past performance. If you increased sales by 12% last quarter, could you reach 15% next quarter? If you optimized the company landing page this quarter, maybe you can help flatten their site architecture and improve their SEO ranking? Presenting specific goals proves you’re a go-getter while putting the power back in your hands. Wouldn’t you prefer to set your benchmarks rather than your supervisor?

5. Audit new skills and training

New skills are bound to improve your performance. If you took a course or mastered a new technology, be sure to mention that in your evaluation. Consider all new technical skills, certifications, courses, and abilities that you’ve acquired since taking the job. Then identify how these new skills will improve your work–that goes into your self-evaluation.

6. Share your self-evaluation via email

Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, consider sending a brief self-evaluation by email before your in-person evaluation. While it may sound cocky, having your self-evaluation in hand before the meeting will save your supervisor time wrangling relevant performance metrics.

7. Make a request

The day has finally come: it’s time for your performance review. After sitting down and calmly explaining how you’ve measurably impacted the company, your supervisor looks impressed. But you still have the floor. Don’t let the moment go to waste! Request to work on a new project that excites you. Inquire into skills training. Maybe even ask for a raise. Making a request proves that you’ve given thought to your improved performance going forward. It’s not just totally normal, it’s expected. While you don’t have to ask for a huge promotion or cushy corner office, identify what you want to get out of the performance review beforehand and ask while you have the chance.

8. Take criticism, but don’t be negative

Now that you’ve shared your impact and made your request, it’s your supervisor’s turn to share. While they’ll have good things to say, they’ll probably identify areas to improve as well. Actively listen to their critique, but don’t go on the defensive, or worse, criticize your performance. A performance review is not the time to self-depreciate. Instead, take note of their suggestions and identify practical strategies to improve. Stand behind your work as a whole and take credit for where you had success. While it’s tempting to be humble, you are ultimately your best and only advocate at a performance review.

With these steps, you should know how to prepare for a performance review without losing sleep. After helping thousands of our fellows interview at top companies, we at Pathrise know just how difficult it is to sell yourself in a high-pressure situation. But having a plan not only makes performance reviews less awkward, but also eliminates blunders like being excessively humble or failing to advocate for yourself.

At Pathrise, we’re systematizing the hustle. We leverage recruiting data to develop strategies that give people the best chance of landing their dream job and raising their salaries. Learn more about our initiatives to optimize the job search in our manifesto.

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