How to shine at your next performance review

Sep 27, 2021

It’s that time of year again: Performance review season! Wait, do you mean you’re not excited? Rather than seeing the review process as negative, remember that it's your chance to stand out and shine. While you'll likely receive both constructive criticism and positive feedback from your boss, you should also see this as an opportunity to put your accomplishments and goals front and centre.


Here are 13 things that you must absolutely do at your next performance review to wow your boss. 


  1. Take control and show initiative

Even if self-assessment isn’t part of your company’s employee performance review process (some companies may have a self-appraisal form or process), do one anyway and email it to your manager a few days before your meeting. Make it brief, and include two things you did well last year, one mistake, and what you are currently doing to avoid repeating that mistake.

  1. Sing your own praises

It’s time to be brave and tell your boss about all your hard work and wins over the past 12 months. Men are particularly good at this but women generally find this hard to do. Now is not the time to be shy – your boss needs to be reminded why you are an important and valued member of the team. If you still feel uncomfortable, try going through your emails and finding all the emails that you received recognition and praise for your work (Tip: if you are not saving these, make sure you start to do this from here on in!) You can also open your calendar and look for meetings you led, events you managed, and projects you spearheaded. Remember to point out the positive outcomes that you achieved as a result of these meetings, events and projects. 

  1. Remind your manager why they like you.

If you can’t remember the major win you achieved six months ago, your manager sure won’t. Using your list, flesh out why these accomplishments happened. Did you go the extra mile for the client? Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you are the only one who could achieve what you did.

  1. List your biggest accomplishments. 

In addition to noting what you did, explain why your accomplishments matter, quantifying them if possible. Did you catch a typo on an invoice saving the company $1,000? Put it on the list. Did you improve the inventory process reducing loss by 3%? Put it on your list.

  1. List Your Strengths

How did you catch that $1,000 typo? By proofreading the invoice? Then proofreading (or attention to detail) is one of your strengths, even if it's not in your job description. Did you work particularly well with a colleague on a project? Add "team player" and “excellent communication skills” to the list as well. Even small skills you have or the tasks you perform particularly proficiently count.

  1. Identify your weaknesses before your manager does.

We all have things that we can definitely improve on but if you are having identifying yours,  ask a friend or a trusted co-worker. A close colleague may be your best resource in this regard because she knows you in a work environment and will be honest about your job weaknesses and setbacks.

  1. Have a solution

Once you have worked out your weaknesses in the workspace, stick to two and describe how you’ll make them less impactful this year. Will you take a class? Set up a new organization system? Overhaul your to-do list? Make sure you have a plan for how you'll address your weaknesses to improve your overall performance, not just from your annual performance review, but to better yourself as an employee.

  1. Make a list of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based) goals.

SMART goals allow you to create goals that you can actually carry out and realize. Use your company’s mission statements and growth strategy as filters for these goals. If your company doesn't have a clear outline for achieving your goals, use the SMART system with a previous review or other feedback you've received, as well as your own personal appraisal of your performance. 

  1. Act like the review is tied to a promotion.

Even if you're not up for a promotion at this time, you will be in the future. Make a strong impression so your manager favourably remembers you. That way, when it comes time for your promotion, you'll have data to back it up. The hard work you did last year is just the beginning. Point out your favourite projects, remind your boss why you did so well, and tell her how you’ll go faster and further this year. Show your boss that you're constantly looking to improve and better yourself, the team, and your company.

  1. Don’t let this be the first time in a year you’ve talked to your manager about your performance.

This is an official check-in among the regular unofficial check-ins you already have, right? If not, set a quarterly task on your calendar to ask your manager how she thinks you’re performing. You can do this formally or informally, but be careful not to come across like you're looking for praise. When you check in with your boss, be ready to receive constructive criticism along with the praise.

  1. Brace yourself for constructive criticism.

It is part of your manager’s role to give feedback. The majority of yours will be positive because you killed it last year, right? But even if that's the case, your manager will also suggest ways to improve. Be mentally open to receive them. Chances are, you already know your weaknesses, so be prepared with a plan for addressing them. 

  1. List activities outside the office that enhance your value.

Did you read an accounting book so you could interpret the P&L statement? Did you take an Excel class so you can use spreadsheets better? Be sure to mention it. Perhaps you earned a certificate or award. All these things increase your value as an employee, and your manager should be aware of them.

  1. Prepare for your next step.

Browse your company’s intranet. Look at open positions and read the job descriptions. See one you want? Many companies judge their managers by how they move their direct reports up the ladder. If you find a position for which you'd like to apply, follow your company's steps for applying internally, and be sure to mention your plan to your boss as a courtesy; you don't want her to hear it from someone else. 

Making the Most of Performance Reviews

You don't need to be afraid of performance reviews. Think of them as an opportunity to earn the recognition you deserve—as well as receive feedback that will help you improve. With these simple steps, you will have an awesome performance review. Don’t dread it; go and get it!

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