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Job Interview

Preparing For Your Performance Review

For many, annual performance reviews are about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. They require a lot of mental preparation, are uncomfortable to sit through, and you rarely walk away feeling happy - but this shouldn’t be the case.


The performance review process should be an opportunity for you to demonstrate your progress over the past year, be honest about the areas you need to improve in and get guidance from your leaders on setting a clear path to advance. This should be a positive experience for you and be an equally valuable exercise for the person conducting the review. While the performance review process is largely determined by your employer, you can take some steps to make sure you get the most out of this process.

What You Should and Shouldn't Do When Preparing For Your Performance Review

You Should

Plan and prepare well in advance. The most difficult part of completing your performance review is remembering your accomplishments over the past year. To get the best outcomes from your review, make sure to plan and lay out steps for proactively working towards the goals you set the previous year. Remember to document your work throughout the year. By doing this, you will be able to easily reflect on all your contributions to the company and how you have progressed in your role.


Be clear about what you want to get out of your performance review. What you consider exciting work or where your skills are valuable may not be the same as what your manager considers valuable or exciting work. Start by writing a list of what you want, then reframe it so it is appropriate to share it with your manager. For example, if you want exposure to a particular project or role then you need to vocalise this, do not expect your manager to remember this or hope you get the opportunity by chance.


Connect your achievements to the organisation’s KPI. Outside of your goals, list your highlights of the year and why. Think about how your highlights may benefit your manager and the company. Do not distort the truth but frame your highlights so that it matters to your manager. For example, in consulting, you would demonstrate how you have delivered high-quality work on time and to budget or showcase the steps you took to help win or deliver important projects. The public sector will differ, but the information you would provide about the quality of work you delivered would be the same. 


Consistently seek feedback from team members on your performance. You should consistently seek feedback from your colleagues, project leads, and senior team members during the year and reference it in your performance review. A good way to get feedback is to arrange debriefs after each project with the project lead or your direct supervisor. Having project debriefs is also a good opportunity for you to share your experiences on the projects with your manager or project leads. Asking for feedback is good practice for your professional development beyond the review process. 


Identify the areas that you need to improve. You don’t have to be critical of yourself, and you can also highlight where you have improved in the past 12 months. For each area of improvement, think about what you can do in the year ahead to progress. You should also consider what the company can do to support you, for example, could they pay for you to do personal development courses? 

You Shouldn't

Justify a pay rise based on external factors like inflation or anecdotal evidence of other companies paying their employees more. Asking for a raise is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you have improved, the value you bring to the company, and your ambitions for the future. You can use this opportunity to remind your manager of your accomplishments and demonstrate your commitment to the company.

Be too humble.  It is important not to undersell your value to the company and your hard work over the past year. Don't be vague or ambiguous, otherwise, this will be interpreted in the simplest way possible, e.g. 'I'm hoping for a pay rise' could still suggest that you won't be disappointed if you don't receive it.

Use your performance review to vent/complain about the company or your colleagues. Your performance review is your chance to talk about yourself and your development. If you use your review to complain about the company or your colleagues, then it distracts from your accomplishments and aspirations. Do not bottle up the ‘negatives’, share them through other channels before they build up.

Assume your manager remembers everything you have done. Approach your performance review as if the reader is unfamiliar with your work. Your manager is balancing their workload and supervising others, so remind them of your efforts and contribution. It is also important to remember that your manager has a manager, so make it easy for them as they also will probably be unfamiliar with all your work.

Accept “let’s see how you are going next year”. Many of our clients have heard this phrase when the topic of pay rises and/or promotions is raised. But this gives you nothing to focus on and, is an easy get-out for managers not prepared to have difficult discussions. Similarly, vague positive feedback is unhelpful, if you are doing great then, why do you have to wait?

What about after the review?

Preparing steps or plans to help you achieve your goals is also important. If you set and forget goals after your last review, you not only miss the chance to complete these goals but the chance to get your manager’s support.

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