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What To Expect From A Performance Review

Don’t panic! Here’s how to make the most of this time with your manager.

When a performance review pops up on your calendar, it can take you back to being a teenager, waiting for your report card at school. Performance reviews can be nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, they’re designed to help you to improve your work – and make your 9-5 much more bearable. Treat it like a job interview and prep with these tips…

What is a performance review?

In a nutshell, it’s a conversation between you and your manager and/or HR rep. Performance reviews are held in a private space or office during working hours, and they can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours (depending on your industry and role).

In the review, your employer will evaluate your work and lay out their expectations. They’ll ask questions and give you feedback. You know how you’re doing at work, so nothing they say should be too surprising.

But it’s a two-way dialogue: you’ll be able to share what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, and what you hope to achieve in the future. This is also a good time to bring up any issues you’re having.  

How often do companies conduct performance reviews?

If you’ve started a new job, you’ll have your first performance review in 90 days (three months). In most industries, this signals the end of the probationary period.

After that, you’ll most likely have an annual performance review. Some employers like doing quarterly or semi-annually (twice a year) reviews.

The Office Fun GIF by Kim's Convenience

How should I prepare for a performance review?

At some companies, performance reviews are super-casual. At others, they’re a more detailed process. The first step is finding out which camp your company falls into it. To do this, you can ask your colleagues, or send an email to your manager saying something like, “Can you please tell me a little bit about the format of the review? I want to make sure I prepare properly.”

In most cases, you’ll be asked to fill out a self-assessment and submit it to your manager a few days before the review.

If your manager tells you that you don’t need to do anything, ignore that advice.

Go ahead and do your own self-assessment. That way, you’ll have articulate answers ready for any questions they throw at you.

Start with your job description

Dig up your old job description and go through each requirement. Have you met or exceeded them? Or, are you still working on them? If you’ve received a promotion (attagirl!) or your role has changed, adjust the requirements accordingly – or write a new job description. Hello, brownie points.

Track the progress of your targets and objectives

Gather the info or stats you need to answer any questions about your progress. If you haven’t quite met your objectives, come up with a plan to get there. Your manager will love that you’ve taken the initiative!

List your accomplishments

Just like you would in a resume, be as specific as possible. Whether you’re talking about profits, client wins, client retention, video views, or articles written, try to slap a number next to each accomplishment.

If you’re in an entry-level role, point out the ways you help your manager, team or office, and give specific examples. It all counts.

Top tip: Make your life easier by noting down your achievements as you go in a Google Doc. That way, when your review rolls around, you won’t need to scramble.

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Talk about the tasks you’ve enjoyed, and the ones you’ve struggled with

Keep it positive. Create a list of the tasks and responsibilities you like the most, and why. Then, chat about the most challenging or frustrating tasks. Remember, your manager is there to help, and they can’t do that if they’re not aware of the problem. If you need more direction or support moving forward, let them know.

Think about the company culture

Most companies are interested in lifting morale and making sure all employees are having a positive experience at work. You may be asked for ways to improve the company culture. You might also be asked if/how you contributed to making the office a better place to work in. It could be as simple as saying, “I let my boss know whenever a colleague does a really good job,” or “I take my team out for lunch whenever we hit a major milestone”.

Build on your last performance review

Your manager will probably look over your last performance review, and ask how you implemented the feedback. Try to provide concrete examples. Chances are, you’ll be asked about your weaknesses, too. Nobody’s perfect, and preparing at least one ‘flaw’ or mistake will let your manager know that you’re self-aware and open to growing and improving.

Reveal your goals for the future

How often do you have a meeting with your manager that’s 100% focused on you? Now’s your chance to share your career goals!

Gerry Dee Monday GIF by Mr. D

Other tips for your performance review

Managers approach performance reviews in different ways. Typically, your manager will work through the points above, and give you feedback on your performance – both positive and ‘constructive’.

Whatever you do, don’t get defensive. Your manager doesn’t want to listen to excuses or sob stories, so if you get negative feedback, focus on ways to improve.

You want to walk away from your performance review knowing exactly what your manager expects from you. If you’re confused or need clarification, ask follow-up questions.

Feedback aside, you and your manager might work on an action plan. You might talk about the things to focus on in the next 6-12 months, or any professional training you can do to improve your skills.

If you’ve kicked ass, this is your opportunity to ask for a raise or promotion – or the steps you can take to get closer to one.

Before you leave, ask about the timeline for the next review. If it’s not for another year, you could say, “A year is a long time. I want to make sure I stay on the right track, so could we schedule an informal check-in sooner?”.

And there you have it. If you can prepare for your performance review and go into it with a positive mindset, you’ll be golden. Good luck!

Katia Iervasi is rooting for you

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