5 questions to ask in a performance review

Get the most out of the process so you can do better in the future.

by Hannah, published 03/11/2014

5 questions to ask in a performance review

Whether you love or hate performance reviews, they're part of most employees' work lives, so you might as well make the most of them. This means going in armed with good questions and determined to come out with concrete feedback you can use to improve your work performance.

Here are five questions to ask in a performance review — or before yours rolls around.

What’s the process?

Before review time, you want to know what will be discussed and why, so you’ll be able to show up prepared. “Before the review is scheduled, ask questions to understand the process better, e.g. how often performance reviews are done, whether they always include salary reviews and the standard salary increase for good performance,” says Greg Menzone, an executive manager at Professional Staffing Group.

What do I need to work on?

Don’t be shy about asking what your weak points are, urges Slate Advisers CEO Michelle Proehl. She suggests questions like, "Given my 12-month goal (i.e. for a promotion or to move into a different position), which areas do I need to grow in? And, are there supplemental projects or specific opportunities that would give me the opportunity to grow in those areas?"

What soft skills do I need to improve?

A major question should involve your people skills. “Are there any soft skills that I could work on that would make me a better employee (i.e., negotiation, communication, networking)?  Often employees are good at technical skills but could use some improvement when it comes to soft skills,” says Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career. “Knowing what your boss thinks can give you critical feedback that could not only improve your ratings on your performance review but could also boost your chances of getting a promotion.”

What do these ratings mean?

Request specific examples and ways to improve by looking at how you’ve been rated, says Palmer. “You have rated me above average on my performance appraisal, but I strive for excellence.  Could you please tell me specifically what I could do to achieve the highest rating possible? Even if you feel that you deserve the highest rating and for some reason your boss has not given it to you, asking this question in a non-threatening way can open the door for the boss to tell you exactly what his or her expectations are.”

How can we keep the conversation going?

Your performance review should be a way for you to re-establish communication with your boss, if you’ve lost it, and to reinforce it, if you still have it. Be willing to ask, “What is the easiest way for me and you to consistently keep an open line of communication?” Then, when you’ve reached a comfortable place with them, questions like, “Based on 'X' results I have produced, would you be open to me taking a leadership role on future projects?” won’t feel uncomfortable, says career expert Tami Cannizzaro.

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