How to ace your performance review

Do these things before or during your performance appraisal to help it go more smoothly and to leave with your dignity and job firmly intact.

How to ace your performance review

Preparation is the key to a good performance review.

Performance reviews and employee evaluations are stressful for everyone involved. Managers don’t relish critiquing their employees, and staff members rarely enjoy the added scrutiny. Add into the equation that raises and bonuses can hinge on these reviews, and it’s not a surprise emotions can run high when review time rolls around. Preparation is the key to getting through a performance review as stress-free as possible.

Whether you’re expecting a thoroughly positive review or an absolutely dreadful one, there are things you can do before or during the meeting to help it go more smoothly and to leave with your dignity and job firmly intact.

Build a kudos file from day one (or start one now)

If your company does reviews just once a year, it can really stretch your memory to think of all the projects you worked on since your last evaluation. Keeping an email folder, computer file or document of everything you worked on will help make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
“As soon as a deal or initiative is completed successfully, employees should maintain details of their contribution in a ‘kudos file,’” advises Tatum Soo Kim, director of advising and student services at New York University. “The kudos file is a self-maintained record of achievements and impact. Impact should be supported with hard evidence such as quantitative data, internal reports, public record or even the boss's previous feedback.”

Have the right attitude

Decide before your performance review that you won’t just “weather the storm” and get it over with as soon as possible. Instead, you should view this as a chance to bring attention to accomplishments your boss may not have noticed, says Mat Durham, director of Skyblu, a Web design company based in Worcester, U.K.
Durham says there are two other possible attitude traps to avoid: First, while confidence is key, arrogance can be detrimental and overshadow the accomplishments you’re trying to highlight. It’s also possible to put yourself into an overly subordinate mindset, which can undermine your confidence. Instead, he recommends trying to “think of yourself as an equal, selling the service that you provide.”

Come armed with solutions for your weaknesses

Soo Kim advises you bring up weaknesses very carefully. If there are areas you’ve ignored or haven’t significantly improved since your previous evaluation, most supervisors will find that unacceptable, she says. If you must bring up weaknesses, you should also discuss your previous efforts to improve and how you plan to address problems going forward. Listing areas of weakness with no plan for progress won’t help.

Listen correctly and follow up

No one is perfect, so there’s a decent chance your performance review will include some negative feedback. It’s important that you listen to this with an open mind, not become defensive and not get upset. After all, negative feedback is a show of faith from your boss. If she thought you were a lost cause, she’d fire you and not bother offering suggestions for improvement.
It’s perfectly acceptable to take notes during your meeting so long as it doesn’t interfere with your listening to your boss and absorbing the message she’s trying to deliver. It’s also fine—especially if you get some unexpected negative feedback—to request a follow-up meeting after you’ve had time to absorb the information, says Fred Cooper, managing partner at Compass HR Consulting.
It’s better to take time and compose yourself than to react from hurt or anger during the initial performance review, he says. A follow-up meeting or email can also be helpful after a positive evaluation to confirm any new projects or responsibilities. Need more help to stay on your A game? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get career advice and job search tips to keep you ahead of the curve.