What to Say in a Performance Review: Top Tips for Success | Promotion and Performance Series

What to Say in a Performance Review: Top Tips for Success | Promotion and Performance Series

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You’ve been diligent about keeping a performance review file—electronic or hard copy—to help you present a strong case in your annual review to support your career goals. Now your annual review is nearing and it’s time to turn your attention toward what to say in a performance review. You must go through those documents and determine what you will present, and what you will say, to put your best foot forward during your performance review.

It’s important to understand that, despite how well informed and aware your supervisor or manager is of the work you’ve done, chances are they haven’t paid as much attention as you might imagine. Supervisors and managers are busy people and, especially with their top performers, there can be a tendency to simply take it for granted that the work is being done, and done well. But, they may not have a firm grasp of the particulars, or of the many positive contributions you’ve made through the year.

It’s up to you to point them out!

What to Say in a Performance Review

Following are some performance review tips from experts in the field.

Be Prepared

Fred Cooper is founder/managing partner of Compass HR Consulting. He recommends creating a “brag book” handout to bring along to your meeting to demonstrate our achievements, accomplishments and recognition you’ve received.

Shawn Tolan, managing director of The Tolan Group, also stresses the importance of being prepared. “Come prepared to give specific and concrete examples of your contribution to the team and the organization,” he advises. “Give examples of how you always go above and beyond what was laid out as your objectives in your last review. Cite examples of other team members that you have gladly helped with various projects when asking. Give other examples of times when you’ve offered up your help even when it was not requested.”

As part of your preparation make sure to look back over previous review documents, particularly your goals and objectives from your last review. Jot down notes on how you’ve done in terms of meeting, or exceeding, those objectives and be prepared to present that information.

Also read: Why Self-Promotion is an Absolute Necessity for Every Professional | Advancing on the Job Series

Take Cues From the Evaluator

Just as in sales settings, some good advice to employees when meeting for their annual performance review is to let the reviewer go first. This can give you insights and lay the foundation for what you will present, Cooper says.

Cooper recommends listening, first, to the evaluator before presenting any of the information you’ve brought along, or pursuing other lines of discussion. “Listen carefully and, as needed, scrap your plan in favor of responding appropriately,” he advises. For instance, “if the tone is serious and your future with the company is in doubt, of course, you won’t ask for more responsibilities.” But, he says, “if the tone is collegial, affirmative and supportive of your past work, then, by all means, indicate you think you are ready for more responsibilities.”

Come Armed With Information

Don’t be afraid to bring notes and other documentation—and use them! “Type out the main points you want to cover in the meeting and practice them out loud with a friend or your spouse,” advises Helen Godfrey, a career counselor and the owner of The Authentic Path. What specific problems did you face? What exact steps did you take to get to the result? What was the result? Quantify when possible, she advises.

If one of the points you wish to raise during your annual review relates to your salary and desire to negotiate a higher rate of pay, make sure to come armed with information and answers in terms of what you have in mind. Cooper recommends having an idea of the value of your current, or potential new job, within both the market and your organization. “Be prepared to discuss that figure if asked what your salary expectations may be,” he recommends.

Don’t be shy about sharing your goals, says Nate Masterson, HR manager with Maple Holistics. “If you’re looking to grow in your profession, it’s a good idea to make this known to your superiors,” says Masterson. “When you have a performance review, be clear with your supervisor that you have enjoyed the challenging work you’ve already been doing and look forward to expanding your list of responsibilities and experience at the company.” Masterson recommends taking the initiative to volunteer for a special project you’re interested. And, he adds: “Drop phrases which indicate that you see yourself staying at the company for years to come so that your bosses know you are worth investing in.”

Also read: 5 Tips on How to Ace an Internal Interview | Promotion and Performance Series

Convey Confidence, Not Egotism

But, while you certainly won’t want to hold back in terms of sharing the milestones of the past year, strive to convey confidence, not egotism. And, don’t become defensive if the feedback you receive is less stellar than you had been expecting. Instead, suggests Cooper, find out what you can do to get ready for more responsibilities. “Talk to your supervisor to find out what you can do to improve,” he recommends. “Suggest setting up regular meetings—every week or once a month, for example—to go over where you are in relation to the expectations of where you should be.”

Wrapping Up

At the end of your review meeting, “reiterate your commitment to your current team and the company,” recommends Tolan. “Leave the meeting on a very positive note. Then, continue to think of ways to help the company that will continue to help you get noticed.”

“The days of the company mapping out your career path are gone,” says Cooper. “These days, we aren’t climbing a career ladder, we’re navigating our way up the career rock wall.” Being prepared and proactive can help you move into the place or position you desire.


Read the previous post: 10 Things to Keep in Your Personal Performance Review File, and Why

Looking for more Guidance on Performance Reviews?
Check out our Collection of Effective Communication Articles

Lin Grensing-Pophal
About the Author
Lin Grensing-Pophal

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer with a wide range of writing credits for various business and trade publications. In addition to freelance writing for trade journals and publications, Grensing-Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations, to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends and more.

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