5 Tips for Acing Your Annual Performance Review

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:48:05 PM ET
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Regardless of your job, how much you enjoy it or how well you do at it, if you’re like most people, you dread your annual performance review. After all, no one likes to be put under the microscope, especially when it comes to discussing sensitive subjects like money and the future of your job. There may be no way around it, but there's an easier way to get through it, starting with preparing yourself ahead of the big event.

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1. Give Yourself a Performance Review First

It may sound odd, but one of the best ways to prepare for your annual performance review is to practice it ahead of time. You can do it yourself or have a friend or relative pretend to be your boss. Either way, it gives you a chance to run through everything you want to say. During this practice round, take a realistic look back at your last year of work, noting the good, the bad and the ugly. If a friend conducts the interview, he or she can deliberately try to throw you some curveballs when asking questions. Also think about your review from last year (if applicable), focusing on parts that were awkward or negative so you can improve. Practice different answers to questions to see what feels right.

2. Treat It Like a Job Interview

During the other 364 days of the year, you may be great friends with your boss, but during your performance review, it’s important to be professional. Go into the review with the same attitude you would have for a job interview. You’re there to sell yourself to the company and ensure they understand your value. First, dress the part. Even if you normally dress casually for work, spruce yourself up a bit. Get enough sleep the night before, and arrive prepared with a list of your achievements from the last year. Be aware of your language, and always speak professionally, project confidence and put your best foot forward.

3. Bring Your Own List of Topics to the Table

Don’t sit down for your performance review empty handed, and don't wait for your boss to bring up each topic. It's a two-way conversation, and most bosses and supervisors just want to get through it quickly, but that could mean your voice isn’t always heard. First, be sure to point out your achievements from the last year. Avoid sounding arrogant, but don’t shy away from presenting nice notes you’ve received from customers and co-workers or a list of what you’ve contributed to the company. If you have improved in areas where you received criticism at your last review, be sure to point that out. If you have new goals for the new year, discuss them and ask your boss for feedback.

4. Listen to Criticism

Hopefully, most of your performance review is positive, but your boss could offer some constructive criticism about areas you need to improve. It could be something as minor as getting to work a few minutes earlier or something more significant like taking more initiative to make sales. Be sure to listen to what your boss has to say, and don’t automatically respond in a defensive manner. Let your boss know that you're committed to making the improvement. If the issue is serious, you could even ask for a chance to discuss your progress at a follow-up meeting in a month or two.

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5. Start Preparing for Next Year

If you’re like many people, you walk out the door and start thinking about other things — until the next performance review rolls around. However, if you want to do better next time, start preparing the the moment you walk out of the meeting. If you were given some constructive criticism, starting working toward improvement immediately. If an issue was left unsolved, schedule a follow-up meeting. If everything went well, start thinking about your goals — both your personal goals and your goals for how to improve the company — and brainstorm how you could make them happen. Keep a file of all your successes so you’ll have it ready for next year.