7 Steps to a Successful Performance Appraisal

The old adage tends to be true: you get out of things what you put into them. This advice applies well to employee performance appraisals. Managers and employees tend to complain about them and their value, but sometimes, putting in a little bit of effort means you’ll get better results.

You may think you\’re a “superhero” employee and as such, can coast through your next performance appraisal. After all, you\’ve met all your goals, perhaps even exceeded them, so what do you need to prepare? A lot in fact.

Think you're awesome? Prove it.

It\’s not just the responsibility of your manager to prepare for your performance appraisal meeting. You play a role in ensuring the meeting is productive and that you and your manager have a detailed discussion of your accomplishment and future career goals.

With that point in mind, here’s a list of suggestions we put together to help employees prepare for their next performance appraisal, so they get more out of it.

1. Gather Information on Your Performance and Development

Start by getting out your job description if you have one, and your last performance appraisal. Review your job responsibilities and the goals, competencies and development plans set out for you. Then gather any regular reports or notes on your performance that you’ve been keeping (e.g. weekly status reports, monthly summaries, project status reports). Next, get any letters, emails, certificates of recognition, awards, etc. that you’ve received praising your work. Finally, pull out any certificates of completion from any courses you’ve taken.
Review all these items in preparation for step 2.

2. Prepare a List of Your Accomplishments

Using your job description, goals and competencies for guidance, prepare a list of your accomplishments over the last period. Make sure you cover the whole period, not just the most recent weeks or months. Relate your accomplishments to your goals and to higher level organizational goals – how did you achieve your goals and help the company achieve its goals. Make sure you capture “how” and not just “what” you accomplished.

Also include any challenges that limited your abilities to succeed, as well as any support you received from others.

Your goal is to give your manager a summary of your accomplishments and any background information they need to understand and evaluate your performance.

3. Complete a Self-Evaluation

Even if your company doesn’t formally do them, it’s good idea to complete a self-evaluation. Use the official performance appraisal form if you can, and rate your performance on competencies and goals. Be honest in your ratings, and provide specific examples of your work to backup your ratings.

The goal is to reflect on your performance, so you can share your perceptions with your manager.

4. Prepare a Development Plan

Using the work you did in steps 1 through 3, identify any areas for development. Identify areas where you struggled or where others noted your performance lacked and make note of these. Reflect on areas where you would like to expand your skills/experience/expertise as part of your career growth and progression. And think about your learning style and how you best learn.

Then, do a bit of research into the training/development offered through your organization, professional associations, industry associations, etc, and make a list of potential learning activities that would help you improve your performance and advance your career. Don\’t forget to include things like reading lists, volunteer activities, work assignments, etc. Learning isn’t always done in a classroom.

5. Draft Goals for the Coming Period

Take a proactive approach and draft some possible goals based on your job description, your department or the organization’s higher level goals, your skills/experience/abilities, etc. Look for opportunities to expand your duties, broaden your knowledge, or take on more responsibility.

6. Share Your Preparations With Your Manager

Now, share your list of accomplishments, your awards/thank yous/certificates, your self-evaluation, your ideas for development and your draft goals with your manager. This will help them prepare for your meeting more effectively and will encourage a better dialogue between you.

7. Prepare an Open Mind

Finally, it’s important for you to prepare an open mind. Often we come to our performance appraisal meeting feeling a bit defensive. We’re bracing ourselves to hear criticism, or we’re jockeying for ratings/positioning that impact our compensation and advancement in the company.

Unfortunately, when we’re defensive, we don’t listen very well. Prepare yourself by trying to relax and let go of any defensiveness you’re aware of. Your goal should be to listen deeply to the feedback your manager provides you, as well as to their perspective on the goals and development plans they assign you.


It’s your performance appraisal, and your career! By putting some time and effort into preparing for your performance appraisal, you set yourself up for a successful review, and open up a meaningful two-way dialogue with your manager about your performance.

About the author: Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance management software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.