by Katharine Hansen Ph.D.
Performance evaluations are tailor-made for communicating your accomplishments and if you’ve been brainstorming and tracking successes in the period leading up to your review you’ll find it effortless to prepare. Your accomplishments offer the best evidence that you are not only doing your job but doing it well perhaps going beyond what’s expected of you.
Accomplishments are integral to both aspects of a performance review — the dialog you have with your supervisor and the self-analysis that many employers ask you to complete before sitting down with the boss.
The self-analysis/evaluation is your chance to truly prepare for your review and to be armed with information that will demonstrate a high level of performance to your boss. In fact Scot Herrick in his blog CubeRules calls these self-reviews “ultimate influencers” citing an example in which he gave a subordinate the highest performance-review rating he’d ever meted out (resulting in a raise and bonus) simply because the staffer wrote an excellent accomplishments-rich review. Author Peggy Klaus quotes an employer who says employees who spend time preparing for performance reviews are the ones who get his attention. “I just see them as more committed to their career and the company’s future” he says.
Conversely those who don’t prepare may not fare well in a review. “The less information you keep about your results” Herrick writes “the easier it is for management to prove whatever they want about your work. Proving whatever they want by the way rarely means proving you have an outstanding performance review rating.”
Herrick advises describing your accomplishments in your self-review “not in a way that is outstanding but in a way that reflects reality. No one is perfect. No one is horrible. Call your accomplishments as you see them: some great some fabulous but great work overall.” That kind of authenticity lends credibility to your self-review he says. He also suggests using metrics to the extent possible. Klaus advises prioritizing accomplishments in your review placing the greatest emphasis on those that are “mission-critical.”
Following are some typical self-evaluation questions with prompts to help you identify areas in which you’ve shined and ways to optimize the way you communicate your responses:
- Have your job responsibilities changed [since you were hired or since your last review]? Has your job’s scope expanded; have you taken on new responsibilities? Prompts: Have they changed because you took the initiative to expand your role? If they changed because you were asked to take on more/different responsibilities how did you rise to the occasion? How did you go above and beyond?
- How would you assess your own performance in executing your top three to five responsibilities as well as the full scope of your responsibilities? Prompts: How have you performed compared to how you did in the past? How have you performed compared to others with the same responsibilities? What kinds of metrics can you attach to your performance? Scan the prompts in Chapter 4 to see if they suggest any shades of meaning you can attach to your performance.
- How have you succeeded? During the past performance-review period what contributions have you made? Prompts: Be sure to emphasize successes and contributions that align with the performance standards that have been set for you and that are most important to your boss. Think about metrics to enhance your successes. Scan the prompts in Chapter 4 if you’re having difficulty coming up with successes.
- In what ways do you think you could have done something different and/or better? In what areas if any do you need to change or improve? Prompts: Consider what positive spin you can put on your self-improvement ideas. Try to accompany any self-criticism with a small success. Example: “I need to be more aware of my audience when I give sales presentations. This year I made a flippant remark at the end of a presentation and a customer in the audience was turned off. I rectified the situation by apologizing profusely. Since then I’ve been much more careful to respect audience members and think before I speak. In fact the same customer was in the audience at a recent presentation and he complimented me on how well I connected with the audience.”
- What strengths have you demonstrated on the job? Prompt: Use an accomplishment story to illustrate each strength. Again focus on strengths that align with your boss’s and the organization’s priorities.
- Describe working on a project team with others. Prompt: Be sure to make your role on teams clear and give yourself sufficient credit while also crediting others. Choose accomplishment stories that emphasize interpersonal communication and teamwork skills.
- What goals from the last review period have you accomplished? Prompt: Try a “sandwich” technique here. Let’s say you had a list of goals from the last review period. You accomplished some in a big way; others were lesser successes. List a major goal-achieving accomplishment first and last. In between sandwich the smaller accomplishments. That way you start big and end big.
But don’t wait until your annual performance review to communicate to your boss about your achievements. “Unless you provide some sort of written report that shows what you accomplished during the week” cautions Herrick “your performance is solely based on the perception of the manager. Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to put your accomplishments in front of your manager every week to help ensure that performance perception is the one you want to have?” See the next section.
Of course the employer’s actual review or evaluation of you is the other component of the review process. Most forms for this process rate the employee in various areas on a scale. Some include a narrative section in which the reviewer can expand on the ratings given. Providing your boss with well-expressed accomplishments in your self-review can help him or her articulate your strengths in written narrative. If self-review is not part of the process at your organization there’s no reason you can’t submit a self-review anyway at performance-evaluation time. Use the prompts in this section to guide you in what to say about your performance. See next section.
To ensure you prepare the most effective targeted accomplishments for the review after your next one ask your boss for specific goals for you to strive to reach.
Status Reports to Your Boss
As we just saw it’s virtually always a good idea to keep your boss regularly informed of your accomplishments. After all we often don’t even see our bosses very often anymore especially in the age of telecommuting. My partner used to send his boss a monthly email listing his successes. Ask your boss how (email phone memo voicemail in person) and how often he or she would like to receive this information. (If he or she says “not at all” take that as a sign that you don’t have a great boss and you may want to be wary.)
In many organizations status reports completed weekly are a part of the job. Herrick asserts that status reports can be “the perfect vehicle for storing our accomplishments” indeed “an “accomplishment repository.” His advice for making the most of these weekly document mirrors typical advice for resume writing: favor accomplishments over activities and functions; use action verbs; focus on deliverables of meetings not the meetings themselves; apply the “so what?” test and include results.
You can also keep your boss updated in more informal ways such as brief voicemail messages and copying your boss on communications (such as memos and emails) that discuss project progress and milestones. Don’t share these communications for every tiny detail of your work; be discriminating and save the best successes for sharing.
Read more about brainstorming tracking and leveraging career accomplishments in Katharine Hansen’s book You Are More Accomplished Than You Think: How to Brainstorm Your Achievements for Career and Life Success.
Career and Work Accomplishments Section of Quintessential Careers
Find expert job-seeker accomplishments tools resources samples — free expert advice about maximizing career accomplishments in this section of Quintessential Careers: Career-Job-Work Accomplishments Resources for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen Ph.D. creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers is an educator author and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers edits QuintZine an electronic newsletter for jobseekers and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University Cincinnati OH is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press) as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen Ph.D. Dynamic Cover Letters Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.