We often think of an employee performance review as being something that our employers prepare. While that’s true in a mechanical sense, we can prepare for them as well. When we do, we can greatly influence the outcome in a positive way and this can pave the way to faster career advancement.
There are two sets of preparation for a review. The first are steps we can take in the weeks and months leading up to the review, and the second is getting ready for the actual day of.
So much of what happens in a job review rests on what happens before the review, and often months before. It’s important to remember that a performance review isn’t a one day event, rather it’s a day that summarizes all that’s happened since your last review. Think of your upcoming review as part of your strategy to get a raise at work. It’s that important. Your preparation for your next review should begin the day after the last one and include some or all of the following:
Analyze your last review. Think of your last review as the starting point for the one coming up. What weaknesses did your employer identify in the review? Work to improve on them. What were your areas of strength? Can you become even stronger in those areas? Be prepared to explain those positive changes in your next review.
Improve your performance. As an employee in a competitive job market it’s important that your job performance improves on a steady basis. Find ways to improve your performance in all that you do, but especially in the most critical functions you are responsible for. Many employers place the greatest emphasis on how you perform in your core areas of responsibility—be sure to shine in those capacities.
Get the company’s five year plan and get on board with it. A poor performance is often the result of when an employee isn’t on board with the goals of the company or the department. Find out what those goals are and identify how you can help the company or department reach them.
Start connecting with your boss. Too often, the boss is seen as a cruel taskmaster, and if that’s the view you have it may very well come true via the self-fulfilling prophecy. Start relating to your boss on a more personal level and see if that doesn’t improve his or her opinion of you.
Check the job market. How your review goes and how you handle it will be largely determined by the job market. A strong market should give you greater confidence, a weaker one may be a sign to be more careful. Be sure you know what the job market is for your position. While you’re checking out the job market, also look into salary range for your job—it will provide a barometer of what you can expect when the review shifts to salary considerations.
Having the above under your belt should make review day go much smoother by allowing you to be prepared for what ever might happen.
Handling the review
Document your performance. You should fully document what you discovered during your advance preparation. Be prepared to document how you’ve improved on your last review, how you’ve increased your production and how you’re actively working to help achieve company or department goals. You should also have documentation pertaining to your salary situation if it indicates that there’s ample room for a raise in your pay.
Be confident. Generally speaking, your review is completed before you actually meet with your boss, but a solid display of confidence on your part might lead to upgrades in any gray areas.
Be ready to blow your own horn—judiciously. You don’t ever want to come across as being arrogant, but you will also need to be your own best advocate. For financial reasons, reviews are often negative in direction—that gives the employer more room for lower (or non-existent) raises. You’ll need to do your best to highlight your strengths, especially in the face of negative criticism. The best way to do this is to first acknowledge the truth about your flaws, what you are doing to address these concerns and then move on to your strengths. This is a key negotiating tactic that will help you no matter who you are dealing with and regardless of the circumstances.
Be prepared for any outcome. Be ready to be humble in the face of praise, and to exhibit grace under fire if the review doesn’t go well. Ask for constructive criticism. No matter how it goes—good, bad or somewhere in between—ask what you can do to improve. Remember, you’ll be preparing for your next review as soon as this one ends.
Request reconsideration, or another review in three months. If the review doesn’t go well, ask for reconsideration. You’ll need to be prepared to prove the point that your performance was in fact better than that the review indicates. Alternatively, you can request a new review in three months. That will give you the time needed to make any performance improvements the employer expects.
No matter how your review goes, always view it as a tool that you can use to improve your performance, and thus your standing in the organization as well as your salary level.
Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.