You might think it’s up to your boss to prep for performance reviews. But you’re the one who has the most to gain by getting all your ducks in a row before sitting down together. That being the case, it behooves you to do some strategic planning and take appropriate action well before you meet with your boss if you are interested in getting a raise and faster career advancement.
There are two prep cycles to considere. The first are steps you can take in the weeks and months leading up to the review, and the second is getting ready for the actual day of.
Keep in mind that most of what happens in a job review depends 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. So your best strategy to get a raise at work is to get into action way before the review itself. In fact, 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.
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. Make sure to have plenty of specific examples; dates, people involved, the exact problem you solved etc. 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.
What are your best tips to prepare for a job performance review? What has worked best for you?