How to Prepare for a Performance Appraisal

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 November 2022

Published 13 December 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

One of the most important things you can do to make sure your performance appraisal is successful is to actively prepare for it. Doing so helps you have a clear perspective of the work being reviewed. It also allows you to create goals and development plans to discuss during the appraisal. In this article, we discuss what a performance appraisal is, why it's important, the different methods for evaluating performance and how to prepare for it.

What is a performance appraisal?

A performance appraisal, also referred to as a development discussion or performance review, is a part of the performance management process. It usually involves employees discussing their performance with their supervisor or line manager. It's conducted regularly, typically every quarter or every six months. A performance appraisal allows you to review your goals and objectives and assess your achievements. You can also evaluate the extent to which your work has contributed to your employer's mission statement and business-wide plans. Appraisals are also used to set objectives and discuss any training or development needs.

Related: What are appraisals? (With the different appraisal types)

Why do employers conduct performance appraisals?

The performance appraisal system ensures that your work is showing progress in line with expectations. It helps improve the company's efficiency by maintaining an accurate record of staff attainment and qualifications. Your performance appraisal allows you to discuss your own career development goals and identify any opportunities to improve your skills. A performance appraisal has many additional benefits, for example:

  • You can review your salary.

  • Your areas of responsibility can be reviewed and modified if necessary.

  • Any performance concerns can be raised and discussed.

  • Training needs can be identified and a timeframe can be agreed upon.

  • Any support you may need can be addressed and appropriate measures put in place.

  • Achievements following the previous appraisal period can be acknowledged.

Related: 7 performance appraisal objectives: methods and advantages

Common performance appraisal methods

A variety of methods can be used to evaluate performance. Employers usually use a combination of methods to ensure well-rounded and unbiased results. These methods include:

Graphic rating scale

This method involves using a list of the traits necessary to perform your role effectively. You are rated for each trait on a numerical scale to assess where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This quantifies your performance and makes it easy to assess your effectiveness in every area of responsibility. Your manager will share the results of the assessment and use your scores as a starting point for setting objectives. The graphic rating method is useful for companies that prefer to assess their employees as a whole, as it provides a quick overview of performance levels.

Related: How To Conduct Employee Performance Reviews (With Steps)

Self-evaluation

This method allows you to reflect on your performance. When you describe how you feel you have performed against your targets, it gives your manager valuable insight into the things that you value about your contribution to the company. You can list your accomplishments and describe how you have achieved your goals. If you have facts and figures that show the impact you have had, you can include those as well.

Related: How to write a self-evaluation: tips, benefits and example

360-degree employee evaluation

This method uses assessments from a number of colleagues, including team members, direct supervisors and members of other teams or departments. By collecting feedback from your colleagues, the 360-degree evaluation system gives your manager a broad picture of your performance and contribution to the team, division or company as a whole. This method can help identify and resolve potential sources of conflict in working relationships. The feedback is collated and then made anonymous before using it for discussion points during a one-to-one with your manager.

Related: A guide to 360 feedback questions (with example questions)

Critical incident checklist

A critical incident checklist is a log of specific situations in which you performed effectively and ineffectively. This is usually kept by your manager, but it can also be helpful to keep your own to help you focus on the areas of your role that you feel most and least confident in.

During your appraisal, you can review both logs and discuss whether you are meeting the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your role. This method establishes the ways in which employee success translates into company success and highlights strengths that may not translate into a numerical measurement.

Management by objectives

Often called MBO, management by objectives is a performance appraisal method whereby you and your manager work together to identify and plan objectives for the coming appraisal period. You need to set clear goals, making sure that each goal is SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time-sensitive

Progress towards your goals is then frequently reviewed with your manager during the appraisal period. Any barriers to achieving your goals can be identified and mitigated to ensure that you have the tools and training needed to succeed. At the end of the period, your achievements are measured against your targets to ascertain your effectiveness. This method focuses on tangible goals, so is best suited to roles where there are measurable outcomes against which you can measure your achievements. MBO is often used alongside another method to ensure that soft skills are not overlooked.

Related: How to Develop SMART Goals (With Examples)

How to prepare for an appraisal

Being well prepared is important as it enables you to get the most out of your performance appraisal. Here are some simple steps to help you get ready:

1. Prepare every day

Get into the habit of thinking regularly about your next appraisal. Make sure to collect evidence of your achievements and note down incidents or activities that demonstrate your commitment to meeting your objectives. You may check your most recent appraisal regularly to remind yourself of your goals and help you identify any potential delays or difficulties in achieving your targets. You may also review your job description regularly to make sure that you are fulfilling the requirements of the role and identify areas where you are exceeding expectations.

2. Take notes

Appraisals are as much for your benefit as your employer's, so take notes to remember the key points easily. List your key achievements and include figures or metrics that show the results of your work.

Take your previous appraisal paperwork, including any notes you have made, to show how you have worked towards your objectives. For example, if you have received good feedback from external stakeholders or from colleagues, then you can use these to demonstrate your interpersonal skills.

Related: How To Write Meeting Notes: Essential Steps

3. Be honest

It's important to address any mistakes you feel you have made during your performance appraisal. You can show your manager how you have learned from them and explain any systems you have put in place to prevent them from happening again. Taking responsibility for errors is an important skill in the workplace, and if you can turn yours into learning opportunities, then they could help you in the meeting with your manager or supervisor.

Likewise, you should also talk freely about your achievements and the aspects of your role in which you have excelled. Rather than downplaying your achievements, give credit to your colleagues where it's due and tell your manager about your role in group projects or team successes.

4. Practise a positive attitude towards challenges

Although your appraisal is an opportunity to address any concerns or issues that you might have, it's important to take responsibility for finding solutions as well. If you can demonstrate your willingness to work towards a positive outcome, any complaints or problems you have will be resolved much more easily. You can use it as a chance to demonstrate your creativity and problem-solving skills as well.

5. Be open to feedback

Your appraisal is your chance to learn, so it's important to take feedback on board objectively, whether it's positive or not. A positive performance review is always welcome, but it can be a sign that you are not stretching yourself or that you are capable of more. Critical comments may be hard to hear, but they show that you're still learning and challenging yourself. Give yourself time to consider the feedback before you decide how to act on it.

Identifying areas where you think you could benefit from improvement and raising these topics yourself during your appraisal could also be helpful. Showing your manager that you're aware of the areas that need work will demonstrate your willingness to develop your professional skills.

Related: The importance of feedback (With types and examples)

6. Put yourself in the spotlight

Your performance review isn't just a chance for your employer to evaluate your work, it's a chance for you to consider how you feel about your role. If there's one aspect of your job that you enjoy most, or you are keen to get a deeper understanding of a particular area of your work, your appraisal is a great chance to explore this more. If you feel you need training to keep your skills up to date, then you can use your appraisal to consider what your personal goals are and how you can work towards achieving them.

Explore more articles