Career Advice English for professional use

Top tips for getting a first-rate performance review (Part 1)

Just like job interviews, performance reviews are a necessary evil in today’s business world. And, in this time of global economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever for employees to prove their value to their companies. So how do you put your best foot forward?

Start early
Smart staffers keep track of their achievements over the year. Keep a spreadsheet listing the projects you have worked on and the progress made on deliverables. Too late to build a database? A quick trawl through your emails should help identify accomplishments and even discover a few that you may have forgotten.

Know the culture
Does your company stress individualism or does it place more value on working together? Even if you are being judged on your own results, it is always a good idea to look like a team player. Changing an ‘I’ to a ‘we’ can make a big difference in how your boss sees you. Using words like ‘collaborated’, ‘partnered’, ‘shared’ and ‘supported’ can also help remind your manager of the important contribution you make to the organisation. For example, you could say:

  • In addition to meeting my obligations, I supported the rest of the team in achieving our goal.  Together we achieved a three per cent increase on our target.
  • I partnered with a colleague to develop new strategies to identify potential markets.
  • I shared my knowledge with a junior colleague to help him better serve our customers.

Keep it simple
Your boss, like everyone else in the business world, is inundated by emails, reports and reviews. Don’t make it hard for them to get through your report. Write in a clear and concise manner so it’s easy for your reader to follow. Never submit your first draft. Always review your work and look for ways to improve.  Here are a few things to look for.

Cut out excessive words. Even small changes can make a big difference. 

  • Instead of saying ‘currently at this time’, use ‘now’. 

Avoid the passive:

  • A successful outcome was achieved by the department.

Use the active voice instead:

  • The department achieved a successful outcome.

Using the active voice makes your writing more concise and clearer. Overuse of the passive voice can make your writing wordy and difficult to follow. It can also distance you from your reader.

 Start with the positive; rather than focus on the negative:

  • Despite the downturn, the second quarter sales were steady.

Lead with what you’ve accomplished

  • Second quarter sales remained steady despite the downturn.

It doesn’t change what happened but it does put the focus on the positive.

In Part 2 next week, we’ll look at some strategies for the performance review meeting with your boss.