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Preparing for Performance Reviews: An Employee’s Guide to Success

9 Steps to a Productive Performance Review

Written by HRCap

July 27, 2023

Preparing for performance reviews

Performance reviews are a crucial part of employee growth and organizational success. When it’s almost time for evaluations, it’s natural to feel a mix of emotions like excitement and anticipation. For others, however, it may cause anxiety and dread, as 41% of workers would switch jobs to avoid going through a performance review. To handle this process with confidence and skill, employees should get familiar with the employee performance review process and learn how to prepare for it.

What is a Performance Review?

An employee performance review, also known as a performance evaluation or appraisal, is the process organizations use to provide feedback on employee performance. Performance reviews can differ across industries and companies but often include self-evaluation, evaluation criteria and ratings, and performance metrics.

Depending on the company, employers may conduct performance evaluations as often as once every quarter or formally just once at the end of the year. 63% of employers conduct formal performance reviews annually, while fewer organizations conduct their evaluations twice a year (18%) or quarterly (8%).

Graph of reported frequency of performance reviews

Benefits of Employee Performance Review

Though performance review requires preparations, it also allows many benefits for employees.

1. Feedback and Development

During a performance review meeting, professionals can receive feedback on what they are doing well and how to improve. Employees can also show in which areas they were challenged and ask for specific training, professional development, or resources to help them improve. 64% of employees reported receiving helpful feedback from their performance reviews.

2. Recognition and Motivation

Employers can recognize their employees for the excellent work they have accomplished. Employee recognition can boost morale and motivation and foster a positive work environment. 84% of HR professionals agree that employee recognition positively affects employee engagement.

3. Compensation and Rewards

The performance review meeting can also give employees a chance to show how they have reached their goals and their accomplishments to leverage for potential promotions, salary raises, or bonuses. 56% of employees “always” or “sometimes” negotiate for a salary increase during an annual review.

4. Goal Setting and Alignment

Performance evaluations also allow employees to set new goals and align with their manager on what to accomplish in the upcoming year. By setting new goals and aligning, employees can have a clear direction on what they should focus on and how to continue succeeding in their roles. 14% who have goals are 10 times more successful than those without goals.

5. Performance Documentation

A performance review will also provide official documentation of the employee’s performance over time. These documents can be used as evidence of why an employee should receive a promotion or increased compensation. 41% of employees said their performance reviews helped them understand “what they need to do to get promoted.

9 Steps to a Productive Performance Review

At HRCap, we work with both client organizations and leading professionals to strengthen the quality, efficacy, and impact of performance reviews. As such, we recommend all employees to carefully and consistently prepare for performance reviews by following our checklist below.

1. Review Professional Goals

Revisit the goals set at the most recent performance review to check if you are meeting them. If no goals have been discussed, then connect with your manager to re-align on expectations.

2. Align with Managers on Expectations

Establish a consistent connection with your manager regarding expectations. Engaging in conversations with your manager can help finetune goals, clearly vocalize expectations, and ensure ample time to work towards them before the next performance review. This is especially true when you have different managers in between performance review sessions, or if you have taken on additional workload given recent business needs and team changes. Open, ongoing communication will help to prepare for a transparent and productive performance review.

3. Take Notes throughout the Year

Keep a journal that takes note of your projects and accomplishments that align with your professional goals. Being proactive and taking notes can make it easier for you to keep track of your growth and development, so you are prepared when performance reviews are scheduled.

4. Gather Evidence of Achievements

Review your journal to highlight accomplishments that directly relate to your professional and company goals. Create a list of measurable results that show the impact that you have had at the company, such as generating more revenue, reducing cost, improving website traffic, or increasing client acquisitions. With accomplishments that are quantified with metric-driven impact, you can display your value to the team and the company during the performance evaluation.

5. Reflect on Learning and Development

During the performance review, demonstrate how you have taken initiatives to grow professionally by participating in training and development, getting certifications, or taking courses to refine your skillset. Though not all companies may require this during the performance evaluation, reflect on your development and assess where else you need to be more proactive in upskilling or reskilling.

6. Leverage Coworker Feedback

As important as it is to gather individual accomplishments, you should also gather feedback from coworkers and note collaborative efforts during the performance evaluation. Take note of peer feedback to show how you have contributed to the team. Coworker feedback can also help to identify strengths and areas for improvement you may have initially overlooked.

7. Be Open to Feedback

Learn how to take feedback from your manager. Instead of becoming defensive and disagreeing with what the manager says, listen actively, be open-minded, and not let it weigh you down mentally. Instead of seeing constructive feedback in a negative light, adopt a positive growth mindset to improve. By being receptive to feedback, you can also show your willingness to adapt.

8. Ask Thoughtful Questions

By preparing and asking well-thought-out questions, employees can show employers their forward, proactive thinking and willingness to grow. Ask questions that help to clarify ongoing job expectations, determine the company’s goals, or ask about possible growth opportunities.

9. Set New Goals for the Future

At the end of the performance review, make sure to set new goals and align with managers to know clearly what to work toward until the next review. If you had difficulty finding evidence to support your previous goal achievement, establish objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

Specific: Goals should be clear and targeted.

Measurable: Goals should have a component that can be measured through results.

Achievable: Goals should be possible to achieve and within reasonable parameters.

Relevant: Goals should be relevant to the company or professional goals.

Time-bound: Goals should be within a reasonable time frame.


Properly preparing for the employee performance reviews will not only make the entire process smoother, but it can also create a great impression on employers. By following the performance review checklist, you are not just setting yourself up for success for the evaluation but also for greater career growth. These HRCap tips can help you be proactive in pursuing career development, monitoring your progress toward your goals, collaborating with others, and understanding the value you bring to the company.

Sources: HRCap, Indeed, Flexjobs, PR Daily, Business News Daily, WSJ, The Muse, Zapier, Upwork


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