5 Key Strategies for Writing Your Self-Review

(This is the third article in a series about annual performance reviews.)

Annual performance reviews are an important part of the performance management cycle. They summarize performance over the past year and provide direction for the year ahead. A self-review is an important contribution to the creation of that document and the formulation of action plans for the future. If you are given the opportunity to author a self-review don’t pass it up.

It is impossible for any direct supervisor to see, recall, or document much of what their employees contribute. Not because they don’t care or aren’t invested. It’s because they’re human. Like you they are busy and deal daily with many things that require their attention. Thus the self-review can fill in the space between what the supervisor (the author of the review) can account for and what you (the reviewee) see as significant.  Self-reviews are a chance for you to provide input on your own performance. Use them to highlight what you’ve accomplished and what you’re proud of. It’s also a chance to self-identify areas for improvement and explore steps toward career advancement. With that in mind, here are 5 key strategies for authoring a well-written self-review:

Identify 4-6 skills, projects, or accomplishments to highlight.

A self-review should serve as a general reflection of your work over the course of the year. It is not meant to reflect everything you do in your role. Choose a mix of the projects, events, improvements, interactions, accomplishments, or skills that generally represent your work and progress for the year. Where did you take on a challenge? In what skills or competencies did you experience notable development over the year? Knowing these before you begin makes writing the review content easier because you already know what to weave into the document.

Gather specific examples.

Once you have your list of accomplishments gather specific examples to support them. Think of examples as a piece of data.  They usually include a date, a location, a customer or another member of the team. Don’t just rely on your memory either. Go back through your calendar. Did you attend a conference that resulted in professional development? Was there a meeting where you contributed significantly to the content or agenda? Did you take on extra duties because you covered for someone who was away? Mining that calendar for examples also ensures the entire year is represented.  You can do this with email as well. Review your inbox, folders, and sent items to refresh your memory. And if you keep a Kudos folder (where you stash all your “thank yous” and positive feedback year round) don’t forget to use the stuff in there, too.

Ask others for feedback.

If you are struggling to come up with your projects or accomplishments for the year or specific examples to support them, ask around.  Approach your co-workers, business partners, or (if appropriate) your customers and ask “What stands out to you about my work over the past year?”  You can also ask “Is there a project or event I should highlight?” or “What goals should I set for the year ahead?” Gaining perspective from those around you can help you understand what others see and experience relative to your performance. It’s possible you may end up including something you otherwise wouldn’t have because others viewed it as more significant than you did.

Revisit last year’s review.

What goals were set for the year ahead? Did you achieve them? Exceed them? Speak to your progress and showcase how you’ve grown.  If goals are unmet take ownership of that and reframe them for the year to come.  This also ensures you don’t use the same examples, projects, or accomplishments for this year’s review. Changing it up showcases an evolving job role which can only add to your perceived value to the organization.

Be objective.

Nobody’s perfect. Be careful that your review doesn’t turn into an idealized representation of your performance. This happens when the review only contains examples of outstanding performance without identifying any areas for growth. Everyone has areas in which they can further develop. What are yours? Perhaps it’s a specific skill like budgeting, negotiation, or project management. Maybe it’s a competency like talent development or conflict resolution. Naming your gaps or derailers demonstrates self-awareness and ensures the review is an inclusive and accurate reflection of performance.

Strong self-reviews contain specific examples, use ratings appropriately, support ratings with comments, are concise and well-written (full sentences, proper punctuation, etc.) and reflect that the author sees the big picture. It’s also worth noting that completing a self-review has benefits beyond your boss’s final review document. The final product can be invaluable when it comes time to write a resume or cover letter or when preparing for a job interview. If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile you can pull from your self-review to author a summary that accurately reflects your work. Remember, the time and energy you spend now capturing, in a concise, general way, your performance over the past year can pay dividends in the months and years ahead.

What do you think? Comment below! Also, if you are so inclined, please share, re-tweet, and “Like” this article as appropriate. Thanks! ~Joe

Other articles in this series:

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4 thoughts on “5 Key Strategies for Writing Your Self-Review

  1. Pingback: How to Write Performance Reviews That Get Results | Inch by Inch: A Blog for Leaders

  2. Pingback: How to Hold Successful Review Meetings | Inch by Inch: A Blog for Leaders

  3. Pingback: Rating Employee Performance: Watch Out For Inflation | Inch by Inch: A Blog for Leaders

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