Skip to main content

How to Prepare a Useful Self-Evaluation: Get a Raise or Promotion

Stephanie has been a lawyer since 1994 and knows her way around a professional office environment.

Thinking about what to write for a self-evaluation?

Thinking about what to write for a self-evaluation?

Why Prepare a Self-Evaluation?

It's that time of year again—time for your annual self-evaluation.

This exercise may be one of the most dreaded requirements from the company's human resources department. Yet preparing a job performance review is frequently required and necessary to help build your company file, which could result in a raise or promotion in the future.

In short, it is one of your most important projects all year.

A self-evaluation is a tool used by employers to help track the performance of individuals and monitor company-wide performances. By requiring employees to answer questions about their own performance, successes and challenges, and to map out their goals for the future, companies also create a history related to your employment.

I practiced law for 17 years, but the annual rite of writing a self-evaluation each spring consistently managed to cause me more anxiety than a difficult client. Yet having worked for four different employers (three private and one government) and being married to an employment lawyer, I've learned how to prepare a useful self-evaluation that may lead to an eventual raise or promotion!

I like to think of self-evaluations as similar to New Year's Resolutions. Not in that they contain empty promises and overly ambitious goals, but because they require you to take a hard look at the previous year and assess what worked for you and what you still need to work on.

However, unlike the resolutions you make on December 31 (usually after partying most of the night), a self-evaluation goes into your employment file and becomes a part of your permanent record. This assignment is an opportunity for a serious look at your current performance while looking ahead to the future.

Rather than beating yourself up for past mistakes or situations you would have handled differently, talk about how your experiences have been a positive learning experience that allows you to better handle future issues.

More importantly, an assertive self-evaluation can help you position yourself for a future raise or promotion. Remember that employers are generally busy with running a company and/or dealing with clients. They may not notice your stellar performance in most instances unless you bring it to their attention.

This is not the time to be modest!

Top Five Tips for a Self-Evaluation

  1. Use proper spelling and grammar. A self-evaluation is as important as a writing sample. Treat the assignment as one for your most difficult client.
  2. Speak in the active voice, rather than passive (for example, "I worked to bring in new clients," instead of "New clients sought our advice due to my work").
  3. Review your performance with an eye to the future - discuss how your actions and growth will lead to continued success.
  4. Be sincere and honest. Most people can tell if you are stretching the truth, exaggerating or engaging in "brown-nosing." Those tactics will not be beneficial.
  5. Keep the focus on you and your performance. Instead of making excuses or blaming others, talk enthusiastically about your accomplishments, how you have overcome challenges, and what plans you have for the future. Remember, this is all about you—not anyone else!

What Not to Say in a Self-Evaluation

  • Don't be defensive about any previous criticism you may have received for job performance.
  • Avoid discussing personal issues.
  • Do not try to take credit for a particular project unless you had a direct hand in the result.
  • Avoid criticizing co-workers, particularly superiors, especially if you have not brought the issue to the attention of human resources.
  • Keep out petty complaints about co-workers.
  • Reserve issues related to compensation or benefits for another date or context. A self-evaluation looks at your performance, not that of your company.

Prepare a Useful Self-Evaluation

A useful self-evaluation will provide a helpful performance evaluation of your work over the past review period. Not only is it required by your employer, but it is also beneficial in helping you focus on your strengths and assess and improve on your weaknesses.

By taking time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the future, the exercise of completing a performance review is more than just an additional project.

A self-evaluation is a tool for self-reflection. Rather than considering it to be a critical exercise, think of the growth that may result from an honest assessment of your past and future performances. You can become more self-aware by pinpointing your strengths and weaknesses in a written format. Just the act of writing down thoughts can help in this regard.

Before sitting down to complete a performance review, think about what you would want to read if you were the boss or owner of the company. From that standpoint, write about matters that will impress your superiors and potentially justify a raise or promotion.

It may even be helpful to review the employee handbook beforehand. Consider company values, the character of top employees or shareholders, and determine whether your integrity matches that of the corporation.

Even if your self-evaluation is not directly helpful in securing a raise or promotion, it can help you determine your own strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Perhaps you will discover you are in a dead-end job or a career that truly does not excite you. By making the necessary changes sooner rather than later, you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

In other words, a useful self-evaluation is one that not only tells your company about you but helps you learn what truly inspires and excites you in a job!

Think Outside the Self-Evaluation Box

In my opinion, one of the most difficult aspects of a performance review is to adequately answer the prepared questions that are circulated to you and all other employees.

This challenge requires you to think outside the self-evaluation box and provide information that may not be directly requested but still is responsive to the question. In other words, take a step back from the wording on the self-evaluation form and ask yourself, "what are they really looking for in a response?"

In addition, consider how your performance evaluation will read one year, five years, or ten years from now. Not only your current boss but someone else in the future may be reviewing your responses. Consider a wider audience than might be readily apparent right now.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall


Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 10, 2013:

Yes, I have found self-evaluations kind of a pain to prepare, but it is a useful exercise for both employee and employer. Helps with goal-setting, planning for improvement and acknowledging areas that could use some work. Hope you get your evaluation soon! Best, Steph

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on October 10, 2013:

Unfortunately, my employers don't have an interest in self evaluations. Realistically though, it looks like a fabulous tool for improvement, as well as self reflection. I'm still waiting for my evaluation, which was due on the 7th, but there have been a lot of changes at the company lately, so I can understand the lateness.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 18, 2012:

Good luck to you, innerspin!

Kim Kennedy from uk on November 17, 2012:

I read this as I have an appraisal coming up soon, and need to fill in a form in preparation. Your advice makes sense, self awareness is a good thing. Thanks for the easy to understand information.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 17, 2012:

Thanks k2jade! Glad you enjoyed the hub! Best, Steph

Kimberly Mace from Spokane on May 17, 2012:

I used to dread self evaluations, I love this hub, and the video's you have included.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 16, 2012:

Thanks Simone - trying to make lemonade (a hub) out of lemons (the practice of completing a self-evaluation). :-) Cheers!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on May 16, 2012:

This Hub is at once useful AND inspiring. Thanks, stephhicks68!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 16, 2012:

Thanks Sue! You are right that evaluations can help everyone in the business pinpoint areas of improvement without being caught off guard. And great comment about making a job feel safer. I totally agree! Cheers, Steph

Sustainable Sue from Altadena CA, USA on May 15, 2012:

I agree too, Gordon. I'm also self-employed, having recently left an employer who required evaluations on paper, but never gave them, and where I didn't even have a job description. I had no idea whether I was working out or not until someone would criticize, and I hate being in that situation. Self-evaluations can be really enlightening and actually make a job feel safer. Thanks for this, Steph.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 13, 2012:

Hey Gordon - I think that is an excellent idea! After all, the exercise in preparing a self-evaluation is not only for HR, but also to help you recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. This can only help you in many regards - like you note to help keep us fresh and non-complacent. Cheers to you, Steph

Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 13, 2012:

Great tips and advice, Steph. I used to have to do this every year, like so many millions of other people, and wish I'd had the benefits of your tips at the time. I genuinely used to look upon it as a chore - one to sweep under the carpet, get it over with and move on to the realities of every day life. Big mistake, looking back!

You have also got me thinking about something else with this, far more important to me in present times. Having been self-employed these past few years, maybe I should continue with this exercise? Maybe we self-employeds should be giving ourselves personal reviews, analyzing what we have achieved in the past year and what we hope to achieve in the coming year? What do you think? It could maybe serve as a valuable and profitable exercise, keeping us on our toes and complacency at bay.

Think I'll give it a go!



Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 11, 2012:

Wow - thank you so much, drbj! I figured, why not write about what has worked (and not) for me, both preparing and reviewing self-evaluations. Appreciate the kind comment! Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 11, 2012:

Hi income guru - thank you! I have learned quite a bit over the years, preparing many self-evaluations. Some were definitely better and more effective than others. Best to you, Steph

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 11, 2012:

This may be the most realistic and useful article on creating a self-evaluation that I have ever read. It helps to make what is usually a daunting, disagreeable exercise much easier. Thank you, steph.

Oyewole Folarin from Lagos on May 10, 2012:

My employer does require a self evaluation from us. And it is being done annually. I've gained a lot from this hub, like, "speak in the active voice" Thanks.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 10, 2012:

Thank you recappers and Neil - you are right that we should learn self-praise earlier in life. It still feels unnatural, at times. Best to you, Steph

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on May 10, 2012:

You have some very valuable points here.

Self praise is something they should teach us in grade school - as a whole, we do not know how to critique ourselves.

- thanks for a great hub - up and useful

recappers delight on May 10, 2012:

I may read this again the next time I need to do a self-evaluation.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 10, 2012:

Hi Rev. Akins, that is very interesting! I agree that written self-reflection can be a unique opportunity for growth and positive change. Good luck with your self-evaluation this year. Best, Steph

Ask Ashley from California on May 10, 2012:

Great tips and so easy to do! Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

Rev. Akins from Tucson, AZ on May 10, 2012:

Our church has really struggled with having an annual evaluation for me as their pastor. The real challenge is they do not want to hurt my feelings, so I have to be realistic in what I think I am doing. An annual evaluation is a great way to learn how much you have grown and where you still need to work. Great Hub, thanks for the advice!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 10, 2012:

Thanks teaches! Yes, I thought the video was funny too, but with a real serious underlying message.

As much as I dread completing self-evaluations, I recognize the importance of the annual task.

Cheers, Steph

Dianna Mendez on May 10, 2012:

The performance review is always such a difficult process to begin. Many do not know how to highlight their performance successes without sounding prideful. Your advice will help to conquer those fears. The video was a bit comical, but it does show us why it is important to be a part of the evaluation process. Voted up.