How to Prepare a Useful Self-Evaluation: Get a Raise or Promotion
Why Prepare a Self-Evaluation?
Its 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 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!
Write a Self-Evaluation for the Present and the Future
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!
From the Employer's Perspective: Requesting a Self-Evaluation
Top Five Tips for a Self-Evaluation
- 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.
- 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")
- Review your performance with an eye to the future - discuss how your actions and growth will lead to continued success
- 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.
- 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 in another context. A self-evaluation looks at YOUR performance, not that of your company.
A Funny Take on Why We Complete Self-Evaluations
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 beneficial in helping you focus on your own strengths and to 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.
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. By pin-pointing both your strengths and weaknesses in a written format, you can become more self-aware. 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.