How to prepare for your appraisal

The performance appraisal is your chance to shine. Calum Robson outlines strategies for a successful outcome

Appraisals look back – with a view to the future. Whether your employer has a structured development programme complete with performance objectives, or a less formal approach, careful preparation can influence how you move onwards and upwards.

Indulge in some self-criticism

Consider your last performance appraisal. If this is your first, think about your objectives when you started:

  • What tasks have I enjoyed best? How did my enjoyment affect my performance? What other factors contributed? Management support, resources, colleagues? Think about how those factors might be incorporated into the performance of other tasks. 
  • What hasn’t gone well? Why? Be honest and don’t play the ‘blame game’ – think about how you might approach these tasks if you started again.
  • How have my competences changed? Coaching, shadowing, and job rotations may have been important: recalling how you have improved your performance in different aspects of your job will help you plan how to acquire further skills in the months ahead.

Your boss’s expectations

Understand what your manager wants from you in the appraisal. Communicative managers will leave you in no doubt as to what will be discussed. Others may need prompting. There’s no need to be suspicious or fearful – tell your manager you want to make the most of the time you’re being granted, and that knowledge of the agenda will help you think about the issues in advance. If you are given an appraisal form, complete it honestly and thoroughly – and submit it in plenty of time for your manager to read it before the appraisal.

Sell the benefits

If your manager is disorganised, or is reluctant to give you an appraisal at all, make suggestions that could deliver lasting benefits to your manager (and the team) as well as to you. For instance, knowing that an employee wants to take on more responsibility is often music to the ears of a busy manager. Hinting that you have ideas for improvements to certain systems or procedures also provides an incentive to come into the appraisal optimistic and receptive. The positive approach you exhibit is likely to be infectious.

Think ahead. At the end of the appraisal, you and your manager will have to create action points. What do you want those to be? What demands might they make on your employer’s resources? Make a mental note to keep these goals in mind for the duration of the appraisal; this will help you stay focused and ensure an outcome that proves profitable to both you and your manager.


"Communicative managers will leave you in no doubt as to what will be discussed"