Preparing for an appraisal at work: A guide for employees

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Making the most of your appraisals is an important part of career development. Don’t let the opportunity go to waste; use these top tips to make the next one as productive and effective as possible.

An important part of any performance management system, appraisals – along with one-to-ones and regular reviews – are an effective means of gauging how you’re getting on. And the more you can do in preparation, the more useful you’ll find them going forward.

When your performance and career is the topic of discussion, things can get a little tricky – especially where being objective is concerned. Below, we’ll talk you through appraisals in more detail.

From why employers conduct them to the various methods of performance appraisal out there, we’ll show you some ways to prepare for your upcoming appraisal – whenever that may be.

What is an appraisal?

Also known as a performance review, an appraisal is a meeting where employees can discuss their performance with their supervisor or line manager. Generally, they’re conducted every quarter or six months, and allow you to review your performance, discuss strengths and weaknesses, and talk about goals or ambitions that you’d like to achieve.

By talking these things through with your manager and linking your goals to the company’s wider goals, you can start to take the next steps in where you want your career to go.

What to do to prepare for an appraisal at work

Why do employers conduct appraisals?

Employers carry out appraisals so they can see how your performance matches their expectations. Additionally, they provide a chance for your manager to acknowledge your accomplishments since the last appraisal, where your career might be heading next, as well as any potential raises.

They’re also a great way of correcting the course your career might be taking. During your time together, you and your manager can discuss your issues, areas that you might need to improve, and opportunities to access training to accrue new skills.

What are some common appraisal methods?

There are plenty of different methods that employers use to review your performance, usually combining two or more to provide a more unbiased view of how your work has been progressing. We’ll look at some of them below:

Graphic rating scale

In this method, you’ll be provided with a list of traits needed to carry out your role, rating each trait on a numerical scale. This allows you to assess where your strengths and weaknesses are, quantifies your performance, and provides a straightforward way of assessing the effectiveness of your responsibilities.

The results of your assessment provide a foundation that you and your manager will then use to set objectives. Since it provides an at-a-glance overview of performance levels, the graphic rating method is often favoured by companies that assess their employees as a whole.

Things to prepare for a work appraisal


Here you’ll be required to reflect on your own performance. Looking at your own skills, achievements, and abilities from an objective point of view might seem strange, but by writing down how you’ve performed against your targets, it lets your manager know what you value about your role – along with the company itself.

360-degree employee evaluation

For the most part, your appraisals will be between you and your manager. Some, however, including this one, may call on the input of other members of the team.

Through anonymous feedback from other team members, supervisors, and colleagues from other departments, 360-degree employee evaluations are useful for several reasons. By using the feedback as talking points, they not only show how well you work with others but are also a great way of identifying and resolving disputes that may have cropped up recently.

Critical incident checklist

Critical incident checklists involve both you and your manager logging specific situations into individual logbooks where you might’ve performed effectively – and not so effectively. By keeping your own, it’s a good way of tracking the areas you feel confident in, as well as the areas that may need improving.

During the appraisal, you and your manager will discuss both logbooks and whether you’re meeting expectations.

Management by objectives

In the management by objectives method, you and your manager worth together to identify objectives using the SMART framework, i.e., objectives that are:

• Specific

• Measurable

• Achievable

• Realistic

• Timely

During the appraisal, your progress towards these goals is reviewed by your manager. Any challenges and obstacles that stand in the way can be identified and dealt with, before the outcome of the goals is reviewed at your next appraisal.

Why are work appraisals important

How to prepare for an appraisal

Preparing for an appraisal allows for more effective and productive discussions. Here’s what you can do to make sure that happens:

Think about it each day

It’s a good idea to imagine your appraisal is always only a few days away. This way, you’ll always be in the habit of collecting achievements, jotting down challenges, and making note of anything that illustrates how committed you are to meeting your objectives.

Check your most recent appraisal document frequently so that your goals are always in view and review your job description at regular intervals too. This way, you can make sure you’re fulfilling your role’s requirements, while also letting you highlight any areas where you feel you’re going above and beyond.

Be honest with yourself

By shying away from your weaknesses, you’re only getting half the story from your appraisal. It’s far better to clear up any mistakes you might have made in the run up to the appraisal, along with what you’ve learned from them and any methods you’ve continued using, so they don’t happen again.

At the same time, your achievements deserve their time to shine too. Wherever you’ve excelled, let your manager know and share the credit with your team where it applies too.

Welcome constructive feedback

Sometimes you’ll hear something you won’t want to. Negative feedback is never ideal, but it’s how you respond to these instances that matters more. Critical comments give you the chance to learn from your mistakes and challenge your skillset.

And rather than merely waiting for them to heap praise on you, show your manager that you’re aware there are areas you need to improve upon. This shows how enthusiastic and willing you are to develop your skills going forward, something your manager will make note of.

Preparing for a work appraisal

Back up your highlights with data

If you can walk into your appraisal armed with several data points and metrics, then it provides you with a distinct advantage – especially if your manager doesn’t have them to hand. With numbers on your side, it shows you’re doing a great job of well…your job.

Even the act of gathering this data is a skill in itself. And what’s more, it’s another competency that you’ll be able to demonstrate when it’s time to talk with your manager. Not to mention, data is always handy to have in the event of salary negotiations too!

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