Never forget the importance of the first step of the performance review process – the self-evaluation. It gives you the opportunity to shed light on your last quarter’s unsung achievements and the ways you’d like to improve your productivity and output. 

Most importantly, though, a self-evaluation gives you the chance to demonstrate your self-awareness, which is an excellent character trait both in and out of the workplace. An employee who exhibits a healthy amount of self-awareness is much quicker to fix issues they wouldn’t have known about before a performance review; the Kerry Fong Institute found that workers at poor-performing organizations had 20% more blind spots than those at financially stronger companies.

So, how do you turn in a self-evaluation stellar enough to demonstrate this self-awareness and lend to a good performance review? Let’s take a look at some tips:

Mention your best accomplishments – and your biggest misstep

You’re definitely itching to remind your manager of your recent proudest moments, and you should be! This is your place to brag a bit and make sure he or she knows about the achievements that may have flown under the radar.

By the same token, however, it’s quite likely that over the last quarter (or year, depending on your cadence) you’ve made some sort of memorable mistake. You’ve goofed! If that’s the case, your manager certainly remembers it and expects you to bring it up with suggestions on how to improve going forward. That’s exactly what you should do.

If you completely forgot about an important meeting with a client, express a commitment to organize your schedule more intentionally and set more reminders. If your metrics were noticeably lower, identify a potential cause and form a plan to fix it. Your goal is to demonstrate that you’re aware of your mistakes and you’ve been learning from them.

On the other hand, you may genuinely feel like your last quarter/year was free of big blunders, which is great! However, exclusively mentioning positive accomplishments is still a bit tacky, so you should still make sure to mention either a small mistake, a missed opportunity, or ways your work could go from good to great.

As a final note: use data, especially in regards to your successes. Metrics like win rate, close time, projects completed, and more are especially effective when you have numbers to back up your claims. 

Reflect on the feedback you’ve received

Something that greatly helps your self-awareness is being aware of the feedback others give you. Whether from your superiors or your peers, listening to what others are saying is vital to learning about both what you should keep doing and what you should stop doing.

When filling out your self-evaluation for your manager, you should generally align your review of yourself with the review you expect to receive from your manager. Hopefully she’ll have lots of positive things to say in the performance review, but you should also expect a few constructive criticisms. For example, if he or she has chided you for poor communication, acknowledge it and pledge a plan to change. Anticipating your faults shows your manager you pay just as much attention as they do.

All this said, there’s another reason to reflect on your feedback: correcting it. This isn’t too common, and you should be careful with attempts, but there are occasions when you receive undeserved reproach for a mistake that you don’t think your manager knew the full context of. Perhaps a couple clients fell through because of issues with your product rather than shortcomings with your sales pitch. Maybe you keep missing meetings because people forget to loop you in, not because you’re lazy.

If you feel that there’s an example of a miscommunication like that, reference that moment in a casual way and explain what you feel is the true reason for it. You can quickly set the record straight without any back-and-forth and move on to what’s important: the next quarter.

Goals, goals, goals

Your self-evaluation is meant to help you and your manager look ahead; that’s what the performance review process is all about, after all. Be proactive and create some goals for yourself in your self-evaluation, aiming to go above and beyond in the next quarter.

We at HelloTeam love discussing the magic of OKRs as a goal-setting template, but they don’t work as well in this context due to their team-oriented nature. Instead, try arranging a couple SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

All in all, you’ll have a self-evaluation filled with quantifiable references to your past quarter, highlighting your accomplishments while acknowledging your mistakes and providing details on how you learned from them and your goals to fix them. Your boss will love it! As much as he’ll love it, though, this evaluation isn’t ALL about making him or her happy. Leave some room for yourself with the second kind of goal you should reference: your own future goals.

We don’t know you, but we’re guessing you’re looking for upwards mobility and a general increase in seniority as time goes on with your organization. Never be afraid to mention it in your self-evaluation. While asking for a promotion directly probably isn’t the way to go, you should mention that you’d like to discuss future opportunities, and turn that into a discussion about upwards mobility and/or a raise.

As arduous as the performance review process may seem, it can still fly by without an employee so much as realizing they didn’t get a chance to discuss promotions. Introducing the concept in your preliminary evaluation will put it on the table, and it may even earn you a promotion.

So get out there and self-evaluate! Be honest, be aware, brag about yourself just a little, and come out the other side more confident.

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