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How to Write a Performance Review Self-Assessment

March 4, 2021
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Let’s face it: Writing a performance review self-assessment (or self-evaluation) can be pretty awkward. But as daunting as self-assessments are, they’re an incredibly valuable part of the performance review process.

The self-assessment portion of the performance review is an opportunity to share your own perspective on your performance, actions, and choices. It also paints a picture to your manager of how you view yourself in relation to your team and the company as a whole.

Simply put, self-assessments offer plenty of benefits. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Reflecting on Your Performance

In the spirit of continuous feedback and performance management, you should be thinking about what your goals are and how you’re performing against them well ahead of the review cycle. But if you’re fairly close to your next performance review, there are a few ways to prepare for writing your self-assessment.

  1. Identify how you really feel.. The first step is to figure out how you actually feel about your performance without the pressure of presenting these thoughts in a professional context. Try journaling or talking to a trusted friend about your work over the past few months. Feel free to acknowledge the full context of your experiences, including details that you might hesitate to highlight in your review. Coming up with an unfiltered version will help you understand how your perspective comes across, and you can always make edits once you start writing.
  2. Review your goals. If you and your manager set goals a while before the review, you should go back and review how you performed against them. Did you meet, exceed, or struggle to meet expectations? And — in your own words — why, or why not? Objectives and key results (OKRs) in particular can be relatively high-level, which is why providing context in your self-assessment is critical.
  3. Review your manager’s feedback. If you and your manager have had regular 1:1s, take a moment to look back and review your manager’s ongoing feedback. What did they highlight or praise? Remember to mention your accomplishments in your self-appraisal, as they represent aspects of your performance that your manager probably paid attention to. Similarly, what did your manager share as constructive feedback? Talk about how you grew in that aspect of your job, and outline how you plan to continue improving.
  4. Review notes from peers and coworkers. We talked about the feedback you got from your manager, but what about the feedback from peers? The way you’ve supported team members is also important to note in your self-assessment. Did you receive praise from coworkers on a big assignment? Did you help fill in or go above and beyond your role on a team project? Reflect as much as you can before your review; you might find a few achievements and moments of growth that you forgot about.
  5. Guess what your manager might say. It might seem stressful to anticipate what your manager has to say about your performance, but it’s important to remember that you will have the chance to advocate for yourself. Your manager might make certain assumptions that you’ll need to provide context on — which is why it’s important to reflect on your work and accomplishments. If you’re struggling to guess what your manager’s feedback will be, it might be an indication that you and your manager need to work on communicating more effectively.

Writing Your Self-Assessment

Here are some tips to get you started on writing your self-assessment:

  • To get over any discomfort you might have about singing your own praises, write it like you’re advocating for someone else.
  • Think about how you would defend your space on the team. How would your team function without you? What role do you serve on the team?
  • What do you contribute that sets you apart? This could be anything from creating a new process to holding exclusive connections and relationships.
  • Performance reviews are turning points for you. At Lattice, we say performance reviews are “periods at the end of a sentence.” Things can change for the better after a performance evaluation. What does that look like to you?
  • Again, look at your OKRs. What key results did or didn’t you achieve? Why or why not?

How to Talk about Your Accomplishments

Many folks worry about sounding braggy in a self-review, but this is the time to highlight your strengths.. Talk about the cause and effect of your actions on projects, and make sure to reference any praise you’ve gotten from others. Include outcomes, quotes from happy customers, and any tangible data. Finally, talk assertively about your accomplishments like they’re facts.

“Reflect as much as you can before your review; you might find a few achievements and moments of growth that you forgot about.”

Here are some examples of how to organize your accomplishments (see here for a sample performance review template).

Goals and Projects:

  • “I set an OKR this year to grow our social channels 20%, but I exceeded that goal by growing them 40%.” 
  • “Project X has helped increase customer NPS 10x.” 
  • “Project Y has streamlined our process and saved time across teams.” 
  • “Project Z will bring in more and better-qualified leads.” 

Team Support and Enablement

  • “I always review my team member’s work within 24 hours of being asked.” 
  • “Because of my feedback on this project, XYZ was completed faster.” 
  • “I helped support the success of our customer conference by being a speaker, and received praise from our VP of Marketing.” 

Ongoing Contributions:

  • “I maintain and moderate this critical daily community discussion channel.” 
  • “I reach out to prospects early in the morning, before I get to work, as I know they’re in a different time zone compared to me.”
  • “I send out a weekly update to the entire organization.”

How to Talk About Areas of Improvement

It can be hard to talk about your mistakes or recognize room for improvement in aspects of your work. For this reason, tone is particularly important when it comes to this portion of your self-assessment.

  • Taking feedback well is a skill. Try not to be defensive, minimize errors, or blame others in your self-evaluation. Above all, be honest and focus on yourself as much as you can.
  • Remember that everything you say is from your own perspective, so it’s a good practice to phrase things accordingly (e.g., “I found out I benefit from x.” or “I found I work best in x conditions.”) 
  • When talking about mistakes or known problems during the review period, stay positive and emphasize the solution and next steps. You want to position yourself as a problem solver with self-awareness.
  • This can also be an opportunity to talk about how you want to grow in your career or improve in your job. Perhaps you weren’t prepared to take on a task because you weren’t trained. Propose enrolling in a class to help you step up your career development and take on more responsibilities.

What to Remember After You Submit

If your self-assessment doesn’t line up with your peer reviews, keep in mind that your colleagues might have a different perspective of you than you have of yourself. Similarly, if your self-assessment doesn’t line up with your manager’s review, then that’s something you and your manager should talk about during your performance review conversation. Writing a self-review is all about finding and fixing inconsistencies like these.

Remember, your self-assessment is a chance to be your own biggest advocate. Make the most of it with these helpful tips.