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How to Write a Performance Review Self-Assessment

September 19, 2019

Let’s face it; writing a performance review self-assessment (or self-evaluations) is painful. Singing your own praises is usually a pretty awkward exercise. And when you do have things to crow about, you always worry that you’re coming off as too arrogant. But as daunting and awkward as they are, they’re an incredibly important part of your performance review. 

The self-assessment is the part of your review where you can give your own perspective on your performance and provide more information to your manager about your actions and choices. It also highlights for your manager how you see yourself and your role within your team and the company. So, don’t shrug this part of your review off! Here are a few tips to help you get started.

How to Prepare Before You Write

In the spirit of continuous feedback and continuous 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 the cycle, there are a few things you should consider before starting to write that self-assessment.

  1. Figure out what you really think. The first step is to figure out how you really 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 performance. Feel free to give them the kind of context that you might hesitate to do in a review since sometimes that sort of thing might come across as braggy or defensive. Coming up with that unfiltered version will help you understand how it comes across, and edit appropriately.
  2. Review your goals and feedback from the past review and how you performed against them. If you and your manager set goals a while before the review, you should go back and review how you did against them. For the review, think about how goals basically equal expectations. (With OKRs, this is particularly stark — which is why the context you’re giving to your manager in this self-review is key.) Did you meet, exceed, or fail to meet expectations? And — in your own words — why or why not? Similarly, what did your manager say you did well and what you needed to improve on in your last review? 
  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 feedback that went beyond your OKRs. What did they highlight? Remember to mention those aspects in your self-appraisal — clearly, that’s something they paid attention to. What did they praise? Remind them of those qualities and accomplishments. What did they give as constructive feedback? Talk about how you grew in that aspect of your job. 
  4. Guess what your manager might say. Hopefully, with the above, you’ll know what your manager might say in their review. While that might seem stressful, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Remember, you’ll have the chance to have your say, too. They might make certain assumptions about your work that you’ll need to provide context on — which is exactly why it’s important to do this review! If you can’t guess your manager’s feedback, then that’s a problem. And if you end up surprised during your review, that’ll mean there’s a real crisis of communication between you and your manager. 
  5. Review performance related notes from peers and coworkers. We talked about the feedback you got from your manager, but what about the feedback you got from coworkers? The way you’ve supported team members is also important to note in your review.  Did you receive praise from coworkers on a big project? Did you help fill in or go above and beyond your team’s role on a project? Review as much as you can before your review; you might find a few achievements and moments of growth that you forgot about. 

Writing Your Self-Assessment

These writing prompts will help you get started:

  • To get over the discomfort you might have about singing your own praises, write it like you’re writing about someone else, and be your own greatest advocate.
  • Think about how you would defend your space on the team. How would your team suffer without you? What role do you fit on the team?
  • What do you do that no one else on the team does? Maybe it’s the specific work you do, but also could be things like creating a new process or holding exclusive connections and relationships. This is also to keep you from defaulting into an “it was a team effort” kind of parlance.
  • 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 goals/OKRs. What key results did or didn’t you achieve? Did you achieve the objective? 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 toot your own horn. Just make sure you do it in a detailed way. Talk about the cause and effect of your actions on projects, as well as talking up the work you did on the project itself. Make sure to reference any praise you’ve gotten from others as a reference. Use numbers, quotes from happy customers, and any tangible data. Finally, talk assertively about accomplishments like they’re facts.

Organize your accomplishments with this sample template:

Goals progress and projects shipped, and the effects your work had:

  • “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 really streamlined our process.” 
  • “Project Z will bring in more and better-qualified leads.” 

How you’ve supported team members:

  • “I always review my team member’s work when they ask.” 
  • “Because of my notes on this project, XYZ was finished faster.” 
  • “I helped support the success of our customer conference by being a speaker, and received praise from our VP of Marketing.” 

What you do day-to-day:

  • “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.”

How to Talk about How You Can Improve

It’s hard to talk about your mistakes or aspects of your job where there’s room for improvement. But in this context, tone is particularly important. 

  • Don’t be defensive, smooth over mistakes, or blame others in your self-evaluation. Phrase everything in the context of yourself: “I found out I benefit from x.” “I found I work best in x conditions.”Above all, be honest and focus on yourself as much as you can.
  • When talking about mistakes or known problems that happened during the review period, put the best possible spin you can, and lean more into the solution and what comes next. You want to position yourself not as a problem but as a problem solver.
  • This can also be an opportunity to talk about how you want to grow in your career as a way to improve in your job. Perhaps you weren’t prepared to take on a task because you weren’t trained properly. Suggest that you take a class that helps you step up your career development and take on more.

What to Remember After You Submit

If your self-assessment doesn’t line up with your peer reviews, remember they have a totally different perspective from you compared to your work. Similarly, if your self-assessment doesn’t line up with your manager’s review, then that’s something you and your manager need to talk about during your review conversation. These are the reasons you write a self-review in the first place: to look for and give context to find and fix inconsistencies.

It’s always hard to sing your own praises. But this is your chance to be your own advocate — take it!