Preparing For A Performance Review

Performance appraisal. Your annual review. This once-a-year process usually involves a self-assessment as well as feedback from a manager.

If this is your first appraisal at your company, find out how it’s typically handled — and what it involves — either by asking co-workers or your manager.

If this is not your first review, get out your information from last year’s evaluation. Prepare by:

  • Reviewing the feedback and ratings you received
  • Looking at the areas where you scored well last year
  • Identifying the areas that needed improvement
  • Reviewing your goals and plans from your last review — have you made progress? Have any of the priorities from the previous year’s review changed?

Next, you’ll want to come up with your list of activities, projects, and accomplishments since your last review. Be sure to quantify the accomplishments. Your manager may not be aware of everything you were working on, so preparing a brief summary is important. What does your manager need to know before he or she meets with you?

Also assemble any relevant documentation to showcase in your review:

  • Letters or emails from customers, supervisors, co-workers, and/or vendors
  • A list of any trainings you’ve completed
  • Copies of any honors, awards, or recognition you’ve received since your last evaluation
  • A summary of your professional development activities since your last review

Your manager may also ask you to prepare a self-assessment. Some companies provide a form for you to complete the self-assessment. Others may give you some open-ended questions.

The purpose of the self-assessment is to help your manager get perspective on your work performance and accomplishments. When responding to questions on the self-evaluation form, look at the list of activities, projects, and accomplishments you prepared and use that information to substantiate your responses. The self-evaluation form allows you the opportunity to provide additional insight about your contributions as part of the performance review process.

Even if your manager doesn’t give you a formal self-assessment to complete, reviewing your own performance is a necessary part of preparing for your review.

As part of your self-assessment, you should identify areas for improvement or development during the review period (i.e., the next 12 months). These may include:

  • Things you’ve struggled with
  • Where you’d like to expand your skills, experience, and/or expertise
  • What you need — training, coaching, mentoring, a specific course (or degrees), special assessments, job shadowing, or volunteer work

As part of this exercise, you should also prepare your goals for the upcoming year. The goals should be specific assignments to participate in, learning objectives, or aligned with ongoing or future projects.

Your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific: A clearly defined outcome that you want to achieve
  • Measurable: Using numbers, specify how you will measure and track your progress towards completion
  • Achievable: You should stretch to reach the objective, but it should still be within reach
  • Realistic: Consider the available resources you have (time, money, people)
  • Time-Sensitive: Set a due date for the achievement of the goal

Another part of the assessment process may be a “peer evaluation,” where your co-workers are given the opportunity to provide input on your work performance.

What To Do With This Information

Ask your manager their preference — do they want to review the information before your meeting, or should you bring it with you to the meeting?

Questions To Ask In Your Review

Here is a brief list of questions to consider asking in your performance review:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is someone about to be promoted, and 1 is someone about to be fired, what number would you rate me?
  • How are you measuring my success in this position?
  • What individual and company goals should I be focusing on?
  • What aspects of my performance stand out?
  • Which areas should I focus on for improving my performance?
  • Can you provide me with specific examples of a time when my performance did not meet your expectations? How would you prefer I had handled that situation?

You may find that your boss sees situations from a different perspective, which can help you improve your performance, even if you don’t think you handled a situation poorly to begin with. Because your boss is the person evaluating your performance, you want to make sure that your performance aligns with his or her expectations. If you disagree with the criticism, don’t get into an argument with your boss about it. Instead, think about what you are hearing. In particular, if you are surprised by what is brought up, take the time to think through the situation instead of responding defensively during the performance review.

Remember that “perception is reality” when it comes to your performance. Determine whether this issue is something that could put your job in jeopardy or put a promotion and/or raise at risk. Ask your boss, “What can I do to improve this situation going forward?”

How You’ll Be Assessed

Most employee reviews provide a rating based on a scale from “Exceptional” (consistently exceeds all relevant performance standards) to “Needs Improvement” (consistently falls short of performance standards) across several areas — job knowledge, performance, communication, leadership, teamwork, customer service, quality of work, initiative, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, ethics, etc.

This information can be used to determine your future responsibilities (and promotions), work relationships, and salary. “What gets measured gets managed,” so make sure your ratings accurately reflect your work performance. If you’re unsure about a rating, ask for clarification.

What If You Have A Bad Performance Review?

If you are surprised by a negative performance review — and, in particular, if you feel that your review was not accurate — ask your boss if it would be possible to avoid having the review made part of your permanent record until you’ve had a chance to analyze the information in more detail. Is the information correct? Are there errors that need to be corrected?

If you previously had received positive performance reviews, assess what may have changed. Do you have a new boss? Has something in your personal situation changed that is affecting your job performance? In some cases, it may be a simple misunderstanding: You were focused on objectives that you thought were important, but your boss was measuring your performance based on a different standard. Getting clarity about how your performance will be assessed is critical to your future success with the company.

You can also ask your boss about the impact of the negative performance review. Is your job in jeopardy? (Will you be put on probation? Are there specific measures you need to meet by a certain deadline to rectify the deficiencies that were identified?) Make sure you are clear about next steps — what do you need to change or improve both immediately and in the future?

Ask to schedule a follow-up meeting — and set a specific date for that meeting. Continue to communicate with your manager about your progress towards fixing identified deficiencies. Also continue to track your activities, projects, and accomplishments.

Preparing For Your Next Performance Review

You should start preparing for your next performance review as soon as you complete your current review. Don’t just file the paperwork away. Use it to guide your work. Review your objectives monthly to ensure you are on track for the expectations your boss established. In particular, if you had a poor review, make sure you are scheduling regular meetings with your boss to ensure you’re on track to improving your performance.

If you haven’t already, start a journal to track your performance. Develop a system to collect information from third parties — customers, co-workers, vendors, etc. that can be used in next year’s performance review. When you have meetings with your boss between your annual performance reviews, be sure to take notes. As you think of things you want to ask about in your next meeting, write them in your journal so you can find them easily when it’s time to meet.

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12 Common Mistakes Jobseekers Make In Their Job Search

If you’ve been looking for a new position and haven’t landed yet, it’s worth evaluating your approach to determine what might not be working. Go through this list and see what applies to you. Then, follow the suggestions to learn how to turn things around.

  1. Not Targeting Your Job Search. What kinds of jobs are you interested in? What kind of company do you want to work for? If your answer is, “I don’t care, I just need a job,” your job search is less likely to be successful than if you spend some time thinking about where you want to work, and what you want to do (and how to get there!).
  2. Confusing Activity With Action. Are you confusing “busywork” with progress? Are you spending a lot of time researching jobs online and applying for lots of positions? While it’s recommended that you spend at least an hour a day on your job search if you are currently employed (and two to three times that if you are currently unemployed), make sure you are tracking how much time you are spending, and what you are spending it on. Spend your time on high value tasks — like identifying and researching companies you’d like to work for, and trying to connect directly with hiring managers and recruiters, and having coffee with someone who works for the company you’re applying at — and not just simply spending time in front of your computer.
  3. Paying Too Much Attention To Other People’s Opinions. “You have to do this,” “Never do that.” Everyone’s got an opinion about how to conduct a job search. Some of it is confusing, and some of it is just plain wrong. Your friends and family can be wrong about how the job search works, and it might hurt your chances to get your dream job. Trust your coach or mentor, and trust your instincts. Don’t believe everything you read online, and remember that one person’s opinion is just that — one person’s opinion. For more on this topic, check out What To Do When You Receive Conflicting Career Advice.
  4. Doing The Same Thing Over And Over Again And Expecting Different Results. “I applied for six jobs and haven’t heard anything back.” Well, then something’s not working. Either stop applying for advertised positions, start following up on the applications you’ve already put in, or figure out a different way to connect with your dream job. It’s been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something different!
  5. Not Paying Attention To What Worked For You Before In Your Job Search. This is the opposite of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This time, we want you to achieve the same result as before — a great job. So look at what worked for you the last time you landed the job you wanted. Were you networking at a professional association meeting? At your child’s basketball game and struck up a conversation with the person next to you? Or did you apply on a company’s website? Consider doing more of what worked for you last time and see if it works for you again.
  6. Forgetting That People Hire People. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the technology in a job search. How to make your resume ATS-friendly (meaning, helping it get through the Applicant Tracking System software that many large companies use). How to use LinkedIn in the job search. Don’t forget that ultimately, people hire people. Connecting to the right person at a company can make the difference between getting hired, and not even getting a response to your application.
  7. Getting Frustrated And Giving Up. The average length of time for a job search has steadily increased over the past few years. In a recent RiseSmart survey, 40 percent of hiring managers report conducting between 3-10 interviews before extending a job offer, and nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said their hiring process is three weeks or longer. So don’t be discouraged if it takes days… or weeks… to hear back after applying or interviewing.
  8. Not Spending Enough Time On Your Job Search. You’ve probably heard it said that looking for a job is a job in itself. That’s partially true. Yes, some people will hear about an opportunity from a friend and get hired (sometimes without even applying). But for the vast majority of jobseekers, you’ll have to invest time in getting your resume prepared, applying for positions, following up, and more.
  9. Spending Too Much Time Online. It’s easy to think that a modern job search can be done entirely online. But it’s estimated that 75 percent of jobs are never advertised — so it’s likely that the job you want can’t be found while you’re sitting at your computer. Get out and talk to people you know, and meet new people!
  10. Not Asking Others For Help. When someone asks you for help in their job search, you willingly offer it (if you’re able), don’t you? So why is it that we’re so reluctant to ask others for their help when we need it? People like to help other people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. But make sure you’re asking for the right kind of help. Ask specific questions: “Do you know anyone who works for Company XYZ?” “How did you get your job at Organization ABC?”
  11. Only Applying For Advertised Jobs. Research shows that up to three quarters of job openings are never advertised publicly. Many of these are filled through employee referrals and word of mouth. And sometimes, you can apply to a company for a job that doesn’t even exist yet. Yes, companies do create jobs. Sometimes they will meet a candidate and not have a current opening that would be a match. In that case, they will sometimes create a new position that takes advantage of the candidate’s knowledge and experience.
  12. Networking The Wrong Way. Second only to not using your network at all is using it incorrectly. Your network is comprised of all the people that you know and also all the people that they know. Don’t just think that because you don’t personally know anyone who works for Company ABC that you’re out of luck using your network. Ask the people you know who they know. But remember that networking requires relationship building and relationship management.


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After The Interview, Part 2 – Following Up

You’ve interviewed and sent thank you notes, so you’re done, right? Not quite. There are still a few more steps you can take to strengthen your candidacy.

Follow-Up With Your References

After writing your thank you note, you should also immediately contact anyone who you had provided to the company as a reference. Let them know about your interview and how it went, and prepare them to answer any questions that might have come up during the interview. For example, if the interviewer was particularly interested in a project you worked on with a colleague, let him or her know that so they will be prepared to answer any questions that the interviewer had about that work. And ask the reference to let you know if they are contacted for a reference check.

How — And When — To Follow-Up With The Interviewer

Sometimes, the interviewer won’t know the specific timetable or process for moving forward towards a job offer. Other times, the promised time for the “next step” will come and go, and you’re left wondering if you didn’t make the cut, or if another candidate received the offer. The only way to find out if you’re still in the running is to follow-up. But you don’t want to look like a pest, either.

Here’s how to handle some specific situations:

  • If you were told the next step would happen by a certain date, and that date has passed. What to do: At the end of the interview, you asked the HR person or the hiring manager how he/she would prefer to be contacted. Follow their wishes. If they wanted to be contacted by email, draft a message that re-introduces yourself and reminds them of when you interviewed (and for which position). State that you were anticipating hearing from him/her by (date), and you were contacting him/her to inquire about the status of the hiring process. Have they postponed the next step — and, if so, are you still being considered as a candidate? (Follow the same process if calling to follow-up.)
  • If you promised to follow-up on a certain date. What to do: If you made a promise in the interview to contact the interviewer on a certain date, make sure you do it! This is often used as a test by an interviewer — can the applicant follow instructions? This is especially important if you were asked to send something after the interview (for example, to write a sample report, or submit a writing sample).
  • If you’ve completed several interviews and are waiting on a job offer. What to do: Often the hiring process takes longer than anticipated — and the most common delay happens between the last round of interviews and when a candidate is selected for a job offer. In some cases, the decision may come down to two finalists, and one person is offered the job first. If he or she declines, you may then be offered the job. Don’t be pushy or sound desperate at this stage. Instead, be confident and helpful. A follow-up call or email at this point asks one simple question, “Do you need anything else from me to help you make the hiring decision?” You may preface that with, “I know you’re busy, and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I wanted to make sure you had everything from me that you needed.”

Also, stay in contact with your references during this time. Check in with them and see if the interviewer or a reference check company has contacted them. This will often give you a clue that the hiring process is moving forward. (But keep in mind, not all companies — or interviewers — check references.)

Get The Offer

The hiring process isn’t over until it’s really over. Remember, no matter how well the interview went, the job isn’t yours until you receive an offer, accept it, and it’s approved. While it’s rare for an offer to be rescinded after it’s made, it does happen.

So, if you are offered a job verbally, ask for the offer in writing. The offer letter should spell out the requirements of the position and the terms of employment, including salary, benefits, reimbursement of expenses, and any conditions of agreement (for example, hiring conditional on a successful background check or credit check).

If you follow these guidelines, you will not only increase your chances of securing the job offer, but you’ll also increase your confidence as you understand the process. While you won’t get offered every job you interview for, remember that you only need one job offer, if it’s the job you want!

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After the Interview, Part 1 – The Thank You Note

When you are one of many candidates being considered, what you do after the interview can set you apart significantly and increase your chances of being offered the job.

The first — and most important — thing to do is to send a follow-up note. The etiquette for thank you letters after the interview has changed as email takes a larger role in communication during the hiring process. Surveys reveal a wide disparity of preferences among hiring managers about whether a handwritten or emailed note is best. However, what hasn’t changed is the need to send a thank you note. It’s a must.

If you have decent penmanship, access to preprinted thank you cards, and can handwrite a note immediately after the interview, go for it. Just make sure you mail it right away so that it arrives the next day, or within 2-3 days of the interview. Make sure you address the card correctly so that it will be received directly by the interviewer. Be sure to spell the interviewer’s name correctly! And double-check the card to ensure you didn’t spell anything wrong.

If your handwriting could use some help, or you wouldn’t be able to mail a card promptly, email is also acceptable for sending a thank you message. Just make sure you address the email to the right person. For a subject line, you can use something like, “Great to Meet You Today” or “Thanks for Meeting with Me Yesterday.” (And again, spelling counts here too!). Do not send the thank you from your work email, but make sure the personal account you use sounds professional – your first and last name in the address is ideal.

What should you write in the thank you note? The best post-interview thank you notes are brief and to the point.

Cover these four points:

  1. Address the person by name. (Ms. Jones or Mr. Smith, not “Bob” or “Nancy,” unless the interviewer directed you to use his or her first name.)
  2. Thank them for their time and the opportunity to interview for the (name of position).
  3. Mention one thing from the interview that especially resonated with you, or mention an issue (or answer a question) that you felt you didn’t address properly in the interview – but don’t take an apologetic tone. Instead, say something like, “I wanted to clarify what we talked about with staff leadership. I should have emphasized that I do have experience managing teams on cross-functional projects. I would be happy to share additional details, if you’d like.”
  4. Confirm the “next step” from the interview, including what action you will take — or what you’re expecting from the interviewer.

Sample Thank You Note

Dear Mr. Jones,

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today to discuss the ABC Company’s job opening for a Sales Director. The plans the company has for expanding into the European commodities market sound incredible, and I think I could be a great asset to the team in this position.

Two things I wanted to emphasize are my language fluency and cultural competence. Having spent two semesters in Belgium during graduate school (and returning there twice for trips in the meantime), I possess the specific understanding of this market that the position requires.

As we discussed in the interview, I look forward to hearing back from you on Monday, and hope that I am selected to participate in the second round of interviews. I really think I can make a significant impact on your international sales in this role. Thanks again for taking the time to meet with me.


Jane Doe



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LinkedIn For Busy Executives – What To Do When You Don’t Have Time

You know that LinkedIn is no longer optional – it’s the #1 way to be found by recruiters and one of the easiest ways to grow your network and enhance your professional reputation.

However, many busy executives (and which AREN’T busy?) are hesitant to interact on the site. And with good reason. Since there’s so much that can be done on LinkedIn, it’s easy to assume it’ll take up more time than you have. Plus, it doesn’t exactly look great if a member of the C-Suite appears to be spending the majority of their day on social media, even if it is a professional site.

Still, there’s a middle ground. Here are a few ways to make the most of LinkedIn with just a small time investment:


Sort of. While LinkedIn is always a work in progress, changes are much more minor after you’ve built a solid profile. Once you’ve got keyword-optimized content that positions you the way you want to be perceived, you’ll start getting more profile views from your target audience.


Regular activity is important for your visibility, and fairly simple to maintain. By building it into your daily routine (such as going onto LinkedIn each day before you check your email), visiting the site will become second nature. It almost doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as you do something. A few suggestions: comment on or like posts, acknowledge birthdays and job changes, or share an update.


Think about material you already have, and use that as your status update. Have you been mentioned in an industry publication? Quoted in the media? Has your company put out a press release? Avoid reinventing the wheel and get more use out of content you already have.

Even if you’re happily employed, your activity on LinkedIn will pay dividends when and if you decide to begin an active job search. If you are hoping to find a new position soon, enhancing your online visibility is a relatively quick way to begin attracting recruiters and potential employers.

Posted in Career Management, Job Opportunities, Job Search, Networking, Personal Branding, Social Media/Social Networking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Enrich Your Career Through Associations

Have you thought about joining an association but questioned investing the time and money? It’s time to re-visit the subject.  Seven out of ten adults are members of at least one association, which proves there must be personal or professional benefits.  Listed below are three main ways joining associations can make a positive impact on your career.

1) Education: Furthering your education can make a dramatic impact on your career. Whether you are new to the job market or well placed within your career, you can still benefit from learning new skills or brushing up on old ones. By joining an association, you’ll likely save money on webinars, certification courses, etc., along with access to an abundance of free information through newsletters, blogs, and members-only meetings. Even if you only have time to utilize one of these resources, you’ll stay on top of industry trends.

2) Credibility: Being a member of an industry association looks great on your resume – period.  It also indicates that you’re dedicated to growing within your field.  An association membership provides an instant boost to your resume– the minute you pay your dues you can claim to be a member of that association. You can then highlight your membership with a logo on your website or LinkedIn page.

3) Networking: Associations provide one of the best ways to meet others in your industry. To maximize the benefits of networking, you should be doing it whether you are currently looking for a job or are happily employed.

With so many associations out there, how do you choose which one is best for you? Ask your colleagues or do a Google search for relevant associations in your area (i.e. finance associations + Boston). Consider joining an association an investment in your professional future.

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Keep Your Job Search Going Through The Holiday Months

With the hiring slowdown that typically happens around the holidays, job seekers assume it’s a waste of time to reach out to companies in November and December. Nothing could be further from the truth! True, things do quiet down around HR, and often new positions come in January with the new year’s budget.

But companies ARE still open. Hiring managers and HR employees don’t get these six weeks off of work. Use this quieter time of the year to your advantage. Chances are, you won’t have as much competition since others are probably suspending their job search. You’ll be more likely to get to talk to someone at your target company since they won’t be as busy. Your resume may be read more thoroughly since there won’t be as many coming through. Standing out like this could help you come January, when hiring is back in full force.

Still, it’s not enough to blast your resume out during the month of December and hope for the best. Your search will be much more effective if you’re strategic in your approach. First of all, consider what you want. What positions are you interested in, and at which companies? Do they have an open job posted or are you trying to get on their radar for the future?

Next, determine who you need to talk to. If possible, go straight to the hiring manager of the department. You can often find this out through a little online research or by calling the company’s main number. Drastically increase your odds of getting in touch by finding a contact to refer you.

Be clear on your message and what you have to offer. Your resume should clearly communicate how you can add value to a company, and you should be able to confidently articulate this when you make contact with the decision maker. Finally, remember that this is process. Be prepared to follow up, wait, follow up again, and be told to call back after the new year. Though it’s easy to get discouraged, rest assured that you’re ahead of the curve and this can only help you end your job hunt with an offer!

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