(By Don Hunter)

Performance reviews are one of the major ways that company officials determine whether or not employees receive an increase in their annual compensation.  The good news?  You can have a definite impact on their decision.

Preparation prevents . . . well, you know the rest
As with many aspects of your career (and life in general, for that matter), the key is preparation.  You should treat your review almost like a mini-interview.  You’re not interviewing for the purpose of being hired, but you are interviewing for the purpose of receiving more compensation.  How you conduct yourself in the review is also extremely important.  With that in mind, make sure you give adequate attention to each of the steps below.

  • Review yourself first. Before you step into that room, make sure that you’ve already conducted a self-audit and self-inventory.  It is extremely important, that you remain as impartial as possible when evaluating your performance.  Make a few lists—one of the goals that you’ve achieved, one of your strengths, and one of your weaknesses.  When listing your weaknesses, also list ways in which to improve in those areas.
  • Follow company procedure. Be sure to complete any forms that are mandatory for the review.  There may also be forms passed out that are optional.  If possible, fill out these forms, as well, and make copies of all completed forms for your own records.
  • Discuss your goals in the review. This refers to both your professional and personal goals.  Your manager should realize that you won’t be truly happy in your job if your personal life is suffering as a result of it.  Discussing your personal life in a performance review shouldn’t be taboo.
  • Prepare a list of questions that you want to ask. The interview process is a two-way street, and so is your performance review.  You may have pertinent questions to ask about the company’s goals, the direction it wants to take, and how you fit into the overall picture.  Asking these questions will indicate that you’ve thought about your role in the future success of the company.
  • Be professional at all times. You may hear some things in your review that you don’t agree with or that you don’t understand.  Remember to stay calm.  Also remember that this review is about you, so don’t make reference to a co-worker’s performance.
  • Offer solutions, not excuses. Be prepared to discuss any problems that may have occurred during the past year.  If there are certain things you feel that you need in order to do your job in a better fashion bring this up.  You’ll impress your manager by devising solutions to past problems.
  • Come to a consensus and keep an open mind. Make sure that when the review is winding down that you and your manager are on the same page.  Once you’ve done that, keep an open mind about the merit increase you do receive.  If it’s smaller than what you had anticipated, perhaps the company could afford only to give out smaller increases to its employees.  Instead, ask what specific steps you need to take in order to secure a larger increase at your next review.

Seize the day
Receiving a positive review is a great way to build confidence on the job, as well as momentum and optimism going forward.  So don’t dread the annual review that’s just around the corner.  Prepare for it, and make it the best review you possibly can.