How to Prepare for Your Annual Performance Review

By Susan Fenner, Ph.D., Education and Events Manager, IAAP World Headquarters.

Most of us get just one opportunity each year to highlight our contributions in the workplace to justify a salary increase. Here are some things you can do to ensure that your executive notes your value-added worth and has ample documentation to support a recommendation for a bonus, merit pay raise, or both.

  • Begin collecting supporting information immediately after your last review.
  • Whenever someone indicates that they are pleased with your work, ask them for a letter stating their satisfaction so you can add it to your review file. Ultimately, it will be worth much more than a token gift of appreciation, as well as being more professional.
  • Rather than passing along letters complimenting your work and asking your exec to place them in your personnel file, maintain your own file. Let him/her known that you are doing this to save him/her the time, hassle of filing them as they appear.
  • Have all material organized to give to your exec approximately one month before the scheduled review date (usually the anniversary of your hire date). If you wait too long, he/she may have already completed the paperwork and you will not be able to influence the decision.
  • Use whatever format that makes the most sense to display your information. But keep it simple, concise, with the pertinent information readily visible. Some use a one-inch, three–ring binder with dividers for the various sections. A highlighter can be used to bring attention to relevant paragraphs or phrases.
  • Begin your notebook with a positive letter to your exec recognizing his/her efforts that helped you to perform so well. List the things that you appreciate about your working relationship with the company and your supervisor.
  • Include an annual summary of achievements. This is not a list of routine tasks you performed as part of your regular job function. Rather, focus on ways that you have gone above and beyond the call of duty, with numbers to verify your contributions, to show that you have saved the company money, increased sales or profits, or provided a unique contribution that would have cost more had it been outsourced.
  • Ask your exec if you may start the discussion by telling him/her of your proudest achievements for the year, then asking for a similar response from him/her. It sets a positive tone and spotlights your best, before any negatives are discussed.
  • Be prepared for any problems or shortcomings that may be brought up. Tell how you will keep this from happening in the future (such as a course you have taken, a mentor you have found, etc.).
  • Do not argue, especially about any perceived negatives being discussed. Whether they are true or not, they are your exec’s perceptions. A phrase like, "I understand how you might have viewed it that way. Next time, I will handle it by doing such and such. I want to do whatever I can to strengthen our working relationship. I consider us a team."
  • Tell your boss if there are things you need to better do your job (like dedicated time without interruptions during rush projects, a new software program, or the support of a temp for an especially busy period). Ask for his/her help. Don’t complain, whine, or belittle others. Have a reasonable, workable solution to offer.
  • Discuss your personal and professional goals. Get your supervisor’s buy-in to prepare for a professional certification, enroll in a course or seminar to learn technology needed for the future, subscribe to a publication that will enhance your skills, or resource material that will benefit you and others in the office.
  • It is all right to indicate that you are disappointed with the increase you have been given. Ask for another review in six months when the budget is less tight or suggest a perk that could make you happier with the decision. Examples might be eliminating some duties, getting help from outside the department, or receiving an allowance to fund your membership in IAAP, attend a conference, or purchase educational materials.
  • Listen without interrupting. Hold your temper. Remain professional. Remember, this is your opportunity to provide your exec with the ammunition he/she needs to make you shine and positively reflect on the past year. How you end this year will definitely influence how you begin the next.