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10 tips for making self-evaluations meaningful

Rich Hein | April 11, 2013
Whether you're a manager or employee, reviews aren't a particularly popular subject and with them comes the often-despised self-evaluation. You may ask yourself: "How can I shine the best spotlight on my performance without coming off like a braggart?" And you also may justifiably wonder, "What is it used for." Never fear: We've talked with experts and done the research to take the mystery out of this oft-misused piece of HR paperwork.

"Use it as an opportunity to build your perceived value, distinguish yourself and show how strong your contributions are. This is a time to really leverage your accomplishments," says Myers. In a perfect world, the self-evaluation will open a dialogue where you can discuss with your supervisor things like the following:

What are our biggest priorities right now?

Am I on track?

Is there anything you'd like me to focus on?

Where do you think I need to devote more time and energy?

How can I help make your job easier?

Having a dialogue like this makes the annual review and self-evaluation a mere formality. This is how it should be, according to Myers. "It's ideal to have ongoing conversations with your boss throughout the year. Keep the dialogue open otherwise you can get lost in the dust," says Myers.

Ask How the Self-Evaluations Are Used

Approach your supervisor and ask how these self-evaluations are used. Are they tied to bonuses, promotions or rewards? Who will they be shared with? Knowing the answers will give you much keener insight into the tone and how much effort is required.

Ask Yourself the Hard Questions

Experts agree that you should use this as an opportunity to do an impartial self-appraisal of your skillset. Start by honestly answering these questions:

What could I have done better this year?

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses and how can I improve on them?

Where can I take personal initiative and become a stronger employee who contributes more next year?

Stay Positive

Employees remarks should be 90 percent positive comments and 10 percent what Myers refers to as "areas for development" comments. Use this 10 percent of the self-evaluation to explain your own plan to grow and develop in specific areas over the next year.

Don't bash bosses, coworkers or vendors, instead focus on you, your accomplishments and your professional development.

How to Handle Your Shortcomings

"Try to do a balanced self-assessment," says Reed. We all have areas for improvement and he recommends beating your boss to the punch. "If you give yourself great marks in all areas that tells me that you're not really thinking about how you can improve," says Reed.

Instead, says to call out the areas where you think you fall short and using "developmental language" explain that these are the areas that you really want to improve upon and this is what you are going to do to achieve that.

For example, you could explain that over the past year you noticed your software skills needed some work in a particular environment, let's say HTML5. Then, according to Myers, you could say something like, "My goal for this year is to take some advanced courses in HTML5 because we are using it more and more as our site evolves."


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