Tackling Performance Reviews Like They Were Job Interviews

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To anyone maintaining a career in financial services, it's no longer enough just to land a great job. You want to keep it, excel at it and use to advance your career. One of the best ways to do that is during your performance review, something most employees either shrug off or in many cases dread. Career experts say that's the wrong way to look at these opportunities to show management what you can do.

A recent survey asked more than 420 employees if they felt annual or semiannual performance reviews were effective and exactly how effective.

Only one out of three (37 percent) said they felt the performance reviews were “somewhat” effective.

To come away from your next performance review with something more stellar to write home about, you need to really do your homework beforehand, says Dawn Fay, district vice president with Robert Half for New York and New Jersey.

Performance reviews are very similar to job interviews, Fay tells eFinancialCareers. “Many employees don’t realize what an opportunity it represents to [bring forward] their thoughts and ideas."

Clearly, she says, employees need to be keeping track of all the special accomplishments they’ve achieved or awards they’ve earned since the last time they sat down with their manager so they can share this information.

You also need to think about your goals and be able to discuss how you and your manager can work toward achieving those goals over the next few months.

“This can be a very positive experience for the employee and employer if both sides come prepared,” says Fay, adding, “Neither the employee or employer should expect to ‘wing it’” if they mean to get anything meaningful out of the process.

Fay shares the following tips on how to ace your next performance review:

  • Don’t focus on—or even mention—compensation unless your supervisor broaches the subject first. By far the biggest mistake most employees make, says Fay, is thinking that finding a way to get a raise is what they need to focus on during a performance review. That is almost always the wrong approach, she says, noting that in many cases a performance review is done separately from any kind of pay review. Most employees who’ve been at a company for a while will know about that, she stresses, but either way, make sure you focus your energy during this meeting on showcasing your accomplishments and strengths, as well as areas where you might feel you require more training or guidance.

  • Ask in advance: “What will be covered in the review?” It’s totally OK to go in beforehand and ask about the employer’s expectations, says Fay. Just tell your boss straight out that you realize this is an important discussion and you’d just like to be able to prepare.

  • Don’t be defensive. “You need to be able to have a real developmental conversation with management to discuss your strengths and weaknesses,” says Fay, adding that it can be counterproductive if you are getting a review that isn’t entirely positive and you get defensive about it. “If something [in the review] surprises you, ask for clarification,” and stay as calm and cool about it as possible. Ask questions and set tangible goals. Seek out steps you can use to truly improve in areas where you’re not at your best, and say you’d like to follow up with your supervisor in another few months to see whether you’re on track when it comes to meeting those goals. “Show your employer you’re willing to take feedback and willing to learn,” says Fay.

  • Self-assessment. If your review includes a self-assessment, consider yourself fortunate. “It's good for you to be able to step back and assess yourself,” says the Robert Half executive, adding that many organizations don’t plan enough around the performance review, and that a self-assessment usually involves filling out a similar evaluation as the employer is filling out. That helps—literally—to get you both on the same page.
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