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How to prepare for a performance review

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 12 May 2023

Performance review image

Finding a new job isn’t always about changing companies, some people like to stay with one and work their way up the career ladder. Performance reviews are a way of discussing your achievements, goals, and potential weaknesses in order to help you achieve more in your role. Performance reviews are there for you and your line manager to take time to reflect on the job you have done throughout your time at the business. A lot of people can feel nervous around these times and it can cause unnecessary pressure, but understanding why you have performance reviews and how you can prepare in advance can help you make the most of these meetings, rather than fear them. 

What is a performance review?

It’s usually an annual review that you take part in with your manager. You use this time to discuss:

  • An overview of the past year - Time flies and it can be easy to forget work we’ve done, projects we’ve been a part of and overall, what we have been spending our time on. This time is usually put in place to have a good 1-2-1 with your line manager and talk about anything you feel relevant to your performance.


  • Your achievements - Take this time to really reflect on what you feel you have achieved. Have you done something that you were particularly proud of and want to share? Or has there been something that you feel has been overlooked due to the busy nature of work? Take this time to go into detail about your successes - you deserve this reflection time and it can help you when working on your personal development plan as well. Sometimes, achievements can be easily overlooked, so this is your time to shine!


  • What do you think you could improve? - This time is for reflection. Take the opportunity to think about your potential weaknesses as well as achievements. Look back on things you feel could be areas of development. Where do you want to be in 5 years? Use this as motivation to figure out the steps you need to take and work from there. We should all continue to develop in the workplace and performance reviews are a great place to talk about your goals. It allows your line manager to better understand how they can help you reach your goals. 


  • Objectives - This time is to talk about what you have done throughout the last year but also to discuss what you want to work towards over the coming year. Is there a part of the business you really want to work in? Is there a skill you feel you should brush up on? Whatever your objectives for the workplace, take some time to really think about this, to ensure your employer can do their best to aid you. It also shows your line manager that you have taken the time to assess yourself. Self-reflection and critique can be a very important skill. 


  • Ratings - Some employers have a rating system when conducting performance reviews. This is often to give employees a guide to show how they are expected to work and to motivate them to push forward and be the best version of themselves. During performance reviews, you’ll typically be given a rating and your line manager will provide you with some feedback as well. It is a 2-way conversation so don’t forget to discuss these and really understand their thoughts. 

Performance ratings are a good way for you to understand where you stand in the company. How others view your input to the business and share how you are feeling with your employer. They can be really important meetings, which is why many people feel nervous before having one! But we have plenty of advice on how you can prepare in advance. 

What should you be doing to prepare?

Performance reviews can feel daunting. They can be the reasoning behind things like promotions, bonuses, a pay-rise and projects you may want to work on. There can sometimes be a lot riding on one or a few meetings, which is why it can cause nerves to spike. However, much like interviews, there are things you can be doing to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible and ensure you are ready. Your line manager is likely to prepare in advance, so make sure you are bringing the same amount of drive. 

Update your PDP - Your personal development plan is something you should be updating as you go through your career, but being able to bring it to your performance review can allow you to discuss its elements with your line manager. What’s your end goal? How do you want to achieve it? and what have you done so far to ensure success? Your PDP takes a lot of time and commitment, so make sure you are showing it off.

Reflect on your own - It’s good practice to reflect and discuss your achievements during this review but being able to reflect on your own can give you opportunities to take a look into your achievements throughout the year. Self-reflection can be just as important as someone else telling you what you’ve achieved. Being able to understand and spot your achievements can be really difficult for some. Especially when a lot of us are very self-critical. Attend this meeting, with a list ready to discuss. 

Formulate a list - Much like interviews, it can be important to make a list of all the things you would like to discuss. It can feel easy to think of everything you want to mention but when in that situation, it’s very easy to forget a lot of it. Keep a list handy and ensure that you are able to talk about everything you’d like during this time. 

Up-skilling - A huge part of a performance review is about, well, your performance. What are the skills you credit yourself for having, how can you take this one step further and become more advanced in this part of your job. Also think about the skills you maybe want to learn or take a little more time to focus on. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to learn? It can be a good idea to do some research ahead of your review. If there’s a skill you want to learn, are there any internal or external courses you can take to develop this skill? Being prepared can show your manager just how motivated you are to learn and grow. 

Think of objectives - It’s likely that your manager will already have an idea of objectives and goals they want to set you for the year. But be ready to have your own input as well. It shouldn’t just be about them giving you objectives and you accepting it. It should be a conversation about your development. There may be some things that are important to business growth but take this opportunity to link in your PDP. What are the steps you should be taking to achieving your goals and how can this be shown in your review? For example, objectives could be to work on a specific project, work in a different team or even gain more work experience in a different part of the business. The choices are yours! 

It can be hard and overwhelming to think about all of this at once and especially discuss your PDP which can be very personal. But allowing your employer to see what you are striving for, gives them the power to help you along the way. There’s only so much they can do to help, if they aren’t clear on your goals. 

During your review

It’s key to stay calm. It’s likely you’ve been having weekly or monthly catch-ups with your line manager anyway, so just take this opportunity to reiterate your achievements and go into it in a bit more detail. It can be good practice to take notes of these sessions and keep a weekly update of what you’ve been doing. This makes it so much easier to look back at the year and know what you did, as well and when and how you did it. Stay calm, use your notes and research (if you need any) and ensure that you are giving yourself credit. 

It can be so easy to talk about others in a positive way, especially if you are part of a really hard-working team. But your performance review is about you, not them. So when you are highlighting achievements that came from a team, talk about your specific role in that success. You want to broadcast what you did well and what you want to improve because it’s likely your teammates will be doing the same. You deserve recognition and now is the time to get it. 

Have a conversation with your manager. It shouldn’t be anything super formal, it’s just a chat and shouldn’t be something to worry about. 

Overall, your performance reviews are there to help give you what you deserve. They are an insight to how you feel about work, the company and reviewing how they can help you. That may be with upskilling, adding to your benefits package and even promotions. Use this time wisely.