Appraisals: What you need to know

Not good at self-reflection? It’s time to learn…

No matter how well you’re doing in your current role, the prospect of an appraisal can seem like a daunting prospect. Aside from wondering whether you’re living up to expectations, it isn’t always easy to remain objective when it comes to your career – especially if you find it difficult to take on feedback.

To make sure you’re making the most of it, here’s everything you need to know about appraisals:


What is an appraisal?

An appraisal is a meeting, usually held by a manager, to discuss your performance.

They’re generally carried out on a quarterly or six monthly basis, and allow you to review your objectives and goals, and talk about your ambitions.

This allows you and your manager to work out the best ways to build your career in line with the company’s objectives.


What is the purpose of an appraisal?

Appraisals are a great way for employers to check your progress, as well as allowing you to talk about your own development.

Here are just a few reasons for doing an appraisal:

  • Achievements can be acknowledged
  • Your career direction/salary will usually be reviewed
  • Responsibilities and objectives can be assessed and (potentially) altered
  • Any issues can be discussed and resolved
  • Areas of improvement can be pinpointed
  • Training and support can be arranged in line with objectives

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What does an appraisal involve?

The exact format of an appraisal will vary from company to company, but the overall process will usually cover the same things.

Here’s what you should expect:

The written part. This is given to you in advance of the meeting, and will usually involve a number of questions relating to achievements, performance, and objectives. It’s also a good idea to read up on your company’s mission statement and your job description to ensure your goals match up.

The spoken part. This is a formal meeting that is set up shortly after you’ve filled out the written side of things. It’ll usually involve you and your boss discussing what you’ve written down, alongside their thoughts on how you’re doing – whether it’s areas that need improvement, or potential opportunities for promotion.


What questions could be asked in an appraisal?

The questions you’re asked will vary, but they’ll generally cover how you feel about your own performance and objectives. You’ll usually receive them before your appraisal too – giving you a chance to think about your answers.

Examples include:

  • What are your biggest achievements this year?

How to answer it: Once you’ve written down all of the big projects, tasks, or assignments you’ve completed – highlight what areas you felt went best. Then, use measurable examples (e.g. improved bounce rate by x%) to back up your claims. It’s also a good idea to cover what you found difficult, as overcoming problems is often an achievement in itself.

  • How would you rate your performance?

How to answer it: This question could be asked alone, or with more detailed counterparts that measure more specific abilities (e.g. meeting deadlines, teamwork, etc.). The key to answering it well is to simply be honest. Rating yourself higher (or lower) than you deserve will only contradict what your manager already knows. Because remember: they’re rating you too. Just make sure you explain the reasoning for any underperforming areas, and how you plan to turn things around.

  • What objectives would you set for yourself?

How to answer it: This is your chance to talk about your career goals. Firstly, discuss your successes and current skills, then think about the skills you need to gain or build on in order to work your way up – explaining how they’d be a helpful addition to the company. Mentioning any new responsibilities or projects that you’re keen to take on is also a great way to show your enthusiasm – not to mention highlight your potential for a promotion or pay rise.

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What is a 360 degree appraisal?

Whilst most appraisals will be between you and your manager – some will require other members of the team to voice their views on your performance.

This approach allows your manager to accurately recognise how well you work with others. It’s also particularly effective at recognising (and consequently resolving) any disputes or potentially rocky working relationships.

But how does it work?

Usually, your manager will get in touch with the colleagues, customers, or suppliers you work closest with, asking them various questions about your performance and their experience working with you.

These are then generally fed back to you anonymously (so there are no risks of repercussions), and discussed in your one-to-one meeting.


How to prepare for an appraisal

It’s vitally important to prepare well in advance of your appraisal.

Not only will this reinforce your enthusiasm and interest in doing well, it’ll also allow you to voice any concerns, requests, or achievements that you think may have been overlooked.

Here are a few of our top tips on how to make the most of it:

  • Make notes in advance
  • Take accountability (for your achievements and mistakes)
  • Don’t undersell your successes
  • Think about the future
  • Make negative comments constructively
  • Stay focused on the purpose of the meeting
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Be objective – and open to all feedback (both positive, and negative)



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