Evaluating progress in the workplace is an important part of staying on track and figuring out what needs improvement. As part of the formal performance review process, self-assessments, also known as self-appraisals or self-evaluations, help an employer gauge how an employee views his or her own performance.
Self-evaluations also let the employee express what they feel are important projects they have completed, tasks and responsibilities they'd like to take on, and provide a channel of open communication about goals, opportunities and development. These things could differ from what an employer sees, so having the assessment from the perspective of the employee could bridge the gap between expectations and performance.
Writing a self-evaluation can be difficult for many employees. Despite knowing themselves and their work better than anyone, employees can struggle to summarize it in a way that comes off as objective, rather than conceited. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you complete your own performance appraisal. [See Related Story: What Is Performance Management]
1. Be proud
The main goal of the self-evaluation is to highlight your accomplishments. Employees need to point to specific tasks and projects that highlight their best work. When describing those accomplishments, employees should be sure to emphasize the impact each of those achievements had on the business as a whole, in order to show how valuable their work is to the company.
Julie Rieken, CEO of Trakstar, noted that employees should connect their actions with a manager's goals.
"If you're manager needs to hit a certain number, share how you played a role in hitting the number," Rieken said in a blog post. "Accomplishments you list should connect with business objectives."
2. Be honest
Honesty is another critical aspect of writing a self-review. It's more than likely that the boss knows when a good job was done, so trying to highlight a project or task that was just OK, rather than great, won't have much impact.
Being honest also means pointing out some areas that could be improved. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, advised employees to use developmental language when critiquing the areas in which they need to improve.
"You don't want to say 'Here's where I really fall down.'" Butler told the Harvard Business Review. "Instead, say, 'Here's an area I want to work on. This is what I've learned. This is what we should do going forward.'"
3. Ask about career-development opportunities
Butler also encouraged employees to use their self-evaluations as a time to ask their bosses for career-development opportunities. This should occur even if the employer isn't asking the employee for it, because if you don't ask, it likely won't happen, he said. By showing an interest, you put in your manager's mind that you are interested, and he or she is more likely to be on the lookout for tasks, assignments and trainings prospects for you.
4. Track your accomplishments
When it comes time to stand up for your work in your self-assessment, having actual data to show what you've done throughout the year is crucial. Employees will have the general sense that they've done a good job, and maybe even an excellent employee, but without the data and examples to back it up, it doesn't tend to count for much.
"If employees ... spend 10 seconds a day writing down their one biggest accomplishment, success, metric hit, feedback received for that day, they'd have ten times more data than they'd ever need for self-assessment," said Mike Mannon, consultant at WD Communications.
Hank Yuloff, owner of Yuloff Creative Marketing Solutions, agreed: "We teach our clients to keep a list of daily and weekly accomplishments so that when it is time for the self-assessment, there is very little guesswork as to how valuable they are to the company," he said.
5. Be professional
Employees need to remember to always be professional when writing self-assessments. This means they should avoid using it as an opportunity to bash the boss for poor leadership skills or criticize co-workers for making the employees' lives more difficult.
Being professional also means giving the appraisal its due attention, like any other important project that crosses your desk. Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software, advised treating your self-appraisal like a work of art that builds over time. You'll be much happier with the result if you give yourself time to reflect and carefully support your self-assessment, she said.
"Use examples to support your assertions, and … make sure that you spell- and grammar-check your documents," Jones wrote in a blog post. "These are all signs of how seriously you take the process and its importance to you."
Additional reporting by Katherine Arline and Marci Martin. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.