The self-evaluation form is arguably the most unfairly hated part of the employee review process. The premise of asking team members to report on their professional performance is pretty straightforward, but nevertheless, people tie themselves in mental knots over what they’re supposed to say.
The problem with self-evaluations is that, on a personal level, they feel like a test instead of a tool.
Most people are reluctant to call attention to their own accomplishments for fear of sounding vain. Likewise, most people are nervous about discussing their weak spots with their manager for obvious reasons. As a result, team members are so riddled with anxiety that their self-evaluations aren’t terribly useful for themselves or their managers.
To help fix this problem, we’ve created an employee self-evaluation form that’s designed to inspire candor, reflection, and growth and included tips for both employees and managers to get the most out of this tool.
Employee Self-Evaluation Tips
A good self-assessment is largely about striking the right tone. It requires some of the same candor and introspection of a one-on-one meeting, but it also needs to be a polished document that presents you in the best possible light.
Even if you’re a naturally modest person, don’t be afraid to call attention to your successes and the ways you’ve brought value to the company. You can also use your weak spots to present yourself as a stronger team member if you demonstrate your eagerness to grow and willingness to learn from your mistakes.
(For more tips, check out our article and podcast: “How to write a self-evaluation that will impress your boss.”)
Use Concrete Data
Anyone can say they did good work, but you’ll make a much more compelling case if you can back that up with numbers. Find an exciting statistic from your performance. It might be something simple, like “I exceeded my sales goal by 20%.” You might also need to get a little creative to come up with your numbers, for example, “By automating several processes, I saved the company an estimated $20,000.”
Compare Notes with a Colleague
You may not remember every big win you had in the past year, or you might need a little encouragement to toot your own horn. So pick a buddy, trade evaluations, and make sure you haven’t forgotten to say anything important.
Make a Highlight Reel
Throughout the year, you should be documenting your achievements and any praise you’ve received. Without a system in place to track your accomplishments, it’s easy to lose track of them at self-evaluation time. Uptick allows you to search your one-on-one notes for these details, but a simple spreadsheet or document will also get the job done. When you get an email with particularly glowing praise, or you go above and beyond on a project, make a note in your document.
Use Your Weak Spots as a Springboard
Every self-evaluation asks us to consider the obstacles we’ve faced, mistakes we’ve made, and areas we need to improve. In assessing these, be honest but not defeatist. Discuss mistakes in terms of what you learned from them and how you’re putting those lessons to work now. Bring up weak spots in terms of your desire to improve, and offer suggestions for your professional development.
Timothy Butler, senior fellow at Harvard Business School, agrees with framing problems in terms of development. ““You don’t want to say, ‘Here’s where I really fall down.’ 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.’”
Self-Evaluation Tips for Managers
If you’re a manager, it’s up to you to set your team up for success in their self-evaluations. You can start by putting yourself in their shoes and recognizing that this process is anxiety-provoking for many people.
Don’t just hand your team copies of this self-evaluation form and expect them to fill it out. It won’t be helpful without any understanding of what you’re looking for and how it will be used. Instead, explain to your team members how this self-evaluation figures into their overall performance review. In particular, be clear on who will read their responses, in case there are issues with confidentiality or sensitive issues between team members.
Be a Coach
Discuss what you find valuable about writing a self-evaluation. Illustrate the ways that this can be a useful exercise and an opportunity for team members to reflect on their job performance and progress in their career path.
Go over the questions you’ll be asking ahead of time, as well as the kind of answers management and human resources are looking for. If you want to be a truly fearless leader, fill out your own self-evaluation and share your responses with your team. Just like in one-on-one meetings, encourage employees to give feedback on how the workplace could be improved and how you, as a manager, can better support them.
There’s nothing more demotivating or frustrating for team members than working hard on a self-evaluation and then never having any idea how it was received. Instead, consider having a dedicated one-on-one meeting where you go over responses with each team member. Address any anxieties they have about their work, and come up with a plan to continue their professional development.
Employee Self-Evaluation Form
- Describe your current duties.
- What new responsibilities, roles, or skills have you acquired since starting in your current position?
- Since your last evaluation, what career development goals have you been focused on? How have you made progress on those goals?
- How have you demonstrated our core values as an organization?
- What core values do you want to improve on?
- How would you describe the quality of your work?
- How would you describe your time management skills and ability to deliver work on time?
- What do you find most rewarding about your job?
- What do you find most challenging about your job?
- How could we improve the workplace to make your work easier, better, or more pleasant?
- What can I, as a manager, do to better support you?
- What career goals do you plan to focus on in the coming months? How will you work on those goals?
Encourage Reflection All Year Long
Broadly speaking, the quality of a team member’s self-evaluation is a direct reflection of their relationship with their manager. If team members have a strong foundation of trust and believe their manager wants to support them, they’ll feel a lot more comfortable sharing an honest self-appraisal. But that foundation takes time to build.
While the strategies we’ve laid out here should help the self-evaluation process be more candid, relaxed, and helpful, they’re not designed to work in isolation. Managers should make reflection and feedback regular elements of their one-on-one meetings instead of only bringing them up during the annual performance review. That way, even if self-evaluations still feel a little like a test, they’ll at least be a test you’ve both studied for.
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