How to write a self-evaluation that will impress your boss

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Ever feel like your performance reviews are just a summary of the last few weeks at work or a list of mistakes you’ve made since the last review? Then it’s time to take charge. Performance reviews get a bad rap, but done right, they can boost your career, confidence, and even your salary (I’ll give you specific ideas for doing that later).

The key to unlocking these benefits is writing a self evaluation, also known as a self assessment or self appraisal. In this post, I’ll show you how to write a self evaluation that shows thoughtfulness and self-awareness. These are traits that managers want to see in high performers. I’ll also share examples of self evaluations to get you started.

Why everyone hates performance reviews

Man and woman in performance review

Most performance reviews suck, but it’s not because of poor performance. It’s the vague feedback, the pressure to prove your worth, and the format of sitting across from someone who may not be your best advocate. Many people walk away from performance reviews thinking,

  • Where did that come from?
  • Do they even know what I do every day?
  • Why did I put any effort into that?

The solution? Become your own biggest cheerleader and equip your manager to do the same.

If your manager isn’t holding up their side of the deal by giving you actionable, constructive feedback, you’ve got to do it yourself. I’ll show you how to share your accomplishments, growth areas, and goals in a way that sets you apart from 90% of workers.

How to write a self evaluation for a performance review

First, start with a solid self-evaluation structure. It should look something like this:

  1. Company values/personal values
  2. Areas of accomplishments since last review
  3. Goals (personal or assigned)
  4. Insights on productivity
  5. Areas of improvement since last review
  6. Growth or professional development plan

If your manager or HR department gave you a form to fill out, that’s fine—but, most likely, it only exists for documentation purposes. To wow your manager, make sure everything in this outline is covered in your employee self appraisal, even if you have to add extra sections or pages.

1. Company or personal core values

Business women in a meeting

This section should summarize how you conduct yourself. By starting here, your boss will understand how you see yourself aligning with the company’s values, or how you define them for yourself if they aren’t stated by the company.

If your company has clearly stated values, then you’ve got it easy. Just write out each of your company’s core values and how you’ve embodied them since your last review.

Core value self evaluation example:

Core value: Customers come first

We always aim to deliver our product on time, even if it means extra work. When one of our customers had delays this year, it affected our delivery dates. They said they understood if our timeline was delayed because of the mistakes. But I did some research and realized that on-time delivery would be possible with about 15 extra hours of work. I put in the additional time to communicate with the team, explain the situation to our customer, and make sure they got access to their product when it was initially promised to them.

If your company doesn’t have a clear set of values, that’s okay. Title this section “My core values”. If you need help choosing some personal core values, check out this resource. Keep it to 5 or fewer—after all, if everything is core then nothing is. Once you’ve identified your personal core values, give at least one example of how you exemplified each trait since your last review.

2. Areas of accomplishment since last review

If you’re a significant contributor to a work project, it should be on this list. Don’t just write the name of the project; make sure you also highlight the project’s status, what your involvement was, and the impact this project had on the company. These details are important to your manager because:

  1. They care about the projects you’re working on, and want to know its status and other key details.
  2. They care about what’s occupying your time, as opposed to other projects you could be working on.

Areas of accomplishment self evaluation example:

I designed a new user flow last quarter. This took a significant amount of my work time and I had to collaborate with 3 different departments to make it a success. While I worked on this task, I took the opportunity to learn new software, because I knew it would be a useful skill while I help out the design team (since Analisa is on leave).

I’m proud to say that I completed this project 2 days ahead of schedule. We used it to map out priorities for product development at the end of the quarter, and I think it will be useful as a reference document for the design team for several more years.

What if you can’t remember what you worked on? To refresh your memory, ask yourself if you:

  • Served on a committee
  • Were assigned to a long-running project
  • Wrote any reports or summaries for your boss
  • Took the lead on a project you weren’t assigned to
  • Mentored someone on the team
  • Attended events or conferences
  • Designed or conducted trainings (even informal ones)
  • Made an introduction for a team member
  • Have any recurring to-dos or calendar events
  • Have key meetings on your calendar (going all the way back to your last review)

If you can answer “yes” to one of these items, it might be connected to an accomplishment worth mentioning. Take the time to dive deep—you never know what you (or your boss) have forgotten!

Don’t want to dig through old emails? Get Uptick to keep track of your work ⬇️

3. Goals (personal or assigned)

Woman setting self evaluation goals

This is similar to areas of accomplishment, but important to call out on its own. Everybody has projects to work on, but your boss may have suggested other goals for you to work toward. And ideally, you have some personal goals of your own to talk about. Bringing feedback from your last review into the next one will show that you paid attention and actually care about your boss’s opinion.

Goal self evaluation example:

Goal: Help our marketing team increase conversion rates from 3 – 5% on landing pages.

Action: Our marketing team has been focusing on beefing up our inbound campaigns, so I decided to go though the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification Course so I could speak our team’s language and help create better lead magnets. We didn’t quite reach our goal—we ended up increasing the conversion rate to 4.5%. However, this was important progress because it’s the first time we’ve done a project like this. I learned so much about testing and best practices, and now I feel ready to lead more tests in the coming year.

4. Insights on productivity

Managers want you to be self aware. It makes their job much easier when you have the ability to call out triumphs and failings, and then self correct. It’s even better if you understand the impact you’re having on the team (and vice versa). When you collect these insights and share them with your manager, they’re getting priceless information about team culture. To uncover insights, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I have any breakthroughs, even small ones?
  • When did I feel most productive? Least productive?
  • Which teammates brought out the best in me, and why?
  • Which of my personal habits best served my productivity? Which ones sabotaged it?

Insight self evaluation examples:

I’ve come to the realization that I often engage in negative self talk. Sometimes it’s not even conscious—more of a feeling that “I could never learn that skill” or “I must not be very smart if this project is overwhelming me.” I don’t know if the team can tell, but this affects my confidence. I want to be able to take projects on with gusto, so this is something I’m going to work on. Do you have any resources that you recommend?

If your insights are more critical, or they focus on other people, that’s okay. But it’s hard for your manager to help if you don’t give them specific examples and say how you’d like them to intervene. Describe the reason you think the challenge exists, why it was hard for you, and how you tried to overcome it. You may have overcome this challenge already, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make note of it.

The people who sit near me are often quite loud during the lunch hour, and that’s when I get the highest call volume from our customers. I’ve talked to them about it, but the issue hasn’t gotten much better. I’m not sure what to do about it. I need to be at my desk to take calls, but this situation makes it hard to focus on the customer. Can we talk about a way to fix this?

5. Areas of improvement

Man contemplating areas of improvement

Self-awareness is an ever-elusive trait—but easier when you dedicate time to it. We recommend spending at least an hour to come up with areas of improvement, along with action steps to address them. This will help your manager find tangible ways to help you grow. They probably have their own ideas of how you can improve, but pointing out those areas and asking for help shows that you’re responsive and teachable. Some managers are passive, so you might need to pointedly ask them if they have any areas of improvement for you. Don’t shy away from asking for this feedback directly—it will give you important insight into your manager’s priorities.

We all have areas we need to improve. This isn’t about shaming yourself or being negative. It’s about taking an honest look in the mirror so that you can grow—not just as an employee, but as a human being.

Areas of improvement self evaluation examples:

When I’m in the middle of work, especially writing, I tend to get frustrated with interruptions. I’ve noticed that I try to end the conversation quickly so I can get back to my tasks. I’d like to work on more open communication with my team so we both know what to expect from each other. For example, I can let everyone know that when I have my headphones in, it means I need to stay focused. I also had an idea of making a visual desk toy that indicates when it’s okay to interrupt me. How do you feel about me testing that out in the next two weeks?

6. Growth plan or professional development plan

Nothing says leadership skills like suggesting next steps for yourself. Again, your manager might have their own ideas on your developmental plan, but don’t wait around for them to share. You know yourself best, so read through everything you’ve written in your self reflection so far and consider what to do next to keep growing.

Professional development self evaluation example:

I’m eager to take the next step in my professional development by gaining a deeper knowledge of analytics. Our professional development stipend would cover 1 – 3 courses, and there are several affordable options from EdX in statistics, data analysis, or audience analytics.

I’d like to choose a course and get your approval. Then I can bring my learning back to the team. For example:

• I facilitate a workshops or lunch-and-learn
• I make recommendations on training topics for our customers
• I suggest new ways to optimize marketing analytics

There you have it: a step-by-step guide on how to write a self evaluation with confidence. Most employees don’t put this much thought into their performance reviews, so do yourself a favor and get ready to stand out!

Get more from your self evaluation

You’ve put all this work into your self evaluation. Now what? As promised, here are a few ways to make your self evaluation go even further when it comes to career progression:

Man walking across street
  • Add areas of accomplishment (#2 on this list) to your resume, personal website or portfolio, and LinkedIn profile. Now you’ll be up-to-date in case you want to freelance, network, or search for jobs.
  • Use insights on productivity (#4) and areas of improvement (#5) to generate a list of content ideas to boost your thought leadership credibility. These could be LinkedIn posts, videos, blog posts, podcasts, webinars…the list goes on.
  • Use goals (#3) and areas of accomplishment (#2) to come up with ideas for trainings, presentations, or even a conference talk.
  • Look over the entire self evaluation and look for patterns. Write them down, pick 1 – 3 ideas that resonate the most, and use them to create a personal statement or tagline. This can be used in your LinkedIn headline, resume, online bios, elevator speech—anywhere you want a stronger personal brand.
  • Review goals (#3) and areas of accomplishment (#2) to prepare for a salary negotiation with your employer. A well-thought-out list of what you bring to the table and why it’s valuable is essential to any negotiation. If you come prepared with a positive attitude and relevant market research (e.g. average salaries and responsibilities for someone with your job title), you’ll be well on your way to a raise.
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