How to prepare for your annual appraisal

Annual ‘performance’ appraisals can be intimidating at the best of times.

All your hard work and endeavors over the last 12 months will be scrutinised in a 60-90 minute meeting. But how will it go? Is your employer happy? Are you going to use this review as part of a negotiation to request a rise in your salary?

Whatever you’re thinking, you need to have a plan, and this guide will help you to go into your appraisal process fully prepared!


You’ll be put on the spot, in front of your immediate manager, and you’ll be asked to not only recount how valuable you have been to your employer for the last 12 months but also how you have developed and matured since your last appraisal. Good job this only happens every 12 months!

Regardless of how confident you feel going into the appraisal process, you’ll need to be prepared. Go in well-armed, with facts and figures on the value you have brought to the company, and you are well positioned to move on to asking for a pay rise. However, if you’re sloppy and unprepared, you will most likely be on the back foot from the start and may never recover.

The months leading up to your appraisal

It is during this period that you can really start to prepare. Try to think ahead and how your appraisal meeting might go. What points will you want to make and how will you back them up with un-questionable data? There are many ways to put yourself in a strong position:

Deliver impressive results – This may well be obvious, but the better you perform during the year, the more positive your appraisal will be. So make sure you work hard all year round to exceed the expectations of your employer. But do so in such a way that your success is tangible and easy for you to demonstrate. (Results)

Go the extra mile – Again, an obvious point. There is nothing employers like more than hard-working, self-managing employees who just get things done, without the need for being told. A few subtle yet noticeable late nights and/or early starts throughout the year should go even further to demonstrating your devotion to the company. (Commitment)

Be a leader – In most cases this means leading others. If you have the chance to do this, then take it and make it a success. However, leadership can often just be about you doing your job and not needing supervision. Lead by example and make regular contributions to team meetings and planning sessions. Make sure people see and hear you! (Leadership)

Add to your responsibilities – When you get the chance, try to take on more responsibility. Not only is this great for your employer to see, but it will also give you a new challenge and something to keep the ‘fire in the belly.’ (Responsibility)

Develop new skills – This might come from on the job training, attending off-site courses or both. Try to select skills that are both beneficial to you and to your employer. This will enhance your value to the company and, come appraisal time will help you to showcase how invaluable you have become.  (Development)

Remember to make a record of all of the things you do (in line with the above headings), particularly any significant achievements, as this will come in handy during your appraisal meeting.

1 week to go!

If you have kept an accurate record of all of your achievements over the preceding 12 months (as suggested above), you are one step ahead. If not, then this is time to do it.  Using the headings results, commitment, leadership, responsibility, and development, make a list of all your achievements and successes, backing up each one with objective and tangible data were possible.

Try to analyse which ones you think have added the most value to your employer and memorise the top five, so that you can refer to them at will during your appraisal.

You will also need to consider any negative moments during the previous twelve months or areas you can improve on. Chances are if you have noticed them, so has your employer. So don’t hide from them, just be prepared with well thought out answers, not excuses!

You will also want to give some thought to your goals for the coming 12 months. Where do you want to be in a years’ time? Promotion? Pay rise? A different part of the company? Giving some thought to this now will help you to ‘influence’ what your new goals will be and how these will help you to achieve your long-term aims.

If you intend to ask for a pay rise, you will need to prepare for this thoroughly if you are to have any chance of being successful (see our guide to successfully negotiating a pay rise).

The day before

Assuming you have followed the guidelines above and have adequately prepared, the last 24 hours should be a chance for you to relax and focus on the appraisal meeting itself. Things you should consider include:

Confidence – Practice a ‘mock’ appraisal meeting in your head and take courage from the fact you are so well prepared. Try to imagine what sort of questions you might be asked, especially the more tough ones, and think about what answers you might give.

Memory – Try to memorise as many of your notes as possible. Try to focus primarily on your various achievements and how they have added value to your employer.

Dress – Make sure it is appropriate. No need to dress like you are going for an interview, but you still want to make the right impression. For example, if your appraisal happens to fall on ‘dress-down’ Friday, it’s probably best for you to start in normal/smart office attire, rather than come in with your Iron Maiden tee-shirt on!

Pay rise – As mentioned above, if this is something you intend to do in your appraisal then prepare accordingly. Use the night before to think through (and remember) your key points/arguments to support your request and try to be as confident as possible.

If you prepare correctly, you should be in good shape come appraisal day, and things should go smoothly. If you have made demonstrable achievements and added value to the company, you’ll be in a strong position to ask for a salary review. If not, then all this preparation and hard work will leave a great impression and put you in an even stronger position in 12 months’ time.