Tips for Completing a Self-Evaluation

by Ashley Mancill, Head Editor, INALJ Alabama

Tips for Completing a Self-Evaluation

ashleymancillI recently had to complete a self-evaluation, a task dreaded by nearly every employee no matter what field he or she works in. Having been in the position for only three months and having limited responsibilities, I couldn’t help feel that I hadn’t made any significant contribution or accomplished anything worthwhile. So of course, I was not looking forward to completing the assessment or the performance review that follows.

When I finally did sit down to write my evaluation, I decided to focus on what I had achieved and on my goals rather than what I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to do. And after reading over everything, I felt more confident.

I won’t say that is true for everyone who has to complete a self-evaluation. But these assessments are useful in that they can help employees identify strengths and weaknesses and track professional development. Some of you may have a review coming up and have to complete a self-evaluation for it. Those of you who do not will likely have to complete one before the end of the year. Below are a few tips to help you get through it.

1. Start with positivity. If you focus on what you haven’t achieved, then the self-assessment has already worked against you. Having a negative attitude will make it all the more difficult for you to get through the evaluation and may cause you to undersell yourself and your abilities. Focus instead on what you have achieved, no matter how small, and use those achievements as motivation. If you are like me and haven’t spent a lot of time working for your current employer, discuss what goals you have for the year ahead.

2. Be honest. When discussing your performance and accomplishments since your last evaluation or since you were hired, be sure to address any mistakes that you have made or areas where you know you need to improve. Make a list of these before you start your evaluation or start keeping a work diary that you can refer to if your review is still a few months away. If there were particular challenges that you faced, write them down and describe how you overcame them (or how you plan to overcome them if you are still struggling with them). If your company or organization uses a rating system, use these notes to rate yourself appropriately (i.e., don’t give yourself a rating of 5 if you have made a number of mistakes or if you know you need to work on improving a skill or area of knowledge).

3. But don’t be too honest. A self-evaluation is not a chance for you to share your grievances or complain about your job, coworkers, or management. Those issues should be addressed separately and in person with a supervisor or a representative from human resources. Most organizations will ask their employees to list or describe in their evaluation some ways in which management can improve or steps that the company can take to provide a better working environment and increase employee retention. Make sure your responses are professionally written and concise, but curb your criticism.

4. Set realistic, achievable goals. Think carefully about what you would like to accomplish over the course of the year and explain what steps you plan to take to realize these goals. Make sure they are consistent with your overall career goals and with your company or organization’s mission. Most of all, be practical. There’s no way you can reasonably advance from an entry-level position to managing the whole organization in a year. Don’t set the bar to high or you could inadvertently set yourself up for a negative review down the road.

5. Take your time. You may have a lot of other job-related tasks to complete and feel that you do not have enough time to devote to a self-evaluation. But do yourself a favor and make time. The evaluation will most likely go into your personnel file, and your supervisor will be able to tell if you rushed through it or gave it very little thought (which suggests to them that you did not take the evaluation seriously). And because most self-evaluations are part of the performance review process, you will want to provide a reflective assessment of yourself as an employee and your work. So set aside some time to really think about the questions on the evaluation and how well you met expectations and fulfilled the duties outlined for your position. If you feel that you need more time, ask your supervisor if an extension is possible and explain why you need the extra time, especially if you have various deadline-driven projects to complete.

6. Accept criticism. As previously mentioned, most self-evaluations are used by supervisors in employees’ performance reviews. Although you may feel you are performing exceptionally in most areas, your supervisor may disagree. Instead of getting upset or defensive, accept what your supervisor has to say as constructive criticism and ask him or her what you can do to improve your performance before your next evaluation. If you are already aware that you are underperforming in some areas, strategize ways in which you plan to strengthen your knowledge or skills and share your ideas with your supervisor. Any disagreement you have with your evaluation should be expressed constructively. Ask for specific instances and examples for points that you disagree with and provide your own examples to set the record straight if you feel there has been a mistake (this is where keeping track of your achievements and successes comes in handy). Do not, however, argue your point or become confrontational.