A red hammer hammering a nail into a piece of wood to represent nailing your first performance review.
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How to nail your first performance review

12 Sep 2018

Once you’ve settled into your new job, your first milestone will be your first performance review. Hays’ Martin Dixon is here to help you shine.

It’s been six months since you started your new role, and everything has gone well so far, you think. However, the only way you will really know is once you’ve had your first performance review with your new boss.

So, how can you approach this critical meeting to ensure that you get the outcome you want and keep your career moving in the right direction?

Know what to expect

Every company is different, so however your employer runs their performance reviews, make sure you are fully in the know ahead of your first one so that you aren’t caught off guard. Remember to find out:

  • How will your performance so far be assessed? For instance, some companies may conduct objective-based feedback, while others have 360-degree appraisals.
  • What should you prepare before the meeting? Are there any guidelines or documents on the intranet that you will need to read before? Perhaps you were set formal objectives when you joined that you need to provide an update on.
  • Who will be present during the meeting? It may well just be your manager, but some companies may ask someone from HR to sit in as well.

Once you have a better understanding of what to expect, it’s time to start thinking about what you would like to get from this meeting, and how best you can prepare.

Reflect on the last six months

Remember, your first performance review will be a two-way conversation about your progress and performance over the last six months, and how you are finding the role. As such, expect to be asked the below, and plan your answers accordingly:

  • The reality of the role versus what you expected it to be following your interview
  • The tasks you have enjoyed and would like to be doing more of
  • The tasks you have struggled with, and what kind of support you need moving forward
  • Any changes or increments in responsibility since you joined
  • Your progress with targets and objectives
  • Any other key achievements

This meeting isn’t just about your manager assessing your performance – although this part is important. It is also about you having the chance to feed back to your manager on how you are feeling in your new role and what you need further support with.

Not only this, your manager will want to know what you are hoping to achieve before your next performance review, and how they can help you get there – which brings me on to my next point.

Feel comfortable in articulating your career ambitions

Your first performance review isn’t just about looking back, but also looking forward. What would you like to have achieved before your next review? Maybe start by thinking bigger and visualise the next one, three and even five years of your career.

Now, work back from here and assess what you can do to move closer towards this goal over the next six months. How will you need to upskill and grow your expertise, and who in the business can help you with this?

Don’t be afraid to share your wider goals with your manager during your performance review and ask for their advice on how you can reach them. It is important to have a clear discussion with your boss around your career ambitions, and to start this conversation early.

During the performance review

If you have prepared using the steps above, then the meeting itself should be a straightforward process. Your manager will most likely take the lead and ask for your feedback first. Be positive and professional, and if you have any concerns or problems to raise with your manager, be sure to suggest solutions to these as well.

When your manager is feeding back to you, listen attentively to their comments and take notes on where you can improve, as well as what you are doing well, and don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples for both.

Once you move on to discussing your goals going forward, it’s important that you ask your manager for their help and guidance with achieving the outcome you want from the meeting.

After your first performance review, send a summary email of the points discussed to your line manager and check that both of you are on the same page. This might be something that your employer will formalise anyway, but it is a good idea to get into the habit of doing this yourself.

Don’t feel you have to wait another six months to speak with your boss again. Your first performance review is a good opportunity for you to set up an open and ongoing dialogue with your boss early on about your career progression at this company.

At the end of the performance review, confirm when the next one will take place and how you can touch base before then to review how you’re getting on.

Your first performance review isn’t something to be dreaded, more approached with an open mind and a clear idea of the points you would like to get across to your manager following your first six months at the company.

If you do this, and prepare for the meeting as thoroughly as possible, you give yourself the opportunity to steer your career at this company in the right direction from the very beginning.

By Martin Dixon

Martin is an EMEA director at Hays and has worked for the business for more than 20 years.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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