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How to Write a Great Self-Evaluation/Self-Appraisal?

December 6, 2008

It’s this time of the year. You get a notification email from HR at work  that it’s time for you to complete your annual self assessment as part of your performance evaluation process. “Sweet…” you think “Can’t wait…” No, not exactly.  One might even question the reason behind self-appraisals. Is it because managers don’t feel like doing their jobs? The HR folks say that’s not the case. Self reviews benefit you, the employee because you take an active role in looking at your performance resulting in better accountability. But even more so it benefits the management by revealing how you, the employee feel about the work you’ve done.

There is something to be said about being in control. Think about it… Would you rely on an angry or forgetful boss to point out your achievements or would you rather start the process yourself? You get my point.

This is my sixth year going through a self-evaluation process at work. I am definitely not a veteran, but I’ve gone through it often enough to realize that writing a self review is hard work. Here is a list of common mistakes we make during writing a self-evaluation.


  1. Reviews are just formalities. Nobody really looks at them

    Really? It might seem that way, but don’t get fooled here. Your are one of many who get evaluated and your self-assessment becomes an important tool for  scoring your performance  against others.  Also, keep in mind that since you are required to write the review anyway, you might as well get the most benefit out of it. Think about what you’ve accomplished during the year, what was easy and what brought you the biggest satisfaction. Treat it as your professional development tool and a starting point for your next year’s goals.

  2. I don’t know what to write about.

    Start by looking at your objectives for the year. Think about what you are the most proud of and how you’ve created value with your actions. Also, review your last year’s self-review (if available). Are there improvements from last year to this year?

  3. I don’t remember what I’ve done earlier in the year

    Common mistake which makes  you concentrate on your most recent activity and miss some great bragging opportunities. Don’t count on your boss remembering these for you either. It is up you to refresh your memory. How I do it? I look through my monthly reports I create for my boss. No monthly reports? Look at the folder structure you set up to archive your email or documents. Are you seeing projects there?  Also, consider setting up and maintaining the “do-not-forget” folder in your email client and every time you send or receive an email outlining your accomplishment put a copy of it into that folder. It does not take much time, but comes in handy during your review time.

  4. It feels awkward to talk about my achievements

    Guess what? Get over it. Your self evaluation is one document where you should talk about yourself  with grace and diplomacy. Don’t worry about modesty since  this is your chance to toot your own horn.  If you don’t act as your own best advocate who will?

  5. Once I start I can’t stop writing

    I am soooo guilty of this. Brevity is not one of my virtues. However, nobody has the time to read your version of the next great American novel  here.  One thing I do to keep to the point is to use bullet points instead of free-flowing sentences. Don’t be afraid to cut, cut, cut as long as you are not cutting important metrics.

  6. I wait to the last minute to get started

    Don’t. Your career and your future vacation trip to the Bahamas are at stake here. Even if you are a good writer gathering your project details and especially metrics takes time and you don’t want to run out of it.

  7. I don’t really have any stats to prove I’ve done a good job

    It might seem that way, but think again. Use the use the STAR method. This method involves briefly describing a situation (S) or task (T), the action (A) you took to accomplish it, and the results (R) you achieved. For example “when becoming a project manager for project XYZ I realized that my team spend many hours in status meetings (T). I came up with an online project management tool  to keep my team informed (A)  and cut down the number of meetings in half . Instead of 8 meetings a month, I host 4. 4 x 1hr x 12 people in meetings = 48 hours saved. (R)”

    If you are still struggling, your objective for next year should be to identify individual Key Performance Indicators  (KPIs) for every project or goal and gather them diligently throughout the year.

  8. I cannot stay objective evaluating myself

    It is very unlikely that you’ve done everything right this year so don’t be afraid to admit it. Use facts, figures and specific dates to back up goals you did achieve.
    For sanity check,  consider asking your colleagues what they think of your performance. Be careful  to avoid platitudes or overly critical comments.

  9. My review sounds so … corporate

    Words like outstanding, dependable, and driven  are positive, they don’t always paint a convincing picture. Use specific examples.  Storytelling is a great way to spice things up and to keep your audience engaged. However, be mindful of the length of your review. Less is more.

  10. It takes  forever to finish it

    Like all important tasks in your career it takes time and hard work to do them right. This one is no exception. Bite the bullet. Remember to start early to avoid unnecessary stress.

Do you have any tips how to write a great self-review? Share them.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Tara permalink
    February 28, 2011 10:42 am

    This doesn’t tell you how to write one…it tells you what not to write. No help.

  2. Aneta Hall permalink*
    February 28, 2011 11:27 am

    Hi Tara. If I can help you choose to NOT include something in your assessment that will come to bite you at the end… I am happy. If you find good advice out there re. specifics of what to write, please share it here.

  3. December 28, 2011 10:50 am

    I disagree with Tara. This is an excellent post. Thank you very much for spelling it out. I emailed it to some friends that are struggling with their first evals.

    I also sent them this link to a wiki article:

    It has steps to create a spreadsheet to write the eval.

    With your great tips and this spreadsheet, I’m sure my friends will write great evals!

    Thanks again!

  4. Aneta Hall permalink*
    December 28, 2011 6:13 pm

    Appreciate your comment, Rosi and I will check wikihow as well.

  5. Tim permalink
    July 19, 2012 5:19 pm

    Hi, I recently had to start writing self reviews, and I am having a very hard time doing this. Your blog post has given me some ideas, but in all honestly my position doesn’t give me projects per say. I do the same thing day in and out more or less. I work for a retailer, color correcting images that get printed in catalogs or put on the internet site. Any suggestions on how i can break my similar day in and out job into projects? I could single out particular images I guess, but in all honesty I don’t see how that would effect my self appraisal.

  6. Aneta Hall permalink*
    September 12, 2012 2:01 pm

    Tim, it’s all about providing more value for your employer. If your job includes repetitious tasks maybe you can show you are getting faster at what you do (productivity improvements), better at what you do (the images you correct are exceptional and your clients recognize that in surveys for example) or maybe you are finding ways to do other things in addition to your current workload… Is this helping?

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    December 12, 2012 8:25 am

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  8. goheels83 permalink
    December 14, 2012 8:42 am

    I found this article extremely helpful. This is my first year in a corporate environment so I need all the help I can get – thank you Aneta!!

  9. jackie permalink
    January 14, 2013 10:41 pm

    I especially like the STAR method it keeps the talking point, to the point.

  10. Denis permalink
    January 26, 2013 1:35 pm

    Hi Aneta,
    As Tim I also hit the wall of my first review. Your text gave me few ideas how to write it (and of course what not to write 🙂 )
    Tim, my work is also repetitive. My advice to all of you who write it for the first time, brag about yourselves but then again point out the things that you are bad at and write that in some amount of time you’ll improve yourself in that field. That way you are self recognizable and you give your self something that you will point out on your next review 🙂


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