An annual review, also sometimes referred to as a performance review, is when your supervisor evaluates your work for the past year. Depending on the employer, this can encompass rating dimensions such as:
- management style and skills
- peer feedback
- team contributions
- technical skills/contributions
- leadership skills
- communication style and skills
For those working in client-facing positions, you're likely to be assessed for how much revenue you earned for the company and any other objective measures such as client renewal rate, deals closed and more.
Why you need to ask questions during your annual review.
Generally speaking, this is your chance to have a one-on-one conversation with your boss about your performance and professional development. That's why it's essential you take advantage of the dedicated time and be proactive by preparing questions.
Questions to ask in your performance review:
1. What should I keep doing, stop doing, continue doing/do more/do less?
If your review conversation doesn't already address these ongoing improvement questions, you'll want to pose them to your supervisor.
These questions will be familiar to those who work within a product or project lifecycle; it's a common review framework that helps you get tactical, specific feedback.
2. How does the team thinking I'm doing? What can I do to be more helpful?”
If your company doesn't already solicit peer feedback, this question can help guide your manager toward implementing a more 360-degree review approach. While your boss's opinion of your performance is, of course, important, peer feedback can provide a more drilled down, tactical view of how you're doing.
In some organizations, you barely interact with your supervisor, so the people you work with every day provide a much more accurate gauge of your skills as well as your areas for improvement.
3. What skills do you think I should focus on building/improving for the next 3 months/6 months/by my next review?
This can help you prioritize what you should work on in the near future as well as by the midpoint of next year. You may discover your manager wants you to improve your public speaking skills so you can present at the next company conference. Or, you might learn that your boss thinks you need to add technical skills, such as learning Google Analytics to your toolkit.
4. What do you recommend I do to improve my rating in [fill in topic mentioned during review]?
Asking for specific feedback within the dimensions you're evaluated on will help you and your manager gameplan a way for you to target improvement in those areas. This is especially helpful if you receive vague criticism or a lukewarm rating without a clear path defined for you to work on the particular area.
5. What is the next step for my position? What is the timeline for promotion consideration?
If this isn't already addressed during your annual review chat, then you should definitely bring up your professional development.
You may find out that there isn't a clearly defined next step for you (this is common in startups, where hierarchy isn't as structured as a corporate environment where the steps to each position are clearly outlined).
It's important to have an understanding of where you're heading and whether the timing aligns with your professional goals. It may be that you're hoping to reach a certain level/salary before starting a family. Or, maybe you're trying to gain management experience because you have your sights set on the C-suite. Asking these future-focused questions will help get you and your boss on the same page about your career progression.
6. If you were in my position, what would you ask? What question am I neglecting?
Use this question to help your boss put themselves in your shoes. By forcing the perspective change, you give your supervisor the chance to think from your perspective and hopefully, give you some insight into how they think. You may find out that your boss wants you to be more proactive about an unexpected aspect of your job. Even if you don't receive an answer to this question, you're demonstrating that you value input and recognize that you don't know everything — two traits that most managers want in their direct reports!
7. The burning question you haven't had a chance to ask.
While you have your supervisor's ear, get that burning question that you've ruminated on for months out into open air. Maybe you're curious about a certain way your company handles product input. You've made suggestions for product improvements for months, but you're not sure if you're routing it to the correct person or if you're providing it in a helpful manner.
Or, maybe you'd really like to know the details for an upcoming project you heard rumors about and want to see what your role would be if the project comes to fruition.
Perhaps you heard off-hand remarks about a new office opening up, or even company downsizing. If you don't have the longevity or rapport with your boss to ask the more company-internal questions, then you might have to wait until an official announcement. But, if you do happen to enjoy a closer relationship, now's your chance to ask, as well as explain why you're interested in the particular topic.
For example, you can always phrase it something like, "I've heard talk about an office opening in the Midwest. I was curious how that'd impact the East Coast team and whether the company would consider relocating staff to another office, as I do have family in the Chicago area and would volunteer if the occasion arose."
Of course, what you ask depends on your company's particulars — it may not be appropriate for you to stray off a templated annual review counseling process. But if talk turns less formal, use your time to ask what's been on your mind.
More On Reviews
Filling out a self-evaluation before your review? We have 9 self-evaluation examples that'll help you ace yours.
And if you're feeling apprehensive about the whole process, learn how to use your performance review as a way to accelerate your career.
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