Work appraisals: What to expect and how to prepareHays: Working For Your Tomorrowon March 14, 2024 at 2:35 pm Career advice | Career tips


Work appraisals are an essential part of every role as performance reviews offer a chance to learn. The purpose of an appraisal is to see where you’ve excelled and to identify chances for future growth. But for many people, an appraisal is a daunting formal meeting. 

An appraisal at work shouldn’t be scary. Also known as a performance review, it should allow employees and managers to discuss key aspects of the role. Importantly, everybody should feel comfortable and know what to expect. 

If you’ve got a review coming up, read on to see what it could involve — and how to prepare. 

What is an appraisal at work?

An appraisal meeting is a discussion and overview of your employee performance. A formal appraisal may sound scary, and many people often find them intimidating. However, no part of your appraisal should come as a surprise — not a nasty surprise, anyway. This is a critical part of a good company culture. 

Appraisals should be an honest discussion between managers and employees. Your line manager should let you know beforehand what to expect. They might even request that you come prepared with performance data, questions of your own, or anything else that might help.

Many topics can come up during an employee appraisal, whilst you discuss strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Discussion topics will usually fall under one of the following umbrellas: 

What has gone well for you recently Could anything have gone better?Employee development and training needs for the future 

Appraisals should happen regularly — often every few months. Many companies also have a more in-depth annual review, where you’ll discuss bigger-picture topics. In any appraisal process, you can expect to discuss certain subjects time and again. 

What does a performance appraisal involve? 

Work appraisals are a vital part of performance management and professional development. They generally cover a few core themes. You might talk about any (or all) of the following: 

Job performance 

First, you’ll almost certainly cover recent job performance. Your appraisal system should take into consideration performance ratings, in relation to key aspects of your job. In some sectors, this might be heavily data-driven. In others, it could be more qualitative.  

Whatever your role, you’ll discuss your individual performance of your essential requirements. If you receive a poor performance review, don’t panic. Take your time and try to frame it as an opportunity for growth. 

Areas of improvement 

In some work appraisals, you might discuss areas to improve. It’s important to try to take this as a constructive conversation — nobody is perfect, after all. If you recognise a potential weakness, you can ask your manager to help you to develop new skills. Work with your manager and or human resources to identify training courses or mentoring opportunities. 


If you’re part of a team, your appraisal could cover how you function within that group. Reviewing teamwork doesn’t mean gossiping about other team members. Rather, you’ll talk about working relationships and how they function and benefit the company overall. 

Career development plan 

A key aspect of any good appraisal is to set goals for the long term. If you’ve been in your current role for a certain period of time, you’ll usually have an idea of future plans. You might even be part of a succession planning scheme to take over a more senior role. Talk about your career path with your manager to see if you’re on track. 

Pay increases 

In an ideal world, an appraisal might also relate to a pay rise. However, salary can be a sensitive subject. Remember: it’s vital not to go into your review demanding more money straight away.  

If you think you deserve a pay increase, do some research first. Check the market, see what companies offer for similar roles. Then check your performance against key performance indicators (KPIs). If you’re lucky, your employer might offer you a pay rise. If not, you can make an evidence-backed and well-reasoned argument for a salary increase in your review. 

Read our full guide to negotiating a pay rise

What is a 360-degree appraisal? Is it different to a traditional work appraisal?

Many companies use 360-degree appraisals as part of their review process. While there are some similarities with traditional appraisals, there are also a few key differences: 

A 360 appraisal features anonymous feedback from many inputs, including team members and managers.Sometimes, 360-degree feedback can come from outside the business, including clients and vendors.A 360-degree review is usually less likely to focus on data or statistics.

Businesses use 360-degree reviews to seek a broader look at behaviours and performance. This approach is a good way to understand how you perform day-to-day in the eyes of those you work with. If you’re nervous about a 360 review, read our guide to receiving feedback.

How to prepare for your performance review

No matter which kind of appraisal you have coming up, there are some fundamental things to prepare. 

Think about your personal development: It’s time for a bit of self-assessment. Are you developing how you’d like to? Are you on track for future goals or larger targets? Think about these goals and note down your thoughts, then bring them along to your appraisal. Look at your KPIs: If your role involves defined KPIs, then review how your performance measures up. If you’re meeting (or exceeding) your KPIs, your appraisal is a great chance to point this out. If you’re not meeting your goals, this is a good chance to ask for advice or training. Think about any questions or concerns: While many people expect an appraisal to be similar to a job interview, it’s actually a two-way conversation. If you have any questions or concerns, this is an excellent chance to raise them.  Remain professional: Regardless of whether the feedback is good or bad, think about how to remain calm throughout. And, while it might be tempting, remember not to mention co-workers — especially when discussing financials. Keep cool and remain professional throughout your appraisal. 

As with many aspects of your career, preparation is key. Gather information, think about expected questions, and consider strategies for staying calm. Then, you’ll be ready for anything that comes up in your work appraisal. 

Explore more helpful tips about managing your career

If you’re unhappy with your performance review, our experts can help. 

Suggestions for further reading 

Top Workforce Trends of 2024 How to Increase Productivity at Work Career Advice Podcast 

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