The HR Godfather

Helping graduates navigate the unspoken world of business.

IT’S REVIEW TIME! Tips for Self-Evaluations!

English: Evaluation check boxes for software r...

The end of the year means many things for companies, but it is often a time when companies choose to do their reviews as well. Someone asked me for opinions on self-evaluations and as I started answering them, I realized it would be a good topic for all of my readers. This also got me thinking about the entire review process and so this will be the first of a series of articles about reviews.


Since the initial question was about self-evaluations, let me begin by answering this question. For those who don’t know, a “self-evaluation” is exactly what it sounds like; a person uses some criteria to evaluate themselves. This is usually paired with a manager’s evaluation of the person and sometimes affects how that manager’s evaluation is finalized.
Unfortunately, not all companies take self-evaluations seriously. Some use this as a way of fishing for problems that they may not know about. Other companies don’t take the time to train their managers on what are good and bad responses AND why they are good or bad. And very few companies do a good job of preparing their employees with explanations of their expectations. Altogether, it makes a recipe for stress and confusion.

Here are some general rules for self-evaluations:

1) Know your manager/management.

Some value more open responses and see these as a good reflection of your own understanding of yourself. Others treat this as a “gotcha” time, where the wrong responses can hurt but the right ones are ignored. Be sure you know which you have!

2) Keep it professional.

The One Minute Manager

The One Minute Manager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps it should go without saying, but personal problems should not be brought up, although the effects may be fair game. For instance, having a drinking problem is not a company issue, but poor attendance, attitude, or work quality as a result of this problem are company issues. Mentioning the drinking problem is much more likely to have negative consequence, whereas mentioning improvement of your attendance, attitude or work quality can be valid and insightful responses.

3) Only list two or three things, unless prompted for more.

Even if you know of 500 things, most people freak out if presented with too much “negativity”. Two or three seems to be a magic range for most people where they feel you made a good effort while not seeming too negative.

4) Unless the “good answers” are obviously true, try to avoid them.

Many people look to books & other resources to find the “good answers”. These are theoretically answers which show your “weaknesses” in a way that makes them appear to be “strengths”, perhaps the best known is “I tend to take on too many projects and become overloaded with work.” The problem with these answers is the fact that these managers usually have run into these answers repeatedly and can become skeptical about how legitimately this is a “weakness” for you.


Find out what answers they are looking for. Take someone to lunch who has a similar role or reports to the same manager and pick their brain about what is expected on these. If the company has made a farce out of this process, there is no reason to hurt yourself with too much honesty. For most people, they can find a “correct” answer which is accurate enough to be honest and protect yourself at the same time.

-The HR Godfather

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