Many companies ask employees to write both self-reviews and 360 reviews of their coworkers at least once a year. Especially for self-reviews, you should put a lot of time into coming up with specifics. For example, you might discuss how quickly you were able to troubleshoot a production issue. You should try to gather data and metrics as well. Make sure to specify what the impact was in each case.
How do you gather data for your self-review? First, brainstorm all the projects you have worked on recently. You can look at old email, calendar items, task tracking tickets, code changes, and Slack conversations. If you have a personal growth plan, looking at your goals may jog your memory. You can also look at your company’s values and mission statement.
If this is your first performance cycle working with a new manager, it makes sense to include the highlights of your historical accomplishments at the company. He or she may not have gotten that full context from your previous manager.
The more number-based metrics you can gather, the better. It’s totally worth your time to write some lightweight code if you need to pull certain data. For example, in the past I’ve spent a few hours coding solutions for analyzing my calendar, my wiki contributions, and my code review comments.
You always want your writing to be concise. Summarize the most important points at the top. Most content should be in bullet point form. Include all accomplishments, but organize them into categories. While your manager will read the entire thing, it will help if it’s scannable when you both sit down to discuss it.
Most items should provide specific examples of accomplishments, and explicitly detail their impact on the team. It’s not enough to say that you write very high-quality code. It’s much more actionable if you say you helped a teammate fix a specific bug in some code, resulting in system downtime being avoided.
It’s worthwhile to try to phrase accomplishments in the same terms the company uses to evaluate people. Shamelessly use the exact words and phrases contained in the review guidelines, mission statement, and company values.
Have a draft of your self-review ready for the last one-on-one with your manager before it’s due. It’s fair game to talk about it in advance with your boss and potentially change some items before you submit it. Your manager can help you brainstorm additional accomplishments, examples, and impacts.
Right after you have written your self-review is an excellent time to think about updating your resume. Many of the accomplishments in your self-review, especially the data-oriented ones, are the exact things you should be adding to your public-facing resume. People often forget their accomplishments when it comes time to update their resumes for a job search. Gathering specific metrics and data points contemporaneously with the work that you are doing is much easier than trying to dig them up later.
A good manager should be drafting your review throughout the year, and you should also be drafting your self-review on an ongoing basis! Take notes on your accomplishments throughout the year, and write down specific quotes you hear about your performance. Those are fair game to include in a self-review, even if the person quoted is not giving your 360 feedback. If the director of your department once called you out in an all-hands meeting for doing a great job, include that in your self-review!
How do you remember to write down your accomplishments over the course of a year? Try using a personal Google doc and set a weekly reminder on your calendar. Each time, think about one or two things from the past week that you can document. When your self-review comes up, pick out the most impactful items. As a bonus, you should also raise those accomplishments in real-time with your boss during normal one-on-ones. Just like a manager giving feedback to an employee, it’s more impactful to highlight these items as they happen.
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! While there is a place in your self-review to reflect on your weaknesses, the bulk of the review should focus on what you’re great at. During your day to day you optimize for team success. When writing your self-review, you want to call out what you individually contributed to the team.
Be aware that writing anything well takes time. You will need at least two or three drafts of your self-review. So, start at least a week ahead of when it’s due. That also gives you time to gather any relevant data that is not readily at your fingertips even if it involves writing a little bit of code. Good luck!