First performance review tips for employees

9 min read | Pam Lindsay-Dunn, Director of People and Culture, Hays EMEA | Article | Career development | General

Man sitting at table in work space speaking to younger female colleague

Even if you feel you’re doing well at your new job, the only way you can really know is after your first performance review. So how should you prepare for this important meeting?

It’s never too early in a new job to start thinking about your first performance review. Every company runs their performance reviews differently, so make sure you aren’t caught off guard. Try to find out:

  • How will your performance so far be assessed? For instance, some companies may conduct objective based feedback, whilst others have 360-degree employee performance appraisals.
  • What should you prepare before the meeting? Are there any guidelines or documents on the intranet which you will need to read before? 
  • Were you set formal objectives when you joined, which you need to provide an update on?
  • Who will be present during the meeting? It may well just be your manager, but some companies may ask someone from HR to sit in as well.

Once you have a better understanding of what to expect, it’s time to start thinking about what you would like to get from this meeting, and how best you can prepare.


First employee performance review at a glance

Before your review, think back on the last six months. Remember, your first employee performance review will be a two-way conversation about your progress and performance since starting. 

You’ll also discuss your experience in the company so far. As such, expect to be asked the below, and plan your answers accordingly:

  • The reality of the role, versus what you expected it to be following your interview
  • The tasks you have enjoyed, and would like to be doing more
  • The tasks you have struggled with, and what kind of support you need moving forward
  • Any changes or increments in responsibility since you joined
  • Your progress with targets and objectives
  • Any other key achievements.

This meeting isn’t just about your manager assessing your performance – although this part is important. It is also about you having the chance to feedback to your manager on how you are feeling in your new role, and what you need further support with. 

Your manager will also want to know what you are hoping to achieve before your next performance review. How can they help you get there? 

Communicate your career ambitions

Your first performance review isn’t just about looking back, but also looking forward. What would you like to have achieved before your next review? 

Start by thinking bigger and visualise the next one, three, and even five years of your career. Now work back from there. Assess what you can do to move closer towards this goal over the next six months. How will you need to upskill and grow your expertise, and who in the business can help you with this?

Don’t be afraid to share your wider goals with your manager during your performance review. Ask for their advice on how you can reach them. It is important to have a clear discussion with your boss around your career ambitions, and to start this conversation early.

During the meeting

If you have prepared using the steps above, the meeting itself should be a straightforward process. Your manager will most likely take the lead and ask for your feedback first. Be positive and professional, and if you have any concerns or problems to raise with your manager, be sure to suggest solutions to these as well.

Listen attentively to your manager’s comments and take notes on where you can improve, as well as what you are doing well. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples if anything is unclear.

Once you move onto discussing your goals going forward, it’s important that you ask your manager for their help and guidance with achieving the outcome you want from the meeting.

After your performance review

After your first performance review, send a summary email of the points discussed to your line manager. This will help check that both of you are on the same page. It might be something that your employer will formalise anyway, but it is a good idea to get into the habit of doing this yourself.

Don’t feel you have to wait another six months to speak with your boss again. Your first performance review is a good opportunity for you to set up an open and ongoing dialogue with your boss early on about your career progression at this company. 

At the end of the meeting, confirm when the next review will take place, and how you can touch base in between then to review how you’re getting on.

If you’re finding an aspect of the job challenging

It’s normal to find some aspects of a new job tricky. In your first review, don’t be afraid to admit if something is difficult – it’s your employer’s responsibility to help you progress. 

GROW is an acronym and a very well-known coaching technique created in the 80s by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore. It’s a great tool to target a difficulty and get back on track. GROW stands for:

  • Goal – What are the goals that you set out to achieve?
  • Reality – Why aren’t you achieving them?
  • Options – What are your options for changing this reality?
  • Way Forward – How are you going to make this change?

Once you’ve identified your area for improvement, agree on a way forward with your manager. For this to work, these actions must be SMART.

  • S – Specific. Ensure each goal is specific and clear in your mind
  • M – Measurable. Now that you have a better idea of your goal, how will you measure your progress with these goals?
  • A – Attainable. Plan how you will attain these goals, and be prepared to put in work
  • R – Relevant. Put your goals into the context of your wider career plan, giving you the impetus to complete them
  • T – Time-scaled. Lastly, goals need a beginning, middle and end point. When are you going to start when are you expecting to have achieved your goal?

As part of setting SMART goals, you should also make a date to review your progress. Tie this in with future employee performance reviews to see your improvements over time.


What you need to remember about the first employee performance review

Your first performance review isn’t something to dread. Try and approach it with an open mind and a clear idea of the points you would like to get across to your manager following your first six months at the company. 

If you do this, and prepare for the meeting as thoroughly as possible, you give yourself the opportunity to steer your career at this company in the right direction from the very beginning.

For more information or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant.


About this author

About Pam Lindsay-Dunn

Pam has been at Hays for over 20 years and is the Director of People and Culture working across EMEA. Prior to her current role working across Europe, Pam held a management role within Hays running a large commercial region in the UK. 

Having benefited from gaining first-hand experience managing teams in a busy sales environment, Pam is now passionate about sharing her experience; providing the best support to our business and ensuring that our workforce is able to adapt to the changing world of work.

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