How to write an effective performance review

Performance review season is upon us, and with it the dreaded self review. Many of us spend way too much time struggling with this task, how can we summarize our achievements in an appealing yet accurate way? SO MUCH STRESS. In the spirit of keeping the time and effort to a minimum, I’m sharing my tips on writing a stellar self-review, fast.

Image by athree23 from Pixabay

Watch your language

If english is not your first language, start by writing in the language you are most comfortable with. A lot of people struggle with getting started because the language is a barrier. Translate it after you’re done, it doesn’t matter if there are grammar mistakes — what’s important is to list your accomplishments.

Don’t be shy

Self reviews are not the time to be modest, celebrate anything you did, big or small. This doesn’t mean everything you did is super important, but that leads us into the next tip:


Many companies have career ladder guidelines and values, use those to decide what story you want to tell, but even if there are none, you should start by deciding what your narrative is, and then find proof.

Let’s say the story you want to tell is “I’m an amazing mentor”. You’ll gather situations where you helped others out in a formal or informal setting. You’ll frame substantial code reviews or other conversations as mentoring.

If your story is “I’m an amazing architect”, you’ll gather situations where you designed great software or had major input in other’s great designs, and you’ll frame conversations or code reviews as valuable technical input.

This approach will get your message across more effectively and will take less time than trying to fit everything you did this year into your self review without a meaningful order (chronological order is not meaningful…).

Note: this is not about making your achievements more than they are and definitely not about making things up — it’s about getting your message across effectively.

Take notes

If you have regular check-ins with your manager, use them as a reference. If not, and you aren’t doing this already — I recommend spending 5 minutes each week to summarize what you did, who you worked with and other “noteworthy” things. Save links to code and code reviews, documents and discussions you participated in. I also write the occasional note about people I worked with, in case they ask me to write a review of them.

Image by StockSnap Pixabay

Doing this will make check-ins, performance reviews and even sprint retros easier to write, it’s definitely worth the effort (I’ve been doing it for the past two years…).

Bonus: If you feel comfortable doing this and you have 360 reviews (i.e. your colleagues write reviews of you as well as your manager) you can send a summary of what you worked on to your colleagues just to remind them what you did. It will make it easier for them to write their review of you and they will appreciate it.

If you’re a follower you’ll notice this is one of the shortest blog posts I’ve ever written — that’s just because I have my own set of reviews to write.

Hope this helps and good luck!