How to Write a Self-Assessment: 5 Tips to Improve Your Evaluation

How to Write a Self-Assessment: 5 Tips to Improve Your Evaluation
  • Both employees and managers can use self-assessments to track their recent performance and plan their future growth.
  • Honesty and constructive criticism are as important as professionalism and ambition in a good self-assessment.
  • You can build your self-assessment from several starter phrases about communication, performance, reliability, leadership, innovation, teamwork and problem-solving.
  • This article is for employees and managers looking to use self-improvement to assess performance and plot out future growth.

A performance evaluation is an important tool for keeping communication flowing between teams. Periodic evaluation is a chance for managers and employees to review the recent past and discuss future expectations. An evaluation also serves as an opportunity to set goals as individuals and as a team, and an important part of this process is the employee self-assessment. These tips will help you create a useful self-assessment for your next performance evaluation.

Importance of self-assessments

Self-assessments can be equally useful for employees and managers. The evaluations are normally short, take less than 15 minutes to complete and have long-term benefits for all the involved parties.

For employees

Self-assessments are the portion of a performance review that offers employees an opportunity to self-reflect and consider what their strengths and weaknesses are. They are important not only for professional growth but personally as well. By critiquing their own work and behavior, employees can gain insight that helps them improve.

For managers

Employees’ self-assessments tell managers how their employees see themselves in the context of the team and the organization at large. They highlight any disagreements or misunderstandings between managers and employees. Self-assessments also offer an opportunity for gathering employee feedback about what motivates an employee (beyond money) to do their best work. From there, managers can encourage professional development for employees.

performance evaulations

“Modern employees are intrinsically motivated to work autonomously and by opportunities to learn and grow. So, from a management perspective, self-assessments ― which contribute to autonomy and development ― are incredibly valuable,” said David Hassell, founder and CEO of 15Five. “Work product from intrinsically motivated employees tends to be more impactful and sustainable than work derived from extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses or fear tactics.”

Key takeaway: Self-assessments are important for both employees and managers as a lever of professional growth.

Best practices for writing a self-assessment

Despite its importance, writing a self-assessment is no easy task. Analyzing oneself can be immensely difficult, especially when that analysis is submitted to a supervisor for review. If you’re having trouble getting started, these five tips will help you learn how to write a self-assessment. [Learn more about performance management plans.]

1. Be proud

One major goal of the self-evaluation is to highlight your accomplishments and recollect milestones in your professional development. A good self-assessment should point to specific tasks and projects that highlight your best work. When describing those accomplishments, employees should emphasize the impact those achievements had on the whole business to emphasize their value to the company.

Julie Rieken, CEO of Applied Training Systems Inc., said you should strive to connect your actions with a manager’s goals. This alignment encourages any manager and conveys that you understand your role within the larger context of the company.

“If your manager needs to hit a certain number, share how you played a role in hitting the number,” Rieken said. “Accomplishments you list should connect with business objectives.”

2. Be honest and critical

Self-assessments aren’t just about highlighting triumphs. You should also critically assess the times you came up short. Being honest means pointing out weaknesses that could be improved upon or past failures that taught you a valuable lesson. Recognizing your own flaws is important to demonstrate your ability to learn and grow.

Still, it’s important not to be self-deprecating in your assessment. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow and director of career development programs at Harvard Business School, advised employees to use developmental language when critiquing the areas in which they need to improve.

“You don’t want to say, ‘Here’s where I really fall down,’” Butler told the Harvard Business Review. “Instead, say, ‘Here’s an area I want to work on. This is what I’ve learned. This is what we should do going forward.’”

3. Continuously strive for growth

It’s important during self-assessments to never stagnate; humans are constantly learning and changing (this is why adaptable, resilient teams are so important and common). Whether you’ve had a great year or fallen short of your own expectations, it’s important to remain committed to improving and educating yourself. During a self-assessment, taking a moment to list your goals and objectives for the coming year demonstrates that you are not content to settle.

writing a performance evaluation

“The first step is to adopt a growth mindset and understand that adult human potential is not fixed,” Hassell said. “We are always in a state of becoming, and our potential increases or decreases based on many factors, including the environments where we live and work. Adopting that framework prevents people from becoming too transfixed on their perceived failures and from becoming too attached to their triumphs.”

Managers will also see a willingness to improve and take on new things as a sort of coachability. If an employee has struggled, making room for growth could improve their performance. On the other hand, an employee thriving in their position requires growth opportunities to prevent boredom or stagnation.

4. Track your accomplishments

Providing hard data to show what you’ve done throughout the year is highly beneficial. Employees and managers may roughly understand how you have performed but having concrete numbers to back up any assertion strengthens the validity of your self-assessment.

“If employees … spend 10 seconds a day writing down their one biggest accomplishment, success, metric hit, feedback received for that day, they’d have 10 times more data than they’d ever need for self-assessment,” said Mike Mannon, president of WD Communications.

Hank Yuloff, the owner of Yuloff Creative Marketing Solutions, said continuous evaluation of your performance can make it much easier to ground your self-assessment in facts and measurable data.

“We teach our clients to keep a list of daily and weekly accomplishments so that when it is time for the self-assessment, there is very little guesswork as to how valuable they are to the company,” Yuloff said.

5. Be professional

You should always be professional when writing self-assessments. This means not bashing the boss for poor leadership or criticizing co-workers for making your life more difficult. It also means not gushing over a co-worker or manager you like. Whether you are providing critical or positive feedback, professionalism is important.

Being professional means giving the appraisal its due attention, like any other important project that crosses your desk. Dominique Jones, chief people officer at BusPatrol, recommends treating your self-evaluation like a work of art that builds over time. She said you’ll be much happier with the result if you give yourself time to reflect and carefully support your self-assessment.

“Use examples to support your assertions and … make sure that you spell- and grammar-check your documents,” Jones wrote in a blog post. “These are all signs of how seriously you take the process and its importance to you.”

Sample: How to write a self-assessment

Keeping things simple and using short, declarative bullet points are key to writing an effective self-assessment. While the exact nature of your self-assessment might depend on your industry or your job description, this basic model can help guide you in writing a self-evaluation.

Strengths

  • I am a dedicated employee who understands my role and responsibilities, as well as the larger mission of our business. I strive to both do my job and make this company successful.
  • I am a good communicator who stays on task and helps rally the team when cooperation is needed to meet a deadline or solve a problem.
  • I am a creative thinker who can develop novel solutions and improve conventional ways of doing things.

Weaknesses

  • I am somewhat disorganized, which often impacts my productivity. I have learned how to manage my time better and intentionally direct my efforts. While it remains a challenge, I have seen some progress and look forward to continually improving.
  • Sometimes, I do not ask for help when I could benefit from assistance. I am always willing to help my teammates, and I know they feel the same way, so I will try to be more vocal about when I need a helping hand moving forward.

Core values

  • I believe in teamwork and cooperation to overcome any obstacle.
  • I value respect and transparency between employees and managers.
  • I value friendship and building warm relationships within the workplace.
  • I strive to be a welcoming and helpful presence to my co-workers.

Accomplishments

  • I never missed a deadline in the past year and often submitted my work early.
  • I’ve gone beyond my job description to ensure our team operates optimally, staying late and helping others whenever it could contribute to our collective goal.
  • I created and delivered a presentation, stepping outside my comfort zone to do so. It was well received and bolstered my confidence regarding public speaking.

Goals

  • I want to continue developing my presentation and public speaking skills. As a weakness that I listed on previous self-assessments, it is gratifying to see that I have made some progress on this skill set, and I would like to double down on the growth.
  • I aspire to enter a managerial role. I enjoy working closely with my teammates and considering the bigger picture, and I often efficiently help direct resources. I could see myself as a manager who helps facilitate teamwork and encourages workers to do their best.

Feedback

  • My manager is pleasant and transparent, and they always set clear expectations. I never have to guess where I stand. I appreciate the openness and direct communication.
  • I want to be more involved in decision-making at the team level. I believe each team member has unique insights that supervisors cannot fully understand since their perspective is different. I believe involving staff members in strategic planning could greatly improve results.

Did you know?: You should keep your self-assessment short and simple by using bullet points.

Additional self-evaluation example phrases

Along with the elements in the preceding sample, self-evaluation forms might ask you to address some more specific areas. Your answers will give your employer deeper insights into how you view your strengths and weaknesses. Here are some tried-and-true phrases that managers like to see in a self-assessment.

Communication

For communication efforts on the job, here are a few common phrases to include:

  • I communicate effectively with project managers and team members.
  • I can have difficult conversations with co-workers and managers in a respectful manner.
  • I provide constructive feedback and know how to accept the same from team members and management.

Performance

Performance is normally the most generalized area of self-assessments. These are some effective phrases to use:

  • I worked on X projects and met timelines and goals for each one.
  • I take the initiative on each project and confirm that I understand the parameters before launch.
  • I’m consistently the top performer within my project team.
  • I always look for ways to improve on the job.

Reliability

The reliability section will discuss how dependable you perceive yourself to be so that you can include the below statements:

  • I am well known for my dependability and the way I give it my all on every project.
  • My work is always done on time with a high level of accuracy.
  • I’m always on time at work and arrive at meetings early, being mindful of other people’s time.

Leadership

For leadership, you should use phrases demonstrating how you’ve taken the initiative in the workplace.

Here are a few examples:

  • I always go out of my way to help co-workers.
  • I make sure everyone on my team feels comfortable when exchanging ideas.
  • I look for ways to keep my team on track and meet important milestones.
  • I brainstorm ways to motivate others and freely give praise when performance goals are met.
graphic of person using a laptop near large gears

Innovation

For innovation, the self-assessment is looking for ways that you creatively solved problems. Here are a few example statements:

  • I always look for better ways to manage projects and ensure the process goes smoothly.
  • I’m not afraid to look for out-of-box solutions.
  • I don’t let change interrupt workflow. Instead, I roll with the adjustments to keep projects on track.

Teamwork

You need to demonstrate how well you can get your team to work together, using phrases similar to the below.

  • I maintain a positive attitude to benefit my co-workers and managers.
  • I encourage team members to work together as a way for us all to reach a common goal.
  • I always consider my co-workers’ feelings and show respect for their opinions.

Problem-solving skills

In this section, you’re expected to talk about ways you have come up with solutions to common workplace problems. Here are a couple of sample phrases:

  • I can look at a problem from every direction to devise a creative solution.
  • I’m willing to ask for help when having a difficult time brainstorming a solution to a workplace problem.

Make performance evaluations a habit

Performance evaluations help everyone know where they stand and how they’re performing in relation to business goals. Often, workplaces engage in performance evaluations annually, but they should become an ongoing process to fairly and accurately evaluate employees and create a positive company culture of constant communication and feedback.

“[S]elf-assessments cannot merely be an annual event. They are part of an ongoing and regular practice of reflection,” Hassell said. “If you look at a snapshot of performance, you will never see the truth. It’s too easy to focus on a particular experience or event and then create an overarching story around performance.”

This will prevent “recency bias,” a type of tunnel vision that centers on recent events rather than the big picture. It also creates an inclusive, give-and-take culture where employees are invited to offer feedback to their managers as much as their managers offer them feedback. Overall, a workplace built on inclusive communication has a greater chance of success.

“Managers who adopt a coaching or mentorship role can provide external reflections and much-needed perspective so employees can see failures as learning opportunities,” Hassell said. “They can also enjoy the praise of a job well done but not dwell on past triumphs, because every company has a continued need for peak employee performance over time.”

Max Freedman also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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