Self Evaluations: Talking about Yourself without being a Jerk

Don’t be a Jerk!

I’m writing this post to write about what I believe everyone should be doing with their career.  It will be opinionated but hopefully it will give you some good ideas on how to make sure you get what you deserve.  But why should you listen to me?  Good question,  I’ve been a part giving reviews for several years and have given the whole spectrum of results.  I am also a bit selfish.  I hate giving reviews on poor performance and so I want to help everyone out so I don’t ever have to do that again.

evaluaciónThe dreaded self evaluation

Almost every company has one, the dreaded self evaluation.  Why companies can’t just give you feedback throughout the year and pay you what you deserve, I’ll never know.  Until that happens, self-evaluations will be a fact of life.  Whenever this time comes up, it usually feels like someone is peering down on through a microscope and stress usually starts building up.  So how does one defeat the review and come out on top?

Self Evaluations in General

Most reviews incorporate some sort of self evaluation.  Self evaluation should be considered a good thing. As long as you’re completely honest, your reviewers can then see if there is any discrepancies between your opinion and the feedback they received.  This in important because if there is a big disconnect, they will know that they need start communicating that feedback in a better manner.

What a self evaluation is:

  • List of Achievements during the review period
  • Measure of improvement between review periods
  • Bibliography of your year
  • Your voice

The self evaluation is your chance to describe why you are a model employee and why you deserve to get that raise/promotion.  Many people throw away this chance to talk about how awesome they are and don’t spend the time and energy filling it out.  It is my opinion that this should a bibliography about your year.

What a self-evaluation should not be:

  • Punishment or Burden
  • Record of Error
  • Proof of wrong doing.capital_punishment_by_velica-d3kkdru

If your self evaluation feels like anything of the above, you should re-evaluate where you work, period.  Maybe you had a bad year but you should still be able to give your side of the story and how you attempted to make changes and improve. I’ve had previous experience where companies have used this against the employee though. (Thankfully not at my current one)

Your Voice

Self evaluations is your way to document your opinion of yourself and your accomplishments.  Nobody but you really knows exactly how good you are and what you’ve done since your last evaluation.  You might have one on one meetings with your team lead but it’s a great chance to reiterate what you already know.

You’re Awesome!

So yes, you should talk about the great things you’ve done and why you’re job needs you; this is also a chance to document things that may be bothering you.  Maybe you don’t like how your lead micro-manages you, you feel like you’re doing too much paperwork, etc. All of this should be written down but in a very magnanimous way.

How fill the assessment out?

Many times the self assessment is a form that your employer will ask you to fill out.  Each form is different so I can’t directly answer or address items from your form, but  I can give you some pointers on what should and shouldn’t do.  Everything in general, can be done using the following two principles.

Count the Dots Principle (CDP)

This is simple, many self evaluations will give you an open ended question or ask you for a specific number of items; followed by an empty unordered list.  Whenever you see a dot, you should put something in.  Your employer has given you an idea on how much input they want.  You can go over that amount but you never want to under submit.

Never Leave it Blank (NLB)

Many self evaluations also have open ended questions like, “What do you think our company could do better?”  It is my opinion, that any question that is an open ended question should be answered.  Thus never leave it blank.

How to Note your Significant Accomplishments

Accomplishments should be noted and be detailed as much as possible.  I like to takes notes of these throughout the year so I can remind myself later after the event takes place.  However they should be very quantifiable.  The list of achievements below are great achievements to have on your self evaluation but they are not very quantifiable.

Here are some examples of poorly detailed achievements:

  • I completed a certification
  • Received recognition from my client for finding the most bugs.
  • I worked on three major projects

Here’s how I would spruce them up:

  • I studied, practiced, and attained Microsoft 70-480 certification
  • Received recognition from my client for finding more than 300 bugs during the review period.
  • Completed 3 major projects in the last 12 months.  These projects were all on time and under budget.  User’s constantly comment on how much they love the new systems.

List Your Strengths

I’ve seen the gamut of strengths that people put down on their self evaluations.  Many times there are just one word answers of buzz word they think people like to hear.  This is a terrible way to list these out.


Poorly Worded Strengths:

  •  Integrity –  I come to work on time and work 8 hours a day.
  • Detailed Oriented – I have found many bugs
  • Communication – Answer emails promptly.

Well thought out strengths:

  •  Project Management – I have continued to be able to work on projects within the time frames and budgets given and giving the client ample warning if the time allotted isn’t enough. I was also able to tell clients in advance if the project was going to be done early or if there would be downtime in advance so they would have ample to time to find new tasks.
  •  Problem Solving –  I am quick to understand problems and propose workable solutions to fix issues. While working on projects, I often find usability or production issues that are out of scope on the project and have stepped in to point out the problem and possible solutions to fix the problem.
  •  Communication – I am quick to respond to clients’ needs and to our other business partners, with clear and concise information so very little clarification is necessary. In meetings, I take initiative and engage with our partners to make sure we have a plan of action so that meeting time is not wasted.

Identify Your Areas of Improvement

This should not be a section that you skip or leave one word answers.  If you put something down and don’t explain why then your reviewer is going to assume the worse.  This is your chance to put down some hopefully known “weaknesses” and show how you have been working to improve them.  You can even take things you would call strengths and turn them to weaknesses but phrase them in ways that show you should always be improving them.

Here are some examples of poor weakness identification:

  •  Need to better prioritize the details I focus on
  •  Could compose my emails so that clients require less clarification.

Here are some examples of good weakness identification:

  •  Technical – I still need some exposure to working on real world MVC applications versus ones I do in my own time. Would also like more exposure to IOC and Dependency Injection.
  • Development – I feel that this should always be an area for improvement because if I don’t then I am falling behind.  I can improve on this by learning a new JavaScript framework this year and by attending more user group meetings.

In Conclusion

These are some tips I’ve compiled through my many years of being on the receiving end of a review as well as performing them.  If I were to create a “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, it would be don’t blow off your self evaluation but spent time on it.  I often spend two to three hours crafting mine.  Do yourself a favor and make sure you are getting the review you deserve by letting your employer know all of the great things you do for them.



By Brett The Whitt

Brett is a web development consultant and has been working for more than 12 years. He specializes in hybrid mobile app development and using front end frameworks such as AngularJS. Always passionate about continuous education, he has been most recently mentoring and encouraging his co-workers to become better speakers. To further this growth, he leads Lightning Talk Nights and other events at his job at HMB Inc

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