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Preparing For Annual Appraisals

11 Mar 2020 |

By Bethany Rose Huff Guelbert


Appraisals are a fantastic opportunity for you and your manager to catch up since your last appraisal, or indeed, for the first time, discussing how things have gone and to iron out any creases. Of course, these should be addressed throughout the year too, but an appraisal is the perfect time to look at the bigger picture of the last year and planning for the future, especially with regards to remuneration.

What is an Appraisal?

Depending upon your contract with your employer, appraisals occur once per six months, or once per year. They’re a chance for constructive feedback between you and your manager regarding your performance, achievements and lessons learned, as well as what you have your sights set on for the coming six months/year.

There’s a certain blueprint that appraisals tend to follow, however there is no one size fits all. You will be asked to complete a form outlining the things that went well over the last year/six months, what could be improved and examples of both. Once complete, you’ll have a formal one-to-one meeting with your manager who will discuss these points with you and maybe raise the topic of pay. It’s becoming increasingly common for these appraisals to include a “360” appraisal that involves (sometimes anonymous) feedback from your peers, line managers, direct reports if you have them and other stakeholders.

Written Questions

The part that many people find most tricky is the written self-analysis, especially when asked to acknowledge the things we did well and give ourselves a little pat on the back. Here’s a little helping hand to guide you through those tougher questions.

What would you consider went well this year?

When filling out this section of the form, take the time to look at your company’s mission statement and key values, and cast your eye over your job description to make sure you hit all the duties in your role description. This can also highlight to you how much more work you’ve been doing outside of your role!


When it comes to this old chestnut, the best thing to do is plan your answer to this throughout the year. Make notes of every project you’re involved in throughout the year and annotate what you did well, and how your actions positively impacted the outcomes of those projects. The more specificity, the better with this - avoid ambiguity at all costs!


Keep a note of any positive feedback that you get from colleagues, customers and other stakeholders.


Where possible, think back to your last appraisal and address any action points that you were going to target this year and address how you’ve worked on those and achieved your goals for the year.


Equally as importantly, highlight work that you did where you went above and beyond the call of duty, went the extra mile, or took on work that was above your station to further your skill set. Outline any upskilling you’ve done over the past year and explain to your employer how these make you an even more valuable member of the team than you already are!

What could have gone better this year?


Contrary to common belief, this part is not the same as making a rod for your own back. Being honest with yourself and your boss through this section demonstrates a huge amount of self-awareness and emotional intelligence - a key trait that many employers are looking for in their staff.


Anticipate the next question from this - how do you plan to make sure these things don’t happen next year? Do a little self-reflection and demonstrate how you plan to action these points and how you’ll measure whether or not you’re succeeding in these points.

What are your goals for the coming year?


You won’t get anywhere without a map. Identify the waypoints you need to hit in order to get to where you want to be, to get the promotion you desire. Build on your current responsibilities, outline the help and support you might need in order for you to reach those goals, even enquire as to the sorts of skills you’ll need to get to qualify for a promotion and discuss how you can hone in on these on a day-to-day basis.

Get proactive. Identify upcoming projects or initiatives you can/want to get involved with, shout your successes from the rooftops and reference back to your achievements for the year to back up why you’ll excel in this next career step. If you feel you’re deserving of a raise or a promotion already, this question is where you’ll lay the groundwork for that part of the appraisal.

Formal Meeting

Once you’ve handed in your written feedback, your line manager will arrange a formal meeting to provide verbal feedback, and discuss any discrepancies. It’s important to remember that this stage of the appraisal is a two-way street and is up for discussion. You’ll need to be prepared to receive any constructive criticism, be challenged on your feedback and also to be respectful of these.

If the negative feedback you’re receiving seems to have come out of left-field for you, now is the time to realign your perspective on what your KPIs are with your line manager to ensure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to targets and what you’re being measured on. You can’t be expected to work towards targets that you have not been made aware of!

Discussing Compensation


Discussing salary can be an uncomfortable conversation, especially in a society that is uncomfortable discussing money, especially in a professional environment. The most important thing to do in advance of this conversation is to prepare and research. When your line manager asks why you want and deserve this pay rise, “Because I want more money” simply won’t cut it.

Research what the market rate is for your role and experience level and compare this to your current experience and role.

Provide supporting evidence for your reasoning behind why you deserve the pay rise. This may have already been addressed earlier in the appraisal, but at this stage it’s essential to be able to evidence your claims.

Be your own best advocate. What is your USP? Where have you proven yourself to be an asset to the company? What are some of your brightest shining moments?


Neither the employer nor employee should enter this conversation expecting a solidified resolution by the end of the meeting. HR needs to be consulted and you may wish to ask for a few days to consider their offer before accepting/negotiating further. Additionally, coming across as desperate or overly keen for the raise, may only result in you receiving a lower offer than you otherwise would have received by remaining confident and calm. ​


Lastly, it’s imperative that when discussing the final offer from your line manager, you lay out on the table what you both understand the offer to be, and any conditions of the offer. Once all is confirmed, ask for the offer to be formalised in writing via e-mail and an updated contract of employment.

In Summary

Ultimately, a positive annual appraisal comes down to mutual respect, positive & constructive self-reflection, and openness. It’s important to ensure that you maintain enthusiasm for your role and the company throughout the meeting even if you’ve already decided that you may be leaving. Prepare evidence and anticipate questions so that you’re ready to answer them fully. However tempting, leave threats of resigning and external job offers out of this conversation and focus on tangible evidence for your successes and value to the company.

If you have any further questions about what to expect from your appraisal, your consultant is always on hand to help at recruit@vwa.com

VWA specialises in the recruitment of London’s most elite and qualified business support staff such as PAs and EAs, office management and operations, graduates, HR, creative and marketing professionals.

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