Performance Reviews–A Valuable Job Search Tool

If you receive periodic performance reviews from your current employer–or have received them in the past from former employers–are you using them as a job search tool? If not, you might be missing a good bet!

Of course, if all the reviews do is say you are “9 out of 10” or “4 out of 5” or something else equally vague, they might not be very useful. However, in the cases where your manager has actually provided thoughtful, pertinent feedback and comments on your performance, the review can serve as a potentially valuable job search tool.

Savvy job seekers know they cannot afford to overlook this tool if they want to conduct an effective job search and land a desirable position. I might have touched on this topic before, but as with many other things, it could stand repeating, especially if you’ve been overlooking the potential benefits of “mining” your reviews for useful information.

Value of Performance Reviews in a Job Search

Well-written (or even decently written) performance reviews offer several potential value points, including the following:

  • Independent third-party validation of your contributions and accomplishments, rather than you talking about yourself.
  • Reminders of value you contributed that you have since forgotten about or didn’t realize was especially important.
  • Alternative to letters of recommendation you can’t get for one reason or another, either because you’ve lost touch with the person or because the company prohibits them from writing such letters.

Suppose, for example, you made a herculean effort that was largely responsible for getting a critical project back on track, which ensured on-time completion. Saying that about yourself could sound immodest at best and much like arrogant bragging at worst. On the other hand, imagine the effect if your manager wrote in your review, “Jean dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to overcoming a tough problem and getting project XYZ back on schedule. That meant we were able to finish on time and satisfy a key customer.”

See the difference? You can share this comment in an interview or even perhaps quote it briefly in your resume or cover letter. It gives concreteness to your statements about the value you can bring to the prospective employer.

What Performance Reviews Can’t Do for Your Job Search

Realistically, you can’t share your all of your reviews (or even all of one review) with prospective employers. For one thing, it’s likely that some of the information would be considered company-confidential or proprietary. So you need to be selective and conservative in what you use and how you word it. You also can’t–or at least shouldn’t–embellish the details provided in the review. If, for example, your boss told you privately that you had outperformed everyone on the team but didn’t put a statement to that effect in your review, you have to let that one slide. Not only could it sound like bragging but also you can’t support it with proof.

What If You Don’t Have Performance Reviews?

Let’s assume you work for (or have worked for) unenlightened employers that don’t conduct any formal evaluation of their employees’ performance. However, you might have received–or have ways of documenting–written confirmation of something you’ve done that was valuable to the company. Maybe it was in the form of a memo or email, for instance. Keep a copy of that in your file (which should be retained at home, not solely in your work space). You never know when it might come in handy.

Also, keep at least a rough log of things you’ve accomplished that you believe were valuable; it’s useful as a memory jogger, if nothing else.

P.S. I’ve been absent from this blog recently because for two weeks I had to operate my business on a backup laptop computer after my PC “died.” I maintained a degree of functionality that way, but it’s not something I want to repeat any time soon! Fortunately, we had just done a complete backup of my files (I hope you do that for yourself, as well), so I didn’t lose key data, but it was still a productivity hit. I am delighted to be “PC-functional” again!

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