How To Rock a Perfomance Review and Get a Pay Raise

Most people treat performance reviews as a boring tedious task that they have to do. Fill out a few questions, talk to your boss, and perhaps it will be tied to your annual raise and you get a 2.5% increase in pay... Whoop-de-do...

Personally, I think performance reviews suck, I just don't think they aren't the best use of time. Maybe the companies that you have worked for have been different but my managers always seem to make their employees make these "checklists" for them but no one really seems to care. In all of the companies I have worked for I have always been under the firm belief that goals should be flexible and regularly reviewed. In business, targets can easily change and I think the best companies know how to adapt to them.

But not all companies are so rigidly structured, sometimes your performance review can actually result in something more than the common 2-5% pay raise. That's why I treat performance reviews as if they were just as important as my first interview with the company. I do my research, I come in prepared, well rehearsed, and ready to kick ass. Here's some tips on how to nail that next performance review and get that raise.

Have A Goal

What do you want to get out of your performance review? A raise, a promotion, more training in a specific area? If you haven't told your boss some specific goals then this is the time to let them know the direction you want to shape your career. If you want a raise then for your review you better back up why you think you have earned it. If you don't ask for it then they aren't going to bring it up for you.

Prepare Early

This might be one of the most crucial things if your review is tied to a pay increase or if you are specifically requesting one. Usually with a performance review you have a week or so to do a self review. Finish this early, if you send it back to your boss the day before your review your fate may already be sealed. In order to give you a pay increase your boss will typically have to talk to his boss or HR to get the final stamp of approval, so make sure that your boss has time to get the wheels in motion.

Keep Notes On Your Accomplishments

So you know all those little projects you do then forget about a few weeks later, you should be writing those down all year as you do them so you don't forget. When it comes time for a review, you should already have a log on everything that you've done.

If you can show up to a performance review with a quick cheat sheet on everything you've accomplished, it will not only show your boss that you're organized but it will let them see all the things you've done that they have forgotten about too. As a manager, if all you have to do is review someone's notes and give an approval it makes things much easier than having to do the research themselves. Do the work for them!

Document Your Case

Mention all of your contributions to the company. Get comparable salaries for your industry or position. If you can compare workloads within your team or if you have new responsibilities then you should mention those.

Do your bosses job for them! If you've done projects that help your boss do their job then make sure you mention them. If you can, try to make it a point to find a task that your boss does and find a way to simplify it so it frees up their time, they won't forget this. Especially if you remind them. Always be on the lookout for things you can do for your boss. Does this make you a suck up? Probably. But I don't care if I end up getting paid more. If you're trying to 'play it cool' so your coworkers like you more, then management will see no reason to promote you up the ranks.


Stay calm and collected. You've done the research, you can back up your case with evidence, not just an "I deserve it" argument, so you should have nothing to worry about. If you're prepared your boss will know it, taking the time to prepare is a sign that you take all aspects of your job seriously. Speak strategically, don't fill in blank spots in the conversation just because you feel like someone should be talking. Make a point, then pause and give your boss some time to respond.

Ask For Feedback

What you can work on? Where you can improve? Ask your boss the hardest parts of their job and if there is any way you can help them. If you can help them do their job better, it will not be forgotten.

Delay Any Rebuttal

If your boss does give you some negative feedback then take some time to digest that criticism. Obviously they thought about it and felt they needed to mention it to you. Trying to refute what they told you will probably not help. On the other hand you should probably not be hearing negative feedback for the first time during your review, if it was an issue then your boss should have mentioned it before. If you take that constructive criticism without getting defensive and make adjustments, that shows a lot of professional maturity. Your boss should notice this.

Now go get that raise!

Painting by Ian Francis


  1. Do you think it is important to ask about performance reviews when you are hired? Maybe what is to be expected, etc.? I am just thinking that it may play into how you work in a raise and whether or not you take a salary below what you are asking knowing that there is an opportunity for more money in a few months. Also think about how you will work in getting your next raise if one doesn't get issued at the performance review. I know some companies have a cap and sometimes people find that out at the reviews so it may be a matter of working yourself into another position.

    1. I think that asking about the review process is a perfectly valid question to ask during an interview, it shows that you're interested in personal growth within the company. This is also a good thing to ask during your first week of work (that's when I usually do it) because then you can ask your boss those questions about what their expectations are for you in the first month or so and you can strive to beat them. Then when it really does come time for a review you can say that your boss gave you these goals and you beat them and also did x, y, and z.

      If you don't get a raise during a review, you think you deserve one, and have valid reasons for it that you can back it up with, then the negotiation can be ongoing. You can ask things like, "If not now, then when can we revisit this because it's important to me?" If you get no answer then that's a bad sign and you might want to consider a new company if future talks of pay raises are simply out of the question. You could also ask things like, "What would it take to get me an increase in salary?" and from there you can setup goals that if you meet then it would lead to an increase.

      The key is to keep the negotiation friendly and open. If you start making demands then they won't really like that, and if they start to not like you, they won't want to give you more money. Being liked is one of the biggest keys to a pay raise, if your boss wants to give you that raise then it will probably take less convincing to get it to happen. The key is trying to explain your worth without making them dislike you more, these two elements can conflict with each other so you have to be careful.

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