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How to Answer Performance Review Questions

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Meeting with your boss for a performance review probably isn’t one of your favorite activities, particularly if you expect to hear criticism or questions about your performance. When you’re nervous or emotional, you may not answer questions quite as professionally as you would like. A little preparation before the review can give you the confidence you need to handle a potentially difficult conversation.

Attitude is Key

It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude when your boss questions your work. Although you may feel angry, upset or defensive, keep those feelings to yourself. Keep in mind that the purpose of the performance review is to help you become an even better employee. Your supervisor uses questions as tools to help you think about what you could have done differently in situations or what you can do better in the future. Answer questions truthfully, and take ownership of your part in any problems during the past year. You may feel less nervous about the review if you compile a list of questions you think your boss might ask.

Prepare and Reflect

Review your achievements and failures during the past year and write a brief summary of each one. This forces you to focus on outcomes, rather than on extraneous details. When your boss asks you about these items, draw on your prepared summary. For example, if your boss asks why you didn’t meet your sales goal for the second quarter, you can mention that supply shortages affected product deliveries during that quarter – but that you put in extra time the remainder of the year and exceeded your yearly target. Supporting documents can be helpful when responding to questions. “U.S. News and World Report” magazine suggests that you bring a file of accolades and other proof of your accomplishments to the review.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice is the key to a confident delivery of your answers. Take a look at the list of questions you compiled and practice your response to each question. Ask a friend to critique your performance, or record yourself and listen to your answers. It’s important that you answer each question completely and provide facts, figures or other information that back up your answer, if possible. Pay attention to your tone when you answer questions. Aim for a calm, positive tone, no matter what subject you discuss.

The Future

Goals are usually discussed at the end of performance reviews. Be prepared for questions about your goals by writing a list of things you’d like to learn in the coming year or skills you want to improve. Include the reasons you chose these specific goals. For example, you may want to take a database-management class to improve your skills and reduce the time you spend addressing database issues. If you can provide a solid argument for how the class would improve your job performance, your boss might be more willing to approve the request.


Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.

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