Four tips to guarantee the highest performance rating at your firm

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The secret to being rated as a high performer at your firm is to act like one. While each firm has a different performance rating system, ratings are generally given on a scale. The performance rating scale generally includes the below categories but could be expanded further depending on the firm: 

1. Did not meet expectations

2. Meets expectations

3. Exceeded expectations

The highest category is “exceeded expectations” which is what you need to aim for to stand out as a top performer. This top rating will also translate into the highest merit increase when raises come around.

Another benefit to being a top-rated performer at your firm is that a high rating will help if you ever have an interest in transferring service lines or cities. I managed to achieve top ratings as a first and second year at Deloitte. During my time at the firm, I was approved to transfer to an office in a different city and I was approved to transfer from audit to advisory. I doubt either transfer would have been approved if I wasn’t rated as a high performer.

How to prepare for a performance review

Here are a few tips for how to prepare for your annual performance review and to help you earn the highest performance rating at your firm:

1. Understand what your deliverables are and when they are due

What is the performance rating process at your firm? What are the uses of performance ratings in your role? The only way you can exceed expectations on your performance review is if you know exactly what they are up front. Most seniors and managers are organized and will come up with a clear plan for the engagement in the beginning. Unfortunately, not all are organized and you may be in a situation where you need to “manage up” and push the senior or manager to commit to a plan.

To get a high rating, it is critical that at the beginning of the engagement you have a clear understanding of your exact assignments and when they will be due. If you don’t know, you need to ask.  

Once you have a clear picture of what your deliverables are and when they are due, come up with a general calendar and timeline of what you need to finish them and hold yourself accountable. Also, try to beat that deadline by a few days to give yourself some wiggle room in case anything goes wrong.

If you have a clear list of when the deadlines are and when you submit them, then there can be no case against you for not finishing your work on time.

If you finish your work earlier than expected, it’s important to communicate that to your boss because you can help out with other areas of the engagement. That would certainly help qualify you as someone who “exceeded expectations.”

2. Communication and recurring check ins with your boss

Another performance review tip to ensure that you achieve a high-performance rating is to have reoccurring check-ins with your boss. If you are obtaining constant feedback you will never be blindsided by a negative review.

Some seniors or managers may not be good at giving recurrent feedback. While it is an ideal leadership practice to provide live feedback to direct reports, you can take that task on yourself as well. Send out a recurring monthly calendar invite with your boss to go over feedback and where you can improve.

Also, asking for feedback shows that you care about your performance and want to improve. Your senior or manager will remember this and will invest more into developing you into a high performer if you aren’t already.

3. Don’t take feedback too personally

This performance review tip may be the most difficult. It took me a long time to not feel upset or attacked when getting feedback. At the end of the day, everyone, including high performers, have areas that they can improve on. The purpose of getting feedback is to identify your weaknesses and work on those areas. 

If you get any negative feedback, take a step back to think about examples of what you could have done better and apply it to future situations. If you make it a point to improve on those areas, your boss will be able to see how much you have grown in the role and it will help your performance reviews.

 4. Get involved in different groups at your firm

One of the performance review tips that I didn’t learn until later on at my firm is that being involved in various groups or activities at your firm can make an impact on your performance rating. If your final rating is on the border between “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations”, being involved in your firm will most likely push you over into the higher rating category.

An easy way to get involved in your firm is by participating in recruiting events. You could also ask to be involved in creating pitches for clients. You can join a club. You can even start a club!

I would love this series to be a dialogue, so if you have any additional advice or questions for how to prepare for a performance review, send me a message on Instagram.

This piece is Chapter 10 in “The Life of an Accountant Series” by Kristin Lofgren of @Lets_Get_Fiscal. Read her prologue here.

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