Performance Evaluation Tips For Developers

Anxious about your upcoming performance evaluation?  Annual reviews are both something I look forward to and dread at the same time.  For some people, it’s the most stressful time of the year.  A performance evaluation is the best way to get a feel for where you’re at, how you’re doing, and what your future can look like at the company.

A performance evaluation is the perfect time to let your manager know everything you’ve accomplished.  It’s also a good time to ask for a raise or promotion.  If worst comes to worst and you aren’t given one, you want to set clear goals for what you need to do to get there.

developer performance evaluation

Here some tips to help prepare yourself for an annual performance evaluation:

Set Achievable Goals

Do you have a goal for your career at your company long-term?  Maybe you want to get a raise, get promoted, or get a different title?  Whatever the case may be, make sure that it’s obvious to your manager what your goal is.

Your goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Ask your manager what you need to do to get where you need to be.  For example, if getting promoted means I should implement a new system and migrate data for a huge project within the next year, I can achieve this.  This article has helpful advice on setting goals and appraisals in the agile world.

See if there is anything your manager can provide, for example a job description, that includes all the required skills.  You want to have something to work with so that you can track your progress to achieving your goal.


Document Everything Leading Up to Your Performance Evaluation

When it comes time to let your manager know what you’ve accomplished in the past year, you want to be prepared.  It’s extremely important for developers to track their progress leading up to the performance evaluation.  I always make sure that I write down the goals I’ve achieved and also additional things I’ve done to take initiative. If you’ve done anything outside of work to improve your professional development include that as well.  For example, I would include any certifications or training you may have completed.

Make sure to illustrative what you’ve accomplished well.  Believe it or not, I’ve even made Powerpoint presentations.  Trust me, nobody is going to do it for you.  You’re the best advocate for yourself when it comes to illustrating what you’ve accomplished at your performance evaluation.  Chances are, your manager may have overlooked things you’ve done or possibly even forgotten.

Is this your first performance review at your job or in the industry?  Well, if that’s the case you’ll want to show how you’ve advanced as a developer since you started.  In the end, you want to make sure that you have all of your wins written down.  Maybe you implemented a new CRM?  Or, did you migrate software into a totally new system?  Whatever your achievements might be, have the proof ready to go for the performance evaluation.


Stay Positive

One of the most important things for a performance evaluation is to remain positive.  Try to stay calm going into your review.  I always practice outcome different scenarios beforehand so that I’m prepared for whatever happens.  This also helps with confidence as well if you’re asking for a promotion or raise.

Be prepared to be caught off guard.  I’ve had too many experiences where I was given feedback I wasn’t expected, low-balled for a raise, etc.  You need to be prepared for this so that you handle it well.

Keep in mind, you win more bees with honey than vinegar.  Even if you don’t hear what you want, just stay positive.  You will get your message across much better by staying calm and professional.  Becoming combative will never get you very far.

 performance evaluation

Go Over What A Day Looks Like For You

In addition to reviewing your long-term achievements with your manager, go over daily ones too.  Maybe your manager isn’t aware of what a day in your shoes looks like?  I would point out all of your daily responsibilities and tasks so they have a better idea of everything you have on your plate.  If you’re spending five hours writing code, let your manager know.  Maybe you’ve been spending a lot of time creating a new portal for a department?  Make sure to communicate that to your manager.  Don’t leave out any information about extra work you’ve been doing or things you’ve been working on that they could be unaware of.


Ask For Feedback

Don’t wait for your manager to tell you what you can improve on.  Ask on your own.  I always ask my manager leading up to and during my performance evaluation what areas I can improve on.  If I’m not getting a clear response from my manager, then I will ask for specific examples.  For example, maybe I didn’t detect a bug one of our systems?

Asking for feedback is the only way you’ll know what you can do better.


Make A Case For Yourself

When the time comes to ask for the raise or promotion you want, make sure you are ready.  Have the documentation that illustrates the goals you’ve achieved as well as prior reviews with you.  You can also include anything else that could have a positive impact for your case.  Maybe you’ve gotten technical certifications since your last review.

For example, if you’re in a help desk position and have gotten fifty customer compliments, print those emails out.  If the CEO let you know that you did a great job on multiple occasions, include that as well.  Anything that you can provide showing you did a good job throughout the past year should be included in your performance evaluation.

The more you do to build a strong case for yourself, the better chance you have of getting a raise or promotion.  Trust me, there’s too many developers and programmers that don’t try and negotiate.  In fact, managers don’t even expect you to negotiate.  It will be much harder for them to say no and decline your request if you have proof to back-up your great performance.

performance evaluation

What About Peer Reviews?

Peer reviews are important for developers because you get direct feedback from your team on what you can improve on.  This may include your code quality, communication skills, etc.  You may also get feedback on how you’re performing when it comes to time management around important deadlines.  It’s an opportunity to hear feedback that isn’t coming from your manager.  Another reason why I like peer reviews is because it’s not just about salary and promotions.  I feel like I get honest feedback on what I can improve on from other developers in the same boat.

Having reviews with your team is often less stressful than having a one-on-one review with your manager.  Having conversations with your co-workers on what you can improve on is not only constructive, but you feel a different level of support.  Being honest and transparent with your team is the best way to communicate what they could have done and can do in the future to have a better impact in the department.  It’s a good way to get a feel of where you stand on the team and what you can do better as a developer.  Maybe you’ll even find strengths in one of the other developers that they can help work with you on.


What Will Come Next?

After asking for feedback and advice on what to work on, I try to summarize my plans there on the spot.  Try and discuss a time frame with your manager on what you need to work on next and when.  Talk about where you want to go long-term.

If you have the same goal as you did in a previous performance evaluation, bring a copy of that review with you.  Show your manager what you’ve worked on and accomplished since then.  Let them know you’ve improved and still haven’t gotten what you wanted.  This might light a fire under them speeding up your promotion.


Ask Your Manager What They Can Do

Ask your manager what they do to help you achieve your career goals.  If there’s something you should be working on that you could use guidance with, let them know.

For example, I had to upgrade a database at my old company.  There was a lot of hesitation from corporate management and sales staff.  I let my manager know that I was having a hard time communicating to get everyone on the same page.  He was able to help make the process easier by scheduling official meetings with the CEO, who in turn made sure that the sales staff were available throughout the upgrade.


Your Performance Evaluation Doesn’t Need To Be Scary

Overall, having an annual performance evaluation is beneficial.  You’ll find out where you stand, and what you need to do to get where you need to be.  Sometimes the review may be based off of effort and how much you contributed to the team.  At some companies, you may get a standard 3% raise each year.  Other companies may offer promotions based on meeting certain metrics.  If you didn’t get the promotion you hoped for, it’s a chance to set goals with your manager.

Unsure whether or not you will qualify for a promotion or raise?  Look into your company policy.  See what the criteria is for raises, promotions, bonuses, etc.  If you don’t feel like your performance evaluation went well or that you got the raise you deserved, well maybe look elsewhere.  There are plenty of developer jobs out there.