APPRAISALS can be a nerve-wracking experience. It is a time when employees have to take stock of their performance and achievements (or under-achievements) and justify their pay increment or promotion.

Understandably, it requires more than just confidence to stand out during appraisals. Here are some tips on how you can prepare and impress your boss when it is your turn.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Although many people know that appraisals are important, many employees are unprepared. An appraisal is not meant to be a session for idle chat. It is a formal system to review, assess and record your work performance. This evaluation will ultimately lead to decisions that may have a long-term impact on your career.

Therefore, you must be thoroughly prepared with information and data that is relevant to your work and contributions. Ensure you have all the necessary facts and figures at your fingertips.

Refer to your previous appraisal: Have you followed up on and resolved any issues that were discussed then? Pay particular attention to any special projects you had committed to and provide a status report.

If you have not achieved or completed the tasks you were expected to complete, be prepared to give a good explanation, backing it up with reasons. Be careful not to sound defensive or to lay the blame on anyone. Stick to the facts and offer your insights as professionally and objectively as possible.

2. Learn to listen

Often employees go into their appraisal with lots of things they want to say, but it is equally important to listen to what your appraiser is saying. Always let your appraiser set the tone and agenda of the appraisal. Pay close attention to the issues or points he raises and respond to them accordingly.

At the end of the appraisal, bring up any points you would like to address that have not already been covered by your appraiser. By learning to listen first, you can better understand your appraiser’s line of thinking, which will help you focus your responses and deal with each issue or question as it comes up.

3. Stay professional

The nature of appraisals is such that both positive and negative issues will inevitably be raised, and judgments made. There may be uncomfortable moments where employees are pressured to give justifications for their work performance, behaviours and shortcomings. Typical reactions in some employees during appraisals include denial, laying blame, anger, withdrawing into silence and even tears.

It is important to understand that the appraisal is meant to be an exercise not only to review and acknowledge your achievements, but also to identify the areas for further development and areas that may need improvement.

At all times, remain professional and refrain from any form of emotional outburst, especially if the appraisal does not go as well as you had hoped. It is important that you view constructive criticism as valuable feedback, and constantly focus on your desired solutions and outcomes.

4. Mind your body language

As with an interview, body language plays a huge part in forming impressions. When you are in an appraisal setting, everything about you — your work, behaviour, attitude, strengths and weaknesses — will be evaluated and reviewed.

Hence, what you say, how you choose to say them and what you are doing while saying them can have a dramatic effect on the messages that you are sending across to the receiver.

Do not sit slumped in your chair or with your arms crossed. Instead, sit up straight and lean slightly forward, towards your appraiser. This makes you appear interested and open-minded. Avoid assuming a defensive or hostile stance, maintain good eye contact and pay attention. Most importantly, try to relax and respond in a calm and confident manner.

5. Collect testimonials

If a colleague, superior, customer or client has written something positive about you, gather these documents and use them in your appraisals. You can also proactively seek testimonials from people that you have formed great working relationships with, and have them e-mail or send their comments about your service or performance in writing.

The appraisal process should provide a clear roadmap on where you want to go as well as the targets and goals you need to achieve by next year. At the end of the appraisal, you should always ensure that you have an understanding of your appraiser’s expectations.

If you are not sure, check with him again and follow up with an official confirmation in writing. Agree on timelines and commit to them, and record the progress and improvements you have made as you go along. This will provide the key points you will need for your next appraisal.