Preparing for a Performance Appraisal Review (+ What to Say)

The best way to increase your income — permanently — is to increase your salary. And one of the best times to do that is at your next performance appraisal. So how do you prepare for your performance review?

Consider these two points:

  • An appraisal can take as little as 10 minutes.
  • My closest friends and students who’ve used the techniques we’re covering today often negotiate raises of $10,000 (or more).

Even if you’re only able to get half of that (a $5,000 raise) it adds up dramatically over time.

Take a look:



Investing that $5,000 raise each year would leave you with an extra $1,398,905.20 upon retirement (not counting taxes)!

This is not a pipedream. This is reality.

For your next appraisal — AKA, your performance review — I’ll show you the exact negotiation strategies and word-for-word scripts to get paid what you deserve and keep moving forward in your career.

Before we dive into the tactics, let’s look at the optimal timeline for your performance review.

Your performance review timeline

If you’re serious about negotiating a raise at your next appraisal, you have to plan ahead. 3-6 months ahead. That may seem like a long time, but the more deliberate you are in the months leading up to your review, the higher the odds you’ll land a major raise.

What happens in those 3-6 months?



In other words:

Note: If your performance review is next week, you obviously can’t get the full benefits of this timeline. But you can skip to the bottom to get the exact scripts for what to say in your performance review here.

This is the recipe for success. Notice that all of this is done BEFORE the actual appraisal (of course, your friends will only see the results you got, not all the work you put in).

80% of the Work Is Done Before You Ever Walk Into the Room

The biggest mistake people make with performance reviews is this: they simply show up on the day of their review and meekly ask for a raise or a promotion.

If this is your plan, you will lose. And, wha’s more, you deserve to lose.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

When I was a student at Stanford, I did some consulting work for a local venture capital firm. After a few months, I decided that I was going to ask my boss for a raise. After all, I’m a smart guy and I’ve been working pretty hard, so I thought I should ask, right?

The conversation went something like this:

Ramit: “Hi Boss, thanks for meeting with me. So, I’ve been working here for a few months now, and I think I’ve been doing a really good job. I’ve really gotten a good understanding of the ins and outs of the business, and because of that I’d like to discuss with you the possibility of a raise”

Boss: “Why do you think I should give you a raise?’

Ramit: ‘Well… you know, as I mentioned, I think I’ve been doing a really good job, and I’ve been learning a lot about the company and how everything works here and… yeah”

Boss: “No. Not gonna happen.”

Ramit: “Oh. Okay.”

It wasn’t pretty. And I was actually mad at my boss about it for two whole days (“he said NO!!”).

But then I realized I was being ridiculous. I hadn’t given him any legitimate reasons why he should be paying me more or give me more responsibility. So why should I have expected him to?

I’ve gotten a lot better at preparing for these conversations since then, and this is the #1 rule I’ve discovered:

80% of the work is done before you ever walk into the room

The appraisal conversation itself is only small fraction of what actually makes or breaks your raise. What really matters is the preparation you do beforehand. This will determine whether you succeed or fail.

I call this front-loading the work and it doesn’t just apply to appraisals — you can use it to sell services to clients, write a killer resume, or dominate job interviews.

Here are some examples of preparation you can do to accelerate your path to becoming a top performer — and landing a raise — in 3-6 months. (I cover even more of these preparation tips and other advanced career strategies in my Dream Job program.)

  • Doing amazing work for at least 3-6 months, with written praise collected from your coworkers and your own boss.
  • Creating a 5-page document of proof of performance — aka how you’ve beaten the metrics you’re evaluated on. This document includes all the ways you’ve added value above and beyond your job’s requirements.
  • Getting mentors who have years more experience at the job than you, learning from them, and applying their tips.

Once you’ve put in the work and have done a decent amount of preparation, here’s how to get your boss to say “yes” every time.

A secret technique that makes bosses say “Yes!”

It’s easy to tell your boss you’ve done great work and that in your next review you plan on asking for more responsibilities and pay.

But when you actually prove it — and explain how your work has and will continue to translate into more profit or savings for the company — you’ll instantly grab your boss’s attention.

The secret is SHOW, DON’T TELL.

This principle is called the Briefcase Technique, and it’s helped thousands of people amaze employers and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here’s how you can use it right away.

Your “Briefcase” is what you’ll want to start building 1-2 months before your review date.

As for what to include, we’ll cover that next, but make sure you have a good grasp on how you’ll present your own “Briefcase” before moving forward.

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What to include in your “Briefcase”

Here’s an exercise you can do to help you prepare your briefcase.

First, take an inventory of all you’ve done for your company.

Get detailed here and list all the ways you’ve become more valuable to the company since you started your job.

Some sample questions to get you started:

  • Have you delivered specific results? Which ones? Estimate how much they were worth.
  • Has your communication improved? How so?
  • Are you more efficient than before? How do you know?
  • Do you know the business better? How does this translate to the company?s bottom line?
  • Have you developed new skills? What kind?

Keep digging until you’ve listed everything out.

Second, brainstorm ways you could add value above and beyond what you’ve already done.

Sample ideas:

  • Maybe there’s a new project you could lead?
  • Maybe you’ve got an idea for a system that could streamline communication?
  • Maybe you’re willing to get additional training and certifications to take on more responsibilities?
  • Or any other ideas you have that could help your employer out

These are the things you’ll SHOW — not tell — your boss so they KNOW you are someone who delivers real results.

Ideally, you’ll start this 1-2 months before your review and finish at least two weeks ahead of the review itself so you have time for the last (and most important) step.

What to say in your performance review and how to overcome tough objections

Now it’s your boss’s turn to be in the hot seat.

Of course, even if you’ve gone through all the steps above, your boss might still try to wiggle out of giving you what you deserve (beyond the usual standard of living pay increase).

She’ll say things like “well, we’d like to give you a raise/promotion/more responsibility, but we just can’t because of the economy or we have to pay everyone the same thing in the interest of fairness.”

Most of these are classic, BS excuses that managers have been using since forever — because they work! Most people simply fold after hearing the FIRST rejection. I just smile.

The first rejection is where the negotiation really begins. And I have a powerful technique you can use to easily counter these objections.

This technique can also be used if your last performance review was bad.

Overcome negative feedback with the ARMS technique

My ARMS negotiation technique was originally created for salary negotiation. But you can also use it to get out of the doghouse and in good standing with your supervisor.

Here are the 4 parts of the ARMS Technique:

Agree – Don’t argue or tell your supervisor he’s wrong. That adds fuel to the fire and won’t help you.

Reframe – Share a different perspective to paint your actions in a more positive light. This doesn’t mean lie, but to look at the situation from a different angle.

Make your case – Propose a plan for how to solve this problem with concrete measurable goals. If possible, set a specific time and date to meet with your supervisor to go over your progress.

Shut up – Let your boss or supervisor respond and see what he thinks of your plan. He’ll likely go along with it, but he may have modifications he’d like to make.

Here’s an example of how this might look: After being told, “You don’t speak up in meetings,” you book a time to talk with your supervisor. Here’s what you might say:

Agree: Yes, I haven; been as vocal in meetings as other team members.

Reframe: It’s not that I’m disinterested. It’s that I only like to speak in meetings when I’m 100% sure about what I’m saying. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with half-baked thoughts or ideas.

Make your case: Going forward I’ll make a point to contribute at least 3 new ideas/critiques per meeting. Would that solve this problem?

Shut up: *SILENCE*

Whatever you propose when you “make your case,” be sure to track your progress. In this instance, note the dates for each meeting and write down the ideas you present. Then you’ll have hard evidence that you followed through.

Here’s another example. This time, imagine your supervisor said, “John gets lost in the details and loses track of the bigger picture.”

How could you use the ARMS technique then? Here’s one way:

Agree: That sounds like a valid critique. I do focus on minor details of my projects.

Reframe: The reason behind that is I want to make sure our work is top quality. Any mistake can reflect poorly on me, our department, even our company, and I want to make sure everything we produce is high quality.

Make your case: I’m going to set time limits for how long I’ll spend on each project. This should keep me from getting lost in details. In two weeks, we can check in to see how this new system is working. Does that sound good?

Shut up: *SILENCE*

To learn how to fully use the Negotiation Arms Technique to your advantage, you can get access to it — including word-for-word scripts for overcoming objections — when you download the free guide below.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.