How to Write a Great Self-Performance Review

Write the self-performance review that gets you promoted

Are you a software engineer?

Perhaps a senior software engineer? Then, you have probably written quite a few self-performance reviews.

Yet, I see so few people mentoring about such a paramount part of the year for many of us.

Thus, the question is, do you know how to write a great self-performance review?

Writing an outstanding self-performance review can single-handedly set you apart and elevate your career path, setting you for a promotion.

How to prepare for a self-performance review

One does not simply write a masterpiece overnight. It takes time, reflection, and inspiration—that simple.

  • Allocate time—Folks usually believe a thirty-minute slot should be enough during some magical and random free time. Huge mistake. Book time in your calendar. In total, I typically use around 4~6 hours.

  • Reflect on what you’ve achieved—Look at your quarterly goals, Jira tickets, Gitlab, 1:1 notes, TODO list, Confluence pages, calendar events, meetings, thank you messages, and other Slack messages, forums, and discussions.

  • Reach out to other people—Ask people who inspire you about how they do self-reviews. Ask your lead or manager what they expect.

How to write a great self-performance review

Outcomes and achievements

  • Focus on the impact—Don’t just list out what you did. Ask yourself: how did I impact the business, the team, and individuals?

  • Provide measurable results—What metrics did you improve? E.g., performance, execution speed, and costs saved.

  • Make the outcomes visible—Provide links where relevant (e.g., merge requests, Confluence docs, Slack announcements)

  • Sell yourself!—Take this opportunity to highlight your work (while staying true to your achievements). Make it as easy as possible for your manager to advocate for you and sell your upcoming promotion.

Could be improved

  • Be honest with yourself—Don’t be afraid to list things that you believe could have gone better. Your manager will consider this to help you, not to blame you.

  • Take a look at the career ladder—Most likely, the company you’re working for has a clear career ladder. A great example is the Engineering Career Framework at Gitlab.

  • Try answering the following questions—What have you planned but not achieved? Which company values could you have represented more? Sometimes life happens, and things get out of our control. That’s ok. Identify those bottlenecks and make them part of the learning process.

Development plan

This is your opportunity to create a statement for your professional career path. You’re in control. Think short-term, mid-term, and long-term:

  1. What do you want your role/career to look like?
  2. What do you need to do to achieve your goals?

Seems relatively straightforward, but let me tell you that this is simply the most challenging part. Put in some effort and emphasis on this vital piece.


Let me present you with brief but real-world snippets from one of my previous self-performance reviews.

Outcomes and Achievements

Parallelised Dashboard’s Cypress E2E tests

Achievements: Implemented a solution (MR#746) that leverages Gitlab runners to run tests in parallel, withdrawing the need to use Cypress premium paid solution, and therefore saving the company’s budget, to achieve the proposed goal. Presented about Dashboard Parallel Testing to the team.

Impact: This resulted in ~50% time reduction on E2E test execution, enabled pipeline scalability, and made it transparent to the whole team. There was no extra complexity nor a new tool to learn. Furthermore, this piece of code was adopted and used during our 2021Q4 Quality Engineering team “Test Project Templating” OKR, found in cookiecutter-cypress: MR#1.

Could be improved

I’ve accomplished more than expected for the above OKRs. However, one thing I could have done was to increase teams’ visibility over the current ongoing work throughout the quarter instead of putting the majority of the focus on the final results.

Development plan

Short-term: Improving my product awareness. I believe there’s an opportunity to gather even more product knowledge within and outside of my own team. This will allow me to tackle team, project, and company-wide goals faster and efficiently while improving my range in supporting my peers.

Mid-term: Our company continues to grow, and so do the customer base and performance needs. I’m aiming to continue the work we’ve initiated during 2021, advocating for the initiative of 10x performance.

Long-term: I see myself working on impactful parts of the business and contributing to multiple teams along the way. My personal goal is to continue the work I’ve been putting in and achieve a staff position up to 3 years from now.

Bonus: General Tips

  • Reflect regularly—Take 15 min a week to write down your achievements.

  • Keep a work log—Keep notes of the work you’ve been doing. Update them often.

  • Have career conversations regularly—Work with your manager on your career path once a month—schedule meetings with people you look up to talk about career progression.

Writing a great self-performance review will set your manager up to successfully sell your work.

© Sérgio Martins

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