6 Powerful Questions To Ask In Your Performance Review

This post is part 3 of 14 in the series Powerful Performance Review Tactics

Was your last performance review/appraisal enjoyable? Worthwhile? Inspiring? Constructive? It should be all of these things, if done right. But chances are, it wasn’t. And you won’t be the only one. I surveyed over 800 professionals from over 600 companies and discovered that over 70% felt their performance reviews were ineffective. What’s happening?

What the survey confirmed is that many of the people who experience the least satisfactory performance reviews didn’t ask enough questions . There is a strong correlation between the effort put into the review by the employee and their satisfaction.

There is one critical point I want to make upfront. Not all managers who conduct appraisals are experienced in the process. Every manager has their first time, and it takes more than one go to become good at it. The truth is, many new managers are just as nervous about conducting your review as you might be.

Whether you have a manager who is a novice at conducting reviews, or a seasoned expert, the challenge for you is the same: ask powerful questions in your performance review in order to get the most from it .

Below are six questions that will give you a solid base to start from:

1.Firstly, the simplest and most powerful questions of all.

These are 3 questions (I’ve grouped together) that will extract everything you need to know about your general performance from your manager.

They are really powerful because you’re asking specific questions about your behaviors that your reviewer understands to effective, ineffective and non-existent. These are questions that are very difficult for your manager to fudge the answers on! I always ask these questions in my reviews, and I always get the most value from these questions alone.:

  1. “What should I continue to do?”
  2. “What should I stop doing?”
  3. “What should I start to do?”

Ask yourself these questions. What do they make you think? Because of their directness, depth and coverage, it is these 3 questions that form the basis of most 360-degree feedback methods.

2. “What can I do to deliver the most value to our organization?”

This question is very powerful as it links goal-setting to company value. It demonstrates your interest in the commercial success of your organization and emphasizes goals that you take personal accountability for.

3. If you’re in a technical role then ask…

I’d like to investigate [technology X] to achieve [outcome Y], because I think it could be great for our organization. Is that OK?

Or if you fulfil a supervisory/management role,

I’d like to investigate [management practice X] which I think could result in [outcome Y] and report back on its potential value to our organization. Is that OK?

Or adapt the question to suit your specific role. It requires some research and preparation. The power of this question is you are offering to open new opportunities to your organization by linking innovation and new thinking to organizational value and to produce a summary of your findings in business terms.

4. “What criteria should I satisfy to move onto the next level in this organization?”

is a question which asks your reviewer to be explicit about the behaviors, skills or qualifications you will need to demonstrate to progress in your career; this might be grade, position, pay, or whatever. Don’t be afraid to ask this question – many people are, actually. If you don’t know what you have to achieve to be ready for promotion, then you are burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best.

5. Ask your boss “What can I do to make you more successful?”

This is a very powerful question. Why? It works on two levels: Once again, you’re requesting goals to be set and demonstrating your willingness to be measured (“..I do..” and “..more successful..” ), and secondly, you are creating an opportunity to be delegated to, i.e. take a responsibility off your boss. Managers need to delegate to be successful, so create a situation where your manager can offer this to you.

6. And finally, the question “How will my role align to company direction in the future?”

tackles two points. First, you’re asking to know more about the future direction your company is taking, and secondly you’re asking how your role will fit into that future.

Since being developed, these questions have been tried and tested by over 500 professionals. 65% discovered that formulating a constructive set of questions in preparation for their Performance Appraisal resulted in satisfaction evidenced by increased scores from the appraisal in which it was asked. Moreover, 83% then found that the subsequent appraisal yielded even better scores. Why? Well what they found is that they then understood what adjustments they needed to undergo to make a greater contribution to the success of their organization. In other words, they found that they didn’t just do their job better, but they helped their colleagues, managers and reports succeed too.

7. Is there a Seventh?

Do you have a ‘killer question’ that you’ve used in your performance review? Or is there a question you’ve always wanted to ask? Then leave a comment below and share your thoughts! Who knows, I might even add it into this post…?

Rock YOUR Next Performance Review

2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews; Ready-to-Use Words and Phrases That Really Get ResultsIf you are the reviewer or reviewee during a performance appraisal, then here is an excellent book that shares phrases to use. It isn’t just a ‘say this, and then this…’ kind of book, it shows you what phrase-constructs to use in the right context to help make a performance appraisal as effective as it could be: 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews: Ready-to-Use Words and Phrases That Really Get Results.

It's only fair to share...Tweet about this on Twitter9Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn20Share on Google+7Share on Reddit0Pin on Pinterest3Share on StumbleUpon16Digg thisEmail this to someone

About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development and a registered and approved Growth Coach for GrowthAccelerator providing expert, tailored advice to help ambitious businesses achieve rapid, sustainable growth. Find out more at

Related Articles


  1. Mark McClure Coaching

    I’d be curious to hear of any IT tech who’s experimented with qs 5.

    The other questions I have used with various managers over the years. Success with these very much depended on the working relationship we enjoyed or not.

    Another things about performance appraisals is that managers and staff tend to see these as somewht isolated ‘scheduled events’ in the business year.

    I know more enlightened corps have mid-year reviews which is a step in the right direction. Ideally, the employee should be able to self-review progress over the year and flag any red-lights (or successes) at informal or formal 1-on-1s with their manager.

    Here I’m thinking of the career development component of the performance appraisal process where there is a subtle pressure to include more goals and objectives than can reasonably be achieved even by a demi-god tech geek working 24/7 :-)

    So, in summary – I believe monthly self-review of the agreed goals/project list is very important for the employee (because approx 50% of the work you will do in a year will likely not have been planned in any 1-shot career development meeting…)

  2. simonstapleton

    @Mark – I’ve known a handful of people who have asked question 5 and in each case it was a success. One colleague from a while ago, Sarit, used this question regularly and discovered that a) sometimes her boss was ready to delegate, or b) in other times her boss wasn’t ready to delegate but became ready not long afterwards.
    I totally agree about your point that the responsibility for review should be with the employee as much as the employer, and by taking this responsibility, the process is less of a punctuated series of events, but rather a continuous cycle, to the benefit of the employee.

  3. Radimelc

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Robert Bacal

    I’ve suggested, also, questions similar to question #5, but I think you need to know “what drives your boss crazy at night”. It’s great to ask the questions, but also observe during the year. It’s a real key to know these things, not only at review, but for career advancement.

  5. Simon

    Hi Robert. Great question. This gets right to the crux of the deep-set issues… and maybe we might be able to help. Thanks for your comment


Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * located at Watledge , Stroud, UK . Reviewed by 10,923 readers rated: 9.5 / 10
solve your work problems - join my community and get my new book for free
How Am I Doing?

Did my post solve your problem?

Yes? Then please rate this post.

No? Then please post your problem in my Community Forums and I will be glad to help!