25 Smart Performance Review Questions to Improve Performance (2023)

“Done right, a performance review is one of the best opportunities to encourage and support high performers and constructively improve your middle and low-tier workers.”

— Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO at The Muse

Did you know that more than 95%* of managers think their company’s performance evaluation process is broken?

Companies have historically used performance reviews to measure their employees’ productivity and performance. However, an ever-increasing number of employees complain that their companies’ performance reviews are ineffective and yield inaccurate results.

If you’re struggling with the same issues, chances are you’re not asking the right performance review questions.

While a quick Google search can help you put together generic questions, they may not fit your team or business needs.

And that’s why we’ve created this blog post — to help you develop performance review questions that truly strengthen your process. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • What are good performance review questions?
  • How to prepare for the performance review process
  • Effective performance review question examples

We’re so excited to share this information with you — let’s dive in straight away.

*Elaine D. Pulakos, et al. Performance Management Can Be Fixed: An On-the-Job Experiential Learning Approach for Complex Behavior Change. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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What are good performance review questions?

While performance appraisals usually help organizations gain insights into employee performance, another high-priority objective should be employee development.

Tracking an employee’s performance is crucial — but it’s equally vital to ensure that appraisals help you identify strengths, areas for development, and challenges your people are facing. Once you do that, you’ll understand if a team member needs more training, can take on more responsibilities, or is better suited for tasks other than what they’re being assigned.

Good performance management questions help leadership evaluate employee performance and learn more about them as professionals.

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It’s also important to note that employees often have jam-packed schedules and a lot on their plates. So asking the following kinds of questions may feel like an accusation:

  • Why did you fail to achieve [goal] this quarter?
  • Why did you consistently miss deadlines last month?

Avoid asking questions like “Why did you fail to achieve [x]?” during a performance review — it will most likely come off negatively. Performance appraisals are stressful for many employees, and their natural reaction to those questions may be to defend themselves rather than take them in stride.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to understand why someone failed to achieve goals, but remember to frame your questions so they don’t trigger people’s “I need to defend myself” instincts.

Good performance review questions have a clear intention and purpose. If you’re asking a question, acknowledge why you’re asking it and what you want to achieve with the answer — so be specific rather than vague or generic.

Last, ask follow-up questions to build the conversation and dig deep into your employee’s experiences, get your hands on more details, and gain clarity on the results you’re seeing.

Now, let’s explore how to prepare for an excellent performance review.

Preparing for the performance review process

Preparing for an employee performance review doesn’t have to be complicated. To streamline the process, set clear goals.

Our recommended goals for a performance appraisal are:

  • Evaluating performance
  • Focusing on employee development

Once you’ve established your objectives, the next step is putting together your performance management questions.

While doing so, consider the following:

  • Divide your questions into different categories
  • Make sure your questions have a clear intention and purpose
  • Frame your questions in a way that doesn’t make people feel nervous

To build a performance evaluation process that engages managers and employees, focus on the seven essential performance review elements:

  • Getting your timing right
  • Looking forward to the evaluation process
  • Understanding the opportunity
  • Focusing on development rather than compensation
  • Being clear
  • Being sympathetic
  • Getting multiple perspectives

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Effective questions for performance reviews

Randomly putting dozens of questions will confuse everyone involved. And not having a clear structure will make it harder for you and the reviewee to process all the information.

A smart way to ensure a smooth employee performance review is to ask targeted and specific questions across different areas.

We’ve divided our questions into subsections, each focusing on a set of questions:

  • Overall performance
  • Employee strengths
  • Current role
  • Areas for improvements
  • Future growth
💡 Looking for impactful questions for your next performance review cycle?We can help! Leapsome’s performance review template is full of best practice question for employee, 360, and leadership reviews.

👉 Download the template here

Questions about overall performance

Rather than diving straight into employee strengths, areas for improvement, and future opportunities, start slow and focus on overall performance.

Think of it as exercising. The first step is the warmup.

By focusing on overall employee performance, both of you will be able to understand how well they did throughout the period at hand. You’ll discover what your report is most proud of, which goals they accomplished, which ones they missed, and more.

Here are a few performance review questions managers can use to initiate conversations about overall employee performance:

  1. What accomplishments are you proud of since our last performance review?
  2. What factors motivate you to get your job done and be productive?
  3. Which goals did you accomplish? And which ones didn’t you achieve?
  4. What steps can we take to make your job more enjoyable?
  5. What do you hope to achieve before our next performance review?

After, ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into your employee’s overall performance.

In contrast, you should avoid asking vague, directionless questions like:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?

Questions about employee strengths

Not many people have the opportunity to showcase all their skills at work. As a result, there’s a chance you’re not fully aware of your employees’ potential. That’s why managers should dive deep into employee strengths in the performance review process.

Doing so allows you to learn more about team members’ strengths and skills — and you’ll also be able to use these insights to give them the space to showcase these qualities.

Here are some performance review questions you can customize to learn more about employee strengths:

  1. What are the core strengths that help you excel in your position?
  2. Which skills haven’t you yet been able to showcase at work?
  3. What type of work inspires you the most?
  4. What skills make you a good fit for your position?
  5. What kind of tasks comes easiest to you?

On the other hand, avoid asking overly broad or “yes/no” questions to learn more about employee strengths:

  • Are you the right fit for your position?
  • Do you have hidden skills?

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Questions about an employee’s current role

Asking performance review questions about an employee’s current position will help you explore what they like (or dislike) about their role.

This information will help you ensure they get to work on projects they enjoy whenever possible.

Some good examples include:

  1. What tasks do you enjoy doing the most? Why?
  2. What tasks do you enjoy doing the least?Why?
  3. What do you enjoy about working at [company name] the most?
  4. How do you think your current role is helping you and the company succeed and grow?
  5. What would you change about your role?

Like the examples of weak performance review questions shared before, don’t ask questions that are vague or can be answered with just a word or two:

  • Are you happy with your current position?
  • Do you like your job?

Questions about areas for improvement

A critical function of performance reviews is identifying gaps that may be holding your people back from performing at their full potential.

This section could trigger someone’s defense mode, as you’ll be asking questions that focus on their misses. To mitigate that, frame your questions so employees feel comfortable discussing what they need help with moving forward.

A few great questions about areas of improvement are:

  1. What were your biggest misses this year?
  2. What caused these misses, and how will you do things differently next time?
  3. What can we do to help you avoid those misses?
  4. Which areas do you want to focus on to grow and develop in the next [period]?
  5. How can we help you grow professionally?

On the other hand, the following questions aren’t ideal because they come off as harsh and accusatory:

  • Is there anything holding you back from unlocking your full potential?
  • Why did you miss so many deliverables this year?

Questions about an employee’s future growth

Your people’s growth should be at the top of your priority list. As discussed, performance reviews aren’t only about evaluating past performance — they’re also meant to focus on development, helping employees expand their skill sets and progress in their careers.

It’s critical to ask performance review questions that help you understand whether employees are facing challenges that are hindering their professional growth.

Asking growth-oriented questions will also help you build a career progression framework and understand if someone’s ready for a promotion.

Examples of growth-focused questions include:

  1. What are your professional goals for the upcoming [period]?
  2. What’s the next position you’d like to have? And what skills make you a good fit for that position?
  3. What professional development opportunities are you looking forward to exploring in the upcoming [period]?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’re likely to encounter or are already facing? And how can we support you?
  5. What type of career growth is important to you (e.g., managing a big team; growing as an individual contributor; exploring other areas)?

The following examples are weaker because they have too many possible answers, making them hard to answer meaningfully.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your goals?

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Get the most out of your performance reviews with Leapsome

Managers spend over 210 hours on annual performance reviews; individual contributors (employees who are not managers)spend an average of 40.

But leadership doesn’t need to dedicate so much time to the administrative part of appraisals. By tapping into a powerful people enablement platform like Leapsome, HR leaders can streamline and simplify the performance review process, helping managers and employees save precious time and deliver meaningful feedback.

Leapsome’s performance review software allows businesses to run impactful leadership and 360° performance reviews that are easy to set up and complete.

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From simplifying the review setup process to creating automated review cycles and leveraging the power of data to track performance changes, Leapsome will help you save countless hours — all while helping you conduct top-notch performance appraisals.

🚀 Want to simplify the performance review process?

Thousands of teams around the world are happily using Leapsome’s performance review software.


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