Performance reviews are intimidating. You'll be on the spot, in front of your boss or immediate supervisor, and you'll be forced to not only demonstrate how valuable you are to the company, but also how you've grown since your last performance review. Most companies institute these on an annual basis, with special circumstances for new hires, such as 30-day and 90-day reviews.

No matter the circumstances for your review, you'll want to go in prepared. Well-armed with information, history, and poise, you could confidently request a raise or promotion. Go in unprepared, however, and you could find yourself unprepared for the interviewer's most basic questions.

Throughout this guide, I'll help you understand the best ways to prepare for your performance review, from months-in-advance preparations to last minute planning. If your review is right around the corner and you don't have months to prepare--don't worry. I've written this guide to ensure you get help no matter where you are in the process.

The Months Before Your Review

In the months leading up to your performance review, you need to be focused on your actual performance. Consider this ammunition that you can use in the case for your promotion or positive reception. There are several ways you can stand out positively to management:

  • Take on new responsibilities. Step out of your comfort zone and take on a few responsibilities outside your usual area of expertise. You can do this as a long-term fix, such as taking on regular long-term tasks, or as a short-term fix, by helping out an ailing department.
  • Display exceptional results. This should go without saying, but the better you objectively perform, the more praise you'll get in your review. For example, if you increase sales by 20 percent, that's far better than only 5 percent. Strive for that measurable progress.
  • Learn new skills. Attend night or online classes to develop a new skillset that's relevant for the job. If you can, earn a degree or certification from it. The more tangible evidence you have of your new skills, the better.
  • Put in extra time or effort. Again, this should go without saying. If you're working on a big project, think nothing of staying late or coming in early to wrap it up (as long as it's not at the expense of your mental health). Go the extra mile.
  • Start new projects. Initiatives are big deals in performance reviews. Go out of your way to start a new project, lead a new idea, or start something that somehow benefits the company.
  • Demonstrate leadership. In the context of a team, show that you're capable of leadership. Propose new ideas, speak out in meetings, challenge old assumptions, and delegate your responsibilities effectively.

Throughout this process, keep track of everything. You'll want quantifiable results when you enter the performance review. This preparation is crucial if you want to climb the corporate ladder.

The Week Before Your Review

First, you'll want to tally the results of your hard work. Take inventory of all the accomplishments you've had over the past year (or the evaluation period) and list them out. Use objective data whenever possible--that means verifiable numbers. Specifically mention any new initiatives you've started, new skills or responsibilities you've incorporated, and any breakthroughs you've led. Memorize these, as you don't want to read from a list during the review. Also consider how you've improved over your last performance review, and address anything negative that came up at that time.

Second, you'll want to establish your goals. Think about what it is you want out of the review. Are you gunning for a promotion? Are you looking for a raise? Do you just want to get an "attaboy" or "attagirl" from the boss? Clarifying your goals will help you position yourself better during the review.

Third, you'll want to do some research. Put yourself in the context of the real world. How much do you make versus the average person in the field? How does your skillset match up to the average skillset of an employee at this level? How have your colleagues fared in comparison to you (don't throw anybody under the bus, but do distinguish yourself). Going into the performance review with this information is vital to seeing success.

The Night Before Your Review

Once you've prepared with all the necessary information and background, you can start preparing for your presentation in the interview itself:

  • Practice the recitation of your accomplishments. Hopefully, you've memorized your list of accomplishments by now. If not, now's the time to do it. Either way, be sure to practice so you can recall them quickly.
  • Prepare to dress well. Two rules apply for dress here. One, dress for the job you want--if you're shooting for a promotion, wear what you would wear for that job. Two, it's better to overdress than underdress. Don't make the mistake of going too casual.
  • Practice your posture and diction. Even if you know your boss well, attending the performance review confidently and with formal posture and diction will make a bold impression that will highlight your accomplishments.
  • Anticipate hard questions. Assume your interviewer will ask you tough questions about the nature and execution of your performance. Be ready with answers to all of them.
  • Get ready for the ask. Asking for a raise or promotion isn't easy, so think carefully about the best way to phrase your request, especially if the conversation doesn't lead there naturally.

With these tips in place, you should have no problem breezing through your performance review. If you have verifiable improvements and contributions to highlight for the company, you'll be in a good position to ask for a raise. Otherwise, you'll make a good impression and will be even better prepared for the coming year.