How to Stand Out in A Talent Review


Tim ToterhiIFP HR Expert

Friday, January 17, 2020

The ugly truth is that Talent Reviews are often awkward, administrative nightmares that no one, especially your HR rep, relishes. The best way to stand out is to rise above the process by being, well exceptional – a talented person who consistently delivers more and better than expected without issue. Do that and you’ll likely be too busy reviewing opportunities to worry about what someone says when reviewing talent.

Article 3 Minutes
How to Stand Out in A Talent Review

Conducting an effective Talent Review is tricky business. Collecting data, coordinating calendars, and aligning a kaleidoscope of related processes such as performance management, strategic planning, and corporate budgeting can test the skills of even the most seasoned project manager. The real challenge however comes from facilitating an objective discussion with company leadership that surfaces top-tier talent.

To help manage the conversation, experienced HR facilitators will set ground rules and time limits for both department presentations and attendee feedback. They will outlaw jargon and clarify the definition of debatable words like potential, hipo, and runway. And of course, they will model the behavior they want their colleagues to exhibit; namely that remarks be brief, relevant, and reflective of recent, first-hand observations.

While these actions can help HR sidestep the typical conversation landmines that would otherwise hold hostage even the most well-crafted agendas, the process is made easier when employees understand Talent Review mechanics and take steps to actively position themselves well. Specifically, employees should:

1. Confirm their manager’s perception of their performance

Most employees can recall their last two or three performance ratings and while that’s an excellent data point to have, measuring long-term performance is not that simple. In an ever-competitive world, yesterday’s excellence is only today’s adequate, and often representative of tomorrow’s failing grade. Need a visual? This clip of gymnastics then and now illustrates the point:


The bar of performance in all endeavors raises faster than we think. Despite what your historic scores say, confirm your current value to the organization via a candid conversation with your manager.

2. Share their career goals and aspirations

Never force your manager to play mind reader. If you have ambitions be it a higher position, an international assignment, or simply a desire for more visibility via challenging projects, make your intentions known.  Too often employees get saddled with an outdated brand. Take the guess work out of the process by clarifying your goals and sharing them with key decision makers.

3. Highlight their potential

Never let a system or process place a ceiling on your ambitions. Talent reviews are as much an art as they are a science…often more so. Make sure you understand how potential is defined at your organization and get a read for how you’ll be represented by management before the event occurs. If you want greater clarity on the issues, shift the conversation from the subjective entirely by inquiring about specific roles and where you stand in terms of qualifications and gaps for those positions.

4. Be exceptional

Over the years, many career-focused employees have asked me what was said about them in talent review sessions. While it’s an understandable inquiry, the question demonstrates a certain naivety. Let’s face it, given the typical session time to employee ratio at most organizations, the chances of you actually being discussed at all is small. When people are discussed in detail conversations often skew toward “development” – i.e. “he or she is good, but….”

A better inquiry is perhaps, was there a quick, unanimous, positive view when/if I was mentioned? That’s the difference between being talented and being exceptional. Talented employees are discussed. When you’re exceptional, people just mention your name and nod their heads. Why? Because, you’re ready for the next opportunity and everyone knows it. There’s no debate to be had.

Tim Toterhi

Tim Toterhi is not your usual HR guy. He’s passionate about slashing bureaucracy and rethinking old thinking. He is a TEDx speaker, ICF certified coach, PMP, and the author of several books including The Introvert's Guide to Job Hunting and the HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job. Tim has over 20 years of management experience in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He’s been quoted in publications such as Fast Company, Forbes, and the HuffPost as well as profiled in the book, Magnificent Leadership.


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