Larry Cipolla
January 29, 2014

When it comes to designing the best possible performance appraisal, it's important to consider the structure of your questions. The wrong phrasing could undermine your goals, so it's not enough to just think about what you're asking — you also have to pay careful attention to how you ask it. 

Keep it simple. The more complicated a question is, the more confusion it will cause, and the less valuable the feedback is likely to be. Be clear, direct and to the point, and tailor your questions to be as short as possible. 

Use active language. You're not trying to get a sense of what's happened to the employee, you want to find out what they've done and what their capabilities are. Using action verbs like "helps," "creates," and "writes" will help you get to the core of what they've actually accomplished. 

Engage the respondent. As I write in "Building Performance-Based 360-Degree Assessments: From Design to Delivery," use the word "you" more, instead of the third person. Each assessment should feel individualized, because you're only collecting information from one person at a time. Direct language will keep that person more engaged. 

Use everyday language. Jargon has its place, and that place is not an employee feedback form. The language you use should be appropriate to the person who is going to be responding, as well as to any external raters who could eventually read the answers.  

Proofread. Before you distribute any sort of evaluation, it should be completely free of any typos or other errors. Read it over multiple times to ensure it's completely accurate, because not only could a typo be misleading, it could also reflect poorly on you as a manager.