Review Template Guide: Phrases, Questions, & Best Practices

Apr 14, 2022 | Performance Management

A review template and an employee review go hand-in-hand. Both help offer valuable feedback on employee performance. This input can help managers decide how to best utilize each employee’s skills. Moreover, this feedback will guide employees’ efforts to improve.

Importantly, managers must establish trust with employees to make their feedback count. They should, of course, work toward this goal every day. “If there is lack of trust in the manager-employee relationship, the weight of the feedback decreases dramatically,” writes MIT Sloan Management Review.

“We learned from a study of bank workers that source credibility — trust in the person giving feedback — strongly correlates with perceived accuracy and with a desire to respond, both of which have an impact on performance. When trust and engagement with managers are low, feedback won’t drive the desired outcomes.”

A well-structured review template will help managers deliver quality feedback. We’ll outline what a review template is and the benefits it delivers. Then, we’ll launch into how to select the right template. After that, we’ll dig into choosing questions and considering feedback phrases to use! 


1. What Is A Review Template

2. Benefits for Employees and Businesses

3. Designing Your Review Template

4. Common Review Template Questions

5. Giving Feedback in A Review Template

What Is A Review Template

A performance review template serves as a guide in employee evaluations. Structuring your evaluation keeps you on track. In other words, it helps ensure you won’t forget to cover any key points.

This template is essentially a form that contains questions on key topics. We’ll share some examples in a moment! But first, let’s explore why you need a review template.

Benefits for Employees and Businesses

How can a review template help you and your employees?

A review template can help you assess many aspects of employees’ work. For example, it can cover topics like these:

  • Dependability
  • Punctuality
  • Relationships with peers
  • Client relationships
  • Ability to work independently
  • Collaborative abilities
  • Technical skills
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Progress toward goals

Take action to upgrade your performance reviews by selecting the right template. We’ll discuss how to find one and then customize it in the next section.

Designing Your Review Template

Professional woman designing review template in office
Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

If you’re using an existing template, it may be time to update it. Qualities like adaptability, flexibility, and agility have become increasingly important, as SHRM emphasizes. That will probably remain the case for the foreseeable future. Make sure questions speak to these competencies. 

Popular Performance Review Templates

Several templates can each enhance your review process. We discuss the merits of the GOOD template, rating scale template, and narrative template here.

The GOOD Template

GOOD stands for “goals, obstacles, opportunities, and decisions.” “GOOD reviews evaluate all important areas of a worker’s performance: how they’re meeting company/individual goals, tackling obstacles, capitalizing on opportunities and making decisions,” says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Use them to dig deeper into challenges and strengths related to different aspects of performance. 

Here’s what the GOOD framework can look like in practice:

Collaborative abilities

  • Goals
  • Obstacles
  • Opportunities
  • Decisions

Leadership skills

  • Goals
  • Obstacles
  • Opportunities
  • Decisions

Presentation skills

  • Goals
  • Obstacles
  • Opportunities
  • Decisions

You can also use this framework in conjunction with ratings or narrative reviews (discussed next). The GOOD framework can guide informal check-ins, too.

Rating Scale

With the rating scale, you respond to each question or statement with a numbered rating. This allows you to easily assess employees against their own past performance. Plus, you can determine which employees are currently excelling and struggling. That will help you make decisions about assigning responsibilities and offering new opportunities.

Here is a simple 4-point rating scale template, courtesy of Robert Half. Answers include “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” “Good,” and “Excellent.” The manager can write in answers for two points:

  • “Training undertaken during review period,” and
  • “Involvement in special projects.”

SHRM provides another free rating scale template with a 5-point scale. Each item on the scale details how to rate the employee on a particular quality. For example:

Job knowledge

“Knowledge of products, policies and procedures; OR knowledge of techniques, skills, equipment, procedures, and materials.”

Initiative and creativity

“The ability to plan work and to proceed with a task without being told every detail and the ability to make constructive suggestions.”

This level of detail provides clear criteria for how to rate the employee. Such detail promotes greater objectivity.

Narrative Review Template

A narrative review template prompts—you guessed it—narrative statements. Instead of just assigning a rating number, you write a response to each question. This response can span a paragraph or more. The detail provided is an obvious benefit. This free narrative template asks for both short- and long-term answers.

Topics range from the employee’s three main accomplishments to the ability to uphold team values.

Comparing employees’ performance from a narrative review alone can pose challenges. For that reason, we suggest combining narrative review with ratings. This will help you understand which employees are star performers and which need the most support.

Common Review Template Questions

Asking the right questions will also maximize the results of your review. The best questions (or rating statements) to choose will depend on organizational priorities. “It’s critical that you capture and incorporate the drivers of organizational success into your performance appraisal template,” writes Paul Falcone in SHRM.

In other words, the exact mix of questions companies use will vary. However, a number of questions have great relevance to most businesses. The following rating statements encompass several important topics to cover. 


  • “Reaches out to peers to initiate collaboration frequently.”
  • “Guides group discussion when people need to make a decision together.”
  • “Demonstrates willingness to assist others with problems.”


  • “Takes responsibility for mistakes, working to correct them.”
  • “Welcomes feedback from others, carefully listening to their input.”
  • “Demonstrates measurable improvement after receiving constructive criticism.”

SHRM offers numerous points to include on qualities like agility and flexibility:


  • “Handles pressure calmly and skillfully, responding to current team needs.”
  • “Embraces change when confronted with new plans, technologies, or situations.”
  • “Stays flexible when last-minute changes to plans are necessary.”

For a leader, questions like these (c/o SHRM) will apply as well:

  • “Merges intuition and strong analysis in order to make great predictions that shape organizational plans.” 
  • “Designs strategies in response to changing organizational priorities.”

Change Management

  • “Communicates appropriately with the manager when circumstances call for a change in plans.”
  • “Looks for new ways to use available tools to address changing circumstances.”
  • “Helps team members adapt to changes.”

By asking the right questions, you’ll gain a well-rounded range of feedback.

Using Review Software

Wondering how to improve your review template? Consider the benefits of review template software. With a good program, you can customize the template to meet your needs. Plus, the software helps you manage your entire review workflow process. How? First, it will provide structure for each manager’s review. Second, it will help ensure all steps are completed in a timely manner.

Consider the digital employee experience when selecting review templates tools. Managers will benefit from completing templates electronically rather than scanning and uploading forms. This will also give HR easy access to all the information. If you haven’t yet gone paperless, now is the time!

Make sure managers can access the template in a user-friendly format. Additionally, you may want employees to see the completed forms during their reviews. Make sure the system allows managers to share them electronically with employees.

Giving Feedback in A Review Template

Helpful woman colleague showing review template to man
Credit: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels

Now let’s look at how to share feedback using a review template. When answering narrative form (or short-answer) questions, these tips will help. Use them in your discussions with employees, too.

Action words

Stick to action words rather than vague descriptors like “good.” One person’s “good” may be another person’s “excellent.” Phrases like these cut right to the chase:

  • “Detects and corrects errors skillfully when reviewing materials.”
  • “Synthesizes group members’ ideas during meetings.”
  • “Sparks group discussion during brainstorming sessions.”
  • “Says ‘yes’ to too many requests and becomes overloaded.”
  • “Showed up late to several team meetings over the past two months.”

Forward focus

Deliver feedback in a forward-focused manner. Yes, it’s important to evaluate how employees have performed over the past quarter or year. And giving specific examples from past months will illustrate your points. But maintain a positive, future-focused approach. Discuss how employees can model the desired behaviours in the future. 

“Organizations that make performance reviews forward-looking, not backward-looking, can expect to improve employee performance by as much as 13%,” says Gartner. “Those that provide ongoing, not episodic, feedback could get a boost of as much as 12%.”

Ask questions

When giving feedback, ask questions as well. Initiate a dialogue instead of delivering a lecture. Questions like these will help you better understand employees’ efforts:

  • “What barriers do you need to overcome to achieve your goals?”
  • “What are your greatest achievements within the review period?”
  • “How do you feel about our workplace culture?”

Now you have a solid understanding of how to select a great template. Plus, you know the principles of delivering helpful feedback. As you take action to upgrade your template, you’ll enhance your entire review process. Everyone will benefit from these improvements—the employee, manager, and organization.

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