Why Your Annual Evaluation on a Federal Job Really Matters

A top rating on your annual evaluation may lift your spirits with “evaluation elation.” But there are additional reasons to aim for the highest possible rating evaluation for your government employee performance appraisal.

  • A rating of at least “fully successful” or equivalent should make you eligible for a cash award. The higher your rating, the larger your award. Furthermore, earning your agency’s highest rating may make you eligible for a Quality Step Increase (QSI)–a faster than normal within-grade increase. If you have a choice between a bonus or a QSI, opt for the QSI under most circumstances. Why? Because a QSI is a gift that keeps on giving; it would boost your salary, TSP contributions and potentially your pension.
  • A top rating may help you earn a grade increase if your job has promotion potential.
  • A top rating may help you land your next federal job. Why? Because some federal applications require applicants to submit their most recent annual evaluation. Also, if applicable, state on your resume that your most recent rating was outstanding or that you have a record of receiving outstanding reviews, and incorporate into your resume written praise from reviews.
  • You must earn a rating of “fully successful” or equivalent to receive a step increase. (For more information, type “step increase” into the search window at opm.gov.)
  • An “unacceptable” rating can enable your supervisor to trigger a chain of events that can lead to your being fired. Even though such firings are relatively rare, striving for the highest possible rating will help keep your job as safe as possible.
  • When positions are targeted by a Reduction in Force (RIF), evaluation ratings are one of four factors that determine which employees are RIFed. Therefore a top rating may provide some protection from RIFs. (For more information, type “RIF” into the search window at opm.gov.)

If you receive an annual evaluation that is seriously unfairly harsh, don’t sign it and discuss your concerns with your supervisor. If you can’t reach a satisfactory agreement, consult your union, and consider appealing your evaluation.

An appealed evaluation is not final until an appeal decision is reached. So if you apply for a federal job that requires submission of your most recent evaluation while your evaluation is under appeal, submit with your application the evaluation you received before the appealed evaluation.

Also, don’t let an unfavorable evaluation stop you from applying for jobs that require evaluations. Sometimes, evaluations are just collected as pro forma requirements—without hiring managers ever reviewing them. Also, many managers understand the subjectivity of evaluations and that grade deflation is sometimes used to save bonus funds.

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

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