We’re deep in the self-evaluation season, where thousands of unwilling employees are summoning up the courage to write about themselves and their achievements for the year past. Which they send to their managers who literally cannot remember what their employees did more than three weeks ago.

For many people, it’s embarrassing to “big themselves up”, but that’s what the performance management system requires. It has been thus for years. And despite attempts from all quarters to find a better mousetrap, that has not happened.

Over an HR career spanning 35 years and several continents, I have read a very large number of self-evaluations. Almost without exception, they were terrible. The differences between the people who wrote them and what they wrote were huge.

None of the sparkle, the wit, the personality ever came through. Lots of people preferred to write in the second person rather than to say the cringe-inducing word “I”.

This makes it extremely difficult for the manager reading the self-evaluation to find the good things to talk about and give praise and feedback... when the self-evaluation reads like a dry summary of a gastroenterology report.

I must say I’ve never had any difficulty writing about myself – or talking about myself for that matter. But even I have struggled at times with such a concentrated burst of self-aggrandisement. So how normal, modest people who achieve great things quietly get through the process is beyond me.

One recurring theme I’ve noticed over the year is that people get stuck in the thick of thin things. They literally go on and on about small details, give hordes of explanations and excuses about minor things and completely miss the real point of the whole exercise, which is to market themselves to their manager in such a way as to elicit a favourable response from that manager.

Let me state it really clearly for the record. Self-evaluation is a marketing exercise. Once you discover that little gem, everything flows much more easily. Now we can call it advertising, where the exact truth doesn’t matter so much, and putting the best spin on things is the norm.

And here’s another pearl of wisdom. You aren’t writing your self-evaluation for you. You don’t need an official record of what you did/didn’t do in the year just gone. You’re writing it for your manager and their manager.

So, say nice things about your manager. Even if your toes curl when you write them.

And just one more, before I give all my secrets away for free... given that your manager cannot remember back more than three weeks, write confidently about your achievements, create supporting data (without telling lies of course). That way, your “facts” become the official record.

And what is a fact? It’s the right amount of the right kind of information to convince someone.

Simple, right?

Steve Ashby is CEO of Businessmentals.