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An interviewer asked me how my last performance review in my current job went.

My answer was "I don't have any performance reviews because my current company doesn't do performance reviews; but my supervisor said I was doing a good job."

I think the interviewer wasn't satisfied with my response. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned my supervisors opinion about me. It sounds like I am praising myself.

What could have been a better answer to this interview question?

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    So if you had a formal performance review that indicated you were doing a good job, wouldn't that be praising yourself as well? Is that such a bad thing? The recruiter asked the question. – user8365 May 20 '14 at 13:30
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    “Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned my supervisors opinion about me. It sounds like I am praising myself.” They don’t care about that. Most H.R. interviewers & reciters really just operate from a rote list of items. Meaning, because you did not fit a cookie cutter answer then now have to—it’s going to be shocking—actually work to summarize who you are to others. Don’t sweat it. – JakeGould May 22 '14 at 12:21
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My answer was "I don't have any performance reviews because my current company doesn't do performance reviews but my supervisor said you are doing good job."

I think that interviewer didn't satisfied with my respond to the question. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned my supervisors opinion about me. It might sounds like I am praising myself.

What should have been the correct answer to this interview question? Why could my answer be wrong?

Assuming your answer was honest, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.

If you didn't have a performance review, then you can't answer that you did. And adding what your supervisors said about you gave the interviewer the feedback that took the place of a formal performance review. Well done.

As MJ6 correctly indicates in his comments, you can even frame your answer in terms similar to those which would have come out of a formal review process, had one existed. Try to remember feedback and/or praise you received regarding deadlines, leadership, positive attitude under stress - these can all make your answer even more powerful.

I suspect you are over-thinking this. Perhaps the interviewer was hoping for some sort of formal review, but I can't see how the lack of one could matter much. Either way, it's done. No need to worry about it now.

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    I agree your answer was fine, but you might prepare a more thorough response for a future interview which gives examples of things you were praised for. "We did not have a formal review process, but in meetings with my supervisor I was praised for finishing work ahead of deadlines, showing leadership within my team, and keeping a positive attitude when we were under stress." Think back to everything you did well that someone might have acknowledged, especially times when you received an increase in responsibility due to your good work. – MJ6 May 20 '14 at 13:00
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Personally, I think asking about details of a past performance review at a different company is not a good question for the interviewer to have asked. What are you going to say, "The boss told my I was the worst employee ever, so that's why I'm here."?

The right way for the interviewer to get information about your past performance is by following up with references. Here is a suggested answer for your circumstance: "We didn't have formal performance reviews, but my boss has always given me positive feedback. However, I have included him in my list of references, so you can check with him directly."

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I think others have answered well here, but I wanted to give a bit a "general rule of thumb" answer here.

Like others have said, I don't think what you said was wrong, but it does awfully sounds like one of those questions where you have to read between the lines to find the intent of the question. A common question of this sort is "What is your greatest weakness?" but they come in many forms.

When I was first starting out in the IT industry I often got asked questions which I couldn't answer because I had not encountered those situations and the question was not a hypothetical. So instead of asking "how would you go about trying to fix a syncing problem with a PDA?" I was asked "name an example of an issue you had with PDAs (showing my age a bit, maybe!), and how you determined what was wrong". I believe these questions are a part of what is called "behavioural interviewing".

What I learned then, and what I think is applicable to you is basically a twofold process.

  1. If possible, answer the question as is. In your case unfortunately, that wasn't possible.
  2. Try to determine what they're looking for, and give an alternative. Others here have already offered examples of what could have been said so I won't repeat it here.

Basically, if they're asking questions about troubleshooting product A and you never used product A, answer theoretically how you would troubleshoot it. If they ask about how you've dealt with unhappy customers, answer how you would deal with unhappy customers.

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I worked at a small high tech outfit for seven years and had exactly two reviews, both of which took place within the first year of employment. The boss decided that every day was performance review day. We would have a staff meeting every day at 9 AM sharp where you stated what you got done the day before and what you were going to do that day. You were definitely on the spot. If what you said was problematic, you'd meet the boss immediately after the meeting was over. Despite the yelling and screaming and dressing down, I kept that job for seven years and left only because I was laid off. So I didn't do too badly. You didn't last in that kind of work environment unless you were a high performer. Another note: the boss had a phenomenal memory for my screw ups :)

I'd answer your interviewer by saying that every day was performance review day and if the performance review was good, you got to keep your job.

Follow-comment from MJ6 "Your suggested response sounds like a put-down of the prior employer, which is usually not a good move when interviewing. A more positive wording in your case might be: "We had daily check-ins at my prior job which negated the need for a more formal review.""

Much better put. Thanks for your more clinical perspective.

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    Your suggested response sounds like a put-down of the prior employer, which is usually not a good move when interviewing. A more positive wording in your case might be: "We had daily check-ins at my prior job which negated the need for a more formal review." – MJ6 May 20 '14 at 12:54
  • @MJ6 But that runs the risk of sounding like you're criticizing the interviewer for thinking that formal reviews are necessary. – David Richerby May 20 '14 at 16:06
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    @David Richerby - Hmmm. How about "We had daily check-ins at my prior job instead of a more formal review process." – MJ6 May 20 '14 at 16:16
  • How about "well they didn't fire me so I assumed that I was doing awesome." I don't know, it seems to me that if your company doesn't do formal reviews then it shows a lack of initiative not to have initiated some discussion with your manager to get some detailed feedback on your performance. How do you know if you are just ok, doing good or are awesome? what do you need to improve in order to get promoted? Why wouldn't you want to know how you compare to others? How else would you know that you need to put in more effort or showcase some talents deemed more important by your manager? – Dunk May 20 '14 at 18:44
  • @Dunk Above me, there was one VP who is the co-founder and the highly technical CEO who is the founder. Since I was the top sys engineer in the place, how high do you think I could go? During my tenure, I got the toughest assignments i.e. the sort of assignments that would cost the firm its existence if I failed. Why do I need to compare myself to others when I was the go-to guy whenever the situation was bad and getting worse and no one could figure out what the hell was happening? Given the context, I was doing awesome. Except for that heart attack that almost finished me off. – Vietnhi Phuvan May 20 '14 at 19:10

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