During my 10 years at Google as a VP, there were weeks where I would spend up to 40 hours conducting job interviews. So to make things easy, I always had one skill I looked for first in candidates: self-awareness.
Sure, your experience and skills matter, but they can be learned. And when someone is highly self-aware, they are more motivated to learn because they are being honest about what they need to work on. They also have better relations with their colleagues and managers.
Plus, it’s a rare trait: Research shows that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10% to 15% actually are.
I always watch for two words: Too many “I”s is a red flag that they may not be polite or cooperative; Too many “we”s can be vague as to what role they played in the situation. There has to be a balance.
I usually end up revealing something when I ask about his specific role. An affirmative answer would be: “It was my idea, but the credit goes to the whole team.”
I also ask how his colleagues would describe him. If they only say nice things, I probe what constructive feedback they got.
Then I would say, “And what have you done to improve?” To test their orientation toward learning and self-improvement, and to see whether they’ve taken that feedback to heart.
If you are not self-aware, how would you know? Here are some telltale signs:
- You constantly get feedback that you disagree with. This doesn’t mean that the feedback is accurate, but it does mean that how others see you is different from how you see yourself.
- You often feel frustrated and angry because you don’t agree with your team’s direction or decisions.
- You feel tired at the end of a workday and can’t tell why.
- You can’t describe what kind of work you do and don’t enjoy doing.
Becoming more self-aware is about understanding what makes you work the way you do, and what you can contribute to your team:
1. Know your values.
Knowing what’s important to you, what energizes you, and what drains you, will help you understand how you operate.
Armed with this information, you will be able to articulate your values and understand when they are in conflict with each other or someone else’s values.
2. Identify your working style.
Spend a few weeks writing down moments when you feel like you’re reaching new highs or new lows in your job. You will start to see patterns.
If you have trouble trusting your instincts, ask someone whose judgment you respect: “When have you seen me do my best and worst?”
3. Analyze your skills and abilities.
In an interview setting, you need to be able to speak confidently about your strengths and weaknesses.
To have a more strategic understanding of self-awareness, ask yourself two questions:
- What can you really do well? What skills do you have, and what do you need to build on?
- What are your abilities? What are you naturally good at and what abilities have you acquired over time?
Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, has another great exercise, in which he sets aside 15 minutes to think about meditation.
“I ask myself: If I start today, what can I do differently? Did I make a mistake? Can I improve tomorrow? Sometimes I write something important,” he They say. “But most of the time, thinking is enough.”
Claire Hughes Johnson are advisors to Bandageauthor of “Scaling People,” and on lecturer Harvard Business School, Previously, she was Chief Operating Officer of Stripe, and spent 10 years at Google, where she oversaw aspects of Gmail, Google Apps, and consumer operations. Claire also serves as a Trustee and current Board President. Milton Academy, follow him Twitter,