It’s time to refocus back on interviewing, the stakes are high as hiring managers are confronted with the challenge of interviewing candidates that are savvier than ever. Applicants have educated themselves on the insider tips for winning the interviewing game. With the increasing difficulty in obtaining reference information and candidates who are well-rehearsed, interviewers are baffled at how to separate the style from the substance. This week we explore ways to uncover a critical skill needed for job success: coachability.
Maybe it’s the world we live in today or maybe it’s a generational thing, but employees seem to be very sensitive to feedback and are easily offended. For any of us to grow and thrive at work, we have to be willing to hear feedback and not only accept it but also make a behavioral change in order to improve. We call this coachability. How does someone interview a candidate and know they are coachable?
It’s important to know that coachability is learned. It is the result of several skills used in combination: self-awareness, flexibility, and optimism. You can ask questions to validate each and all of these skills in the context of being coachable.
We recommend using the behavior-based interview format and asking for a complete answer (circumstance, action, and result). For more information on this, check out our companion webinar which includes top interview questions broken-down by skill. And, a handy template for an interviewing 3x2 grid.
1." Describe a time when you were unfairly criticized and tell me what the details were."
This question is designed to uncover two things: the candidate's Self-Awareness and their definition of criticism. Be sure to get a specific example from them. The word "unfairly" is important to include as you will be assessing how justified the feedback they received was against their actions. Would a reasonable person think it was fair or unfair criticism? You also want to understand how sensitive they are to receiving negative performance feedback. In your opinion, does the example they share represent criticism or feedback? Do they take action to change their behavior as a result? Being coachable doesn’t mean we only change when we agree with the feedback, but also when we don’t.
2.“Tell me about a stretch assignment you were delegated that really challenged you.”
First off, you will find out if they have had any recent stretch assignments and their definition of “stretch” and “challenge”. I also like to follow up with questions about how the assignment came about – did they ask for it or was it required? I like to get a lot of details from them so I can also assess how they managed the stress of it and what they learned from the new experience. Coachable people are proactively willing to get out of their comfort zone and try something different.
3. “We’ve all had occasions when things at work don’t go our way. Think of a time when it happened to you and what the circumstances were. Give me a specific example.”
A pessimist will say they have several examples of this situation they can share. An optimist believes that setbacks or failures are isolated and do not allow them to permanently damage their sense of hope. Optimists believe that positive change is possible in themselves and others, so even when you ask for details of a challenge you will likely hear that they learned something good from it and use that information for the future. Coachable people take all experiences and use them to improve.
Technical skills and experience are always easier to ask about and assess in a candidate. Although the emotional intelligence skills may seem more difficult to measure, by using a systematic approach and asking the right questions you will get much higher quality information. Coachability is a key functional skill for every role and often determines retention, employee engagement, and job satisfaction.