Video: Coachability


Coachability: Interview Tips

One of the key interview tips comes from the number one reason why new hires fail. When they fail, it is Coachability, or rather, a lack thereof that is why they fail. Coachability basically means they can't anticipate feedback, they can't accept feedback, and they just keep on trucking doing whatever they do.


The good news is there is an interview question, a five-part interview question, that will actually help you reveal whether or not somebody is coachable. Here's how it works. And if you only use only one of the many Hiring for Attitude interview tips, this is certainly one to consider. At five steps this is a bit longer than some of the other interview tips, but it’s worth it.


Part one: You're going to pick a job, either the current job or the job right before that job, and you're going to ask the person, what was their boss' name. You'll say, "What was your boss' name at that job?" If they're uncomfortable giving the boss at the current job, just go one back. It works the same. "What was your boss' name at that job?" "Oh, it was Pat." "Great. Pat what?" "Pat Smith." "Super." Now, here's the kicker: "How do you spell Smith? Is that S-M-I-T-H or S-M-Y-T-H-E?" "Oh, S-M-I-T-H." Great. Pat Smith, S-M-I-T-H.


Now, it freaks people out sometimes, not the candidate, but the interviewer, because you're asking the person to spell their boss' last name and they'll say, “My gosh. That feels so invasive." It has to be, because you're going to spend more waking hours with this person than you do your spouse, so it behooves us to make sure we know as much about them as is humanly possible. That's part one, like I said, most of the other interview tips are shorter, but this one is really worth it.


Part two then is: "Tell me about Pat as a boss." All we're really listening for is how they describe Pat and whether that seems like a good fit for us. If they say, “Pat was great. A little bit of a micro-manager, but you know, that's fine.” Huh. Okay. If you're a little bit of a micro-manager, what you just learned is, "I might not be a great fit with this person."


Part three then asks: "What's something you could've done or done differently to enhance your working relationship with Pat?" This is where the Coachability part really comes in, because sometimes people will say, "I don't know. It was fine. There was nothing I really could've done." What you learn about people is the best, most coachable, high-performer types, there's always something they could've done better. If you're a Superbowl-winning quarterback, if you're Tom Brady, you go out, you have a near-perfect game, you off the field and someone asks, "Tom, is there anything you could've done better?"


He's going to say, "Yeah, there were actually a couple of throws I would've liked to have had back." There's always something. So when somebody says, "No, it was fine. Nothing I could've done differently," that tells you right there they're not at optimal levels of Coachability.


Part four is really a softball and it's: "When I talk to Pat" ... Notice the little subtle plug; I'm going to talk to Pat. "When I talk to Pat, what's Pat going to tell me your strengths are?" I didn't ask, "What do you think your strengths are?" I asked, “What is Pat going to tell me your strengths are?"


As I said, that's really a softball to the final part of the question, which is: "When I talk to Pat ... everybody has areas where they can improve, but when I talk to Pat, what's Pat going to tell me your weaknesses are?" Here's where you can hear the final part of the Coachability test. Because when somebody says, "I don't know. Pat didn't give me a lot of feedback. You'd really have to ask Pat," what that tells you is they're not particularly coachable. High performers, coachable people, before their boss ever says anything to them, they know what the quality of their work is. They know whether it's great or not so great.


When I send one of my book chapters to my editor, I know when I send it off whether this was one of my best chapters ever, or if this was one of those ones I just needed to get off my desk. I already know that. I've anticipated what the editor is going to say. Coachable employees do the same exact thing with their boss. They don't have to wait around for their boss to say, "That was a great job," "not so great a job."


So when considering the key interview tips, just think about those five parts: 1) Spell your boss' name, basically. 2) What was Pat like as a boss? 3) What's something you could've done/done differently? 4) What's Pat going to tell me your strengths are? 5) What's Pat going to tell me your weaknesses are? Those five parts together form one big Coachability question. It’s one of the best interview tips, and it’s going to tell you the major source of failure for new hires. It's going to help you reveal that and make sure that this person has all the Coachability you need. There are a lot of additional interview tips you’ll find in Hiring for Attitude.

Posted by Mark Murphy on 14 October, 2016 Hiring for Attitude, Video | 1 comment
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  • Brandon Jones - October 21, 2016

    I freaked out a little after you asked how to spell “Pat Smith”, so I can definitely see how that would keep a prospective employee on their toes! Great article!

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