I was VP at Google for 10 years. This is the #1 skill I looked for in job interviews – not many people had it

During my 10 years at Google as VP, there were weeks when I spent up to 40 hours conducting job interviews. So to make things easier, I always had a skill that I looked for above all in candidates: self-awareness.

Of course, your experience and skills matter, but they can be learned. And when someone is very self-aware, they’re more motivated to learn because they’re honest about what they need to work on. They also have better relationships with their colleagues and superiors.

Plus, it’s a rare trait: research shows that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10% to 15% actually are.

I’m always watching for two words: too many “I’s” are a red flag that they may not be humble or collaborative; too much of “us” can obscure the role they played in the situation. You need a balance.

I usually learn something revealing when I ask about their specific role. A positive answer would be: “It was my idea, but the credit goes to the whole team.

I also ask how their colleagues would describe them. If they only say good things, I probe the constructive comments they received.

Then I’ll say, “And what have you done to improve yourself?” to check their orientation towards learning and self-improvement, and to see if they took this feedback to heart.

If you are not aware of yourself, how would you know? Here are some telltale signs:

  • You constantly get comments you disagree with. It doesn’t mean the feedback is correct, but it does mean that how others perceive you differs from how you perceive yourself.
  • You often feel frustrated and annoyed because you disagree with your team’s direction or decisions.
  • You feel exhausted at the end of a working day and you don’t know why.
  • You cannot describe the types of work you do and dislike doing.

Becoming more self-aware is about understanding why you work the way you do and what you can bring to your team:

1. Understand your values.

Knowing what is important to you, what gives you energy and what weakens it will help you make sense of the way you work.

With this information, you will be able to express your values ​​and understand when they conflict with each other or with someone else’s values.

2. Identify your working style.

Spend a few weeks writing down the times when you feel like you are reaching new heights in your work or hitting new lows. You will start to see patterns.

If you have trouble trusting your own instincts, ask someone whose judgment you respect, “When have you seen me do my best and my worst work?”

3. Analyze your skills and abilities.

In an interview, you need to be able to talk confidently about your strengths and weaknesses.

To get a more tactical sense of self-awareness, ask yourself two questions:

  • What can you really do well? What skills do you have and which ones do you need to rely 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 of meditation reflection.

“I ask myself: if I start again today, what can I do differently? Did I make mistakes? Can I improve tomorrow? Sometimes I write something important,” he says. “But most of the time, thinking is enough.”

Claire Hugues Johnson is a consultant for Stripauthor of “Scaling People” and lecturer at Harvard Business School. Previously, she was COO of Stripe and spent 10 years at Google, where she oversaw aspects of Gmail, Google Apps and consumer operations. Claire is also a director and current chair of the board of directors of Milton Academy. Follow her on Twitter.

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