Ex-Google Vice President Claire Hughes Johnson, who worked at the company for 10 years, very few people had the the top skill she looked for in a candidate. “To make things easier, I always had one skill that I looked for in candidates before anything else: self-awareness,” Johnson said in an article she wrote for CNBC.
“Sure, your experience and skills matter, but they can be learned. And when someone is highly self-aware, they’re more motivated to learn because they’re honest about what they need to work on. They also relate better to their colleagues and managers,” she added.
How Johnson checked for self-awareness
Johnson wrote that she always watched for two words: “I” and “We”. “Too much ‘I’ is a red flag that they may not be humble or collaborative; too much ‘we’ may obscure what role they played in the situation. There needs to be a balance,” she noted.
“I typically 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,” Johnson noted.
Johnson cited research saying that self awareness is a rare trait. “95% of people believe they are self-aware, but only 10 to 15% actually have this trait in them,” Google’s former executive added.
Johnson also noted that she used to ask how their colleagues would describe them.
“If they only say good things, I probe what constructive feedback they’ve received. Then I’ll say, ‘And what have you done to improve?’ to check their orientation towards learning and self-improvement, and to see whether they’ve taken that feedback to heart,” she added.