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Why I stopped using the word "coachable"​

I've been participating in job interviews as an interviewer for quite a while. An obvious conclusion from the experience: to hire the right person you need to spend some time with candidates to figure out if they demonstrate the required knowledge and competencies. That's why a role-play or scenario-based interviews are so popular. Candidates are put in different situations - simulated work-related conditions so that the interviewers can observe what applicants do and say. We look for professional attitude, knowledge and, of course, how they think as it reveals a lot.

I came across several LinkedIn posts and articles where "being coachable" was stressed as an important quality of job candidates. My first reaction wasn't very positive: I felt resistance to using this word. There are a few reasons why using "being coachable" might be unsuitable:

  • Any coaching conversation requires permission and consent of the coachee to be coached. Interviews quite rarely can be considered as coaching conversations. How can we evaluate somebody's readiness to be coached outside of the coaching agreement/contract and a coaching conversation? There is a decent portion of the judgement in this, and I'd say quite an unfounded judgement.
  • A verdict "coachable" or not requires a coach on one of the sides-:) Has it been a case in the interviews you've participated in? Perhaps I haven't been very lucky as I haven't seen many coaches in job interviews throughout my career. So, the question is how it's legitimate to assess a candidate's readiness for coaching.

But let's step back from the word itself and ask what we're actually looking for in candidates when we want to check whether they are coachable. In my opinion, the quality we'd like to see is the ability to analyse how they acted during the interview and what they would do differently if they had another chance. Merely, inspect and adapt. In other words, we look for "self-reflection".

Being coachable is a decision or a choice, self-reflection is a quality.

And it sounds way better to me as it's a quality that can be validated during an interview by having a de-brief conversation and simply asking "What would you do differently? What have you learned about yourself?".

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