Self-Awareness in Job Interviews at Google

Discover the crucial skill sought after by Google VPs during job interviews and the significance of self-awareness. Learn how to develop this skill and its impact on career success.


Daniel Rizea is a Director of Engineering and was previously a Director at FitbitSetup for 10 years at Google as a Vice President, conducted numerous job interviews, spending up to 40 hours per week on this task alone. To streamline the process, I always prioritized one particular skill above all others: self-awareness.

While experience and technical expertise are essential, self-awareness is a rare and invaluable trait that sets exceptional candidates apart from the rest. In this article, we will delve into the significance of self-awareness, how I assessed it during interviews, the telltale signs of lacking self-awareness, and practical steps to develop this vital attribute.

The Value of Self-Awareness

Experience and skills are undoubtedly important, but they can be acquired and refined over time. Self-awareness, however, is a personal attribute that drives continuous growth and improvement. Highly self-aware individuals genuinely understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to identify areas for development and work toward them. Additionally, self-awareness fosters effective collaboration with colleagues and managers, as individuals with this trait can navigate relationships with empathy and openness.

Remarkably, research suggests that while a staggering 95% of people believe they are self-aware, only 10% to 15% indeed exhibit this quality. Thus, it becomes evident that self-awareness is both rare and highly sought after in the professional realm.

job interviews
Credit: Google

Assessing Self-Awareness

During job interviews, I employed specific techniques to evaluate candidates’ self-awareness. Two crucial factors I observed were the balance between self-reference and collective contribution. Excessive use of “I” indicated a potential lack of humility and collaboration, while an overreliance on “we” might obscure the candidate’s individual role in a given situation. Striking the right balance between individual and collective accountability was an important indicator of self-awareness.

Additionally, I found it enlightening to inquire about candidates’ specific roles in past experiences. A favorable response would entail acknowledging their individual contribution while attributing credit to the entire team. This demonstrated an understanding of their impact within a collaborative setting.

To gain further insight, I asked candidates how their colleagues would describe them. If they received solely positive feedback, I probed for constructive criticism they had received. Furthermore, I posed the question, “What have you done to improve?” to assess their orientation towards learning, self-improvement, and the extent to which they internalized feedback.

Signs of Lacking Self-Awareness

If one lacks self-awareness, they may exhibit certain telltale signs, including:-

  • Consistently Disagreeing with Feedback: If feedback consistently contradicts one’s own perception, it indicates a disparity between how they are perceived by others and how they perceive themselves.
  • Frustration with Team Direction: Feeling consistently frustrated and annoyed due to disagreements with the team’s decisions or direction may indicate a lack of self-awareness.
  • Drained Energy: Experiencing a sense of fatigue and being unable to pinpoint its cause after a workday can stem from a lack of self-awareness.
  • Undefined Work Preferences: Difficulty articulating the types of work one enjoys or dislikes can indicate a lack of self-awareness.

Developing Self-Awareness

Building self-awareness is a gradual process that involves understanding one’s work style, values, skills, and capabilities. Here are three essential steps to enhance self-awareness:-

1. Understand Your Values:

Identifying what is truly important to you, what energizes you, and what weakens your motivation will provide insights into how you work. With this understanding, you can express your values and recognize when they conflict with others’ values or different aspects of your work.

2. Identify Your Work Style:

Take time to reflect on moments when you feel most accomplished and fulfilled in your job, as well as instances when you struggle or feel dissatisfied. By recognizing patterns in these experiences, you can gain valuable insights into your work style. If you find it challenging to trust your own judgment, seek input from someone whose opinion you respect, asking them when they’ve seen you perform at your best and worst.

3. Analyze Your Skills and Capabilities:

During interviews, it’s crucial to be able to confidently discuss your strengths and weaknesses. To develop a more tactical sense of self-awareness, ask yourself two important questions: First, identify the skills you excel at and those you need to further develop. Second, evaluate your capabilities, including both natural talents and acquired skills over time.

Eric Yuan, founder, and CEO of Zoom, employs an effective exercise to promote self-awareness. He dedicates 15 minutes at the end of each day to reflective thinking. Yuan asks himself questions like, “What did I do well today? Did I make any mistakes? How can I improve tomorrow?” This practice helps cultivate self-awareness and provides an opportunity for personal growth.

job interviews
Credit: Google
Why is self-awareness critical in job interviews?

Self-awareness is crucial in job interviews because it indicates a candidate’s ability to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, learn from feedback, and collaborate effectively with colleagues and managers. It demonstrates an individual’s commitment to personal growth and their capacity to contribute to a team.

How can I assess my own level of self-awareness?

You can assess your self-awareness by considering how feedback from others aligns with your self-perception, reflecting on your emotional responses to team decisions, evaluating your energy levels at the end of the workday, and examining your ability to articulate your work preferences.

Can self-awareness be developed?

Yes, self-awareness can be developed through introspection, seeking feedback from others, and engaging in reflective practices. By understanding your values, recognizing your work style, and analyzing your skills and capabilities, you can enhance your self-awareness over time.

What are the benefits of self-awareness in the workplace?

Self-awareness in the workplace leads to improved communication, stronger relationships, increased personal and professional growth, and better decision-making.

How can self-awareness contribute to career success?

Self-awareness plays a vital role in career success as it enables individuals to align their work with their values, make informed career choices, and leverage their strengths. By understanding their own abilities and areas for improvement, self-aware individuals can seek growth opportunities, take on challenging projects, and build fulfilling and impactful career.

Can self-awareness benefit teamwork and collaboration?

Absolutely. Self-awareness enhances teamwork and collaboration by fostering effective communication, empathy, and understanding among team members. When individuals are aware of their own strengths, weaknesses, and working styles, they can better navigate team dynamics, contribute their unique perspectives, and build harmonious and productive working relationships.


In the world of professional success, self-awareness stands out as a highly valuable and often elusive trait. As someone who spent a decade as a VP at Google, I can attest to its significance in identifying exceptional candidates during job interviews. While experience and skills can be learned, self-awareness is an inherent quality that drives motivation, fosters collaboration, and fuels personal growth.

By evaluating the balance between individual and collective accountability, probing for constructive feedback, and assessing candidates’ orientation towards learning and improvement, I was able to identify those with genuine self-awareness.

Developing self-awareness requires introspection and understanding of one’s values, work style, skills, and capabilities. By embarking on this journey, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of themselves, make more informed decisions, and contribute effectively to their teams.

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