Using Grow Model for interviewing sessions

After 35 years since its first appearance, probably everybody heard so far and many of us even used the Grow coaching model in various contexts. Originally developed in the 1980s by performance coach Sir John Whitmore, it can be easily and successfully applied both in professional environments as well in personal life, by just being a simple, yet powerful framework for structuring coaching sessions.


The word GROW is actually an acronym for Goal – Reality – Options – Will/ Wrap up/Way forward.


If you like metaphors like I dolaugh, you can compare this model with a journey, a journey that has always a destination, (the goal) and a current place where you start the journey (current reality). For sure you explore various ways (options) to reach to your destination and armed with your will, you are committed to making the journey and prepared to solve the unpredictable experiences that could appear on the way.

But probably few HR professionals tried or thought to apply this model during the interviewing sessions. I thought to give a try and lately I adapted the model and embed it in the recruiting process, based on the structure:

  • Goal – setting of specific goal –the job itself or the career plan
  • Reality – understanding where the candidate is now in relation to this goal
  • Options – exploring options for moving forward in the recruiting process
  • Wrap Up/ Will/Way Forward – identifying and agreeing specific action for the future


How I've got to this idea?


This idea came into my mind after giving some thought on how to get into the candidate’s mind, to find out his/her real career ambitions and dreams and then to build the puzzle made out of his/her beliefs, values, core competence, attitude and character. I found in the questions from the Grow model a possibility to switch from a standard and rigid interview frame towards an open and honest, almost, friendly talk, in which both parts are exploring each other to get to a conclusion, as accurate and honest as the discussion itself.

Looking upon the interviewing session through the lens of the Grow model, means also to focus less on the past background of the candidate, on the archived pile of companies, tasks, roles accumulated over years, and concentrate more on dealing with the current state and the future: the direction the candidate wants/needs to go. I would reduce the importance laid so far on experience and draw the attention to the candidate’s competence, which for HR means the ability of an individual to do a job effectively and efficiently based on a set of defined behaviors, skills, knowledge and qualification  enabling the identification, evaluation and development of the behaviors in individual employees. “I will hire you because of your competence as an accountant”. Experience is like a kick-starter, nothing more… Competence and attitude are the key to hiring the right person.


Why to use it in recruitment?


Because a recruiter needs to gather disparate information from various sources and seize also the latent skills that could turn someone, in a certain context into a talent and a value for that organization.

Besides, a candidate who does not have any idea of what he/she wants and is sailing randomly from one job to another, will need some external help to find his/her place in an organization and build a meaning out of his job.

Actually, when I’m referring to goals, in this context, it means not something that is limiting yourself or hindering you from exploring new territories, but simply as something which you would like to do or to achieve. It answers your question: "what do you want?" I’ve met people who told me that they do not have any goals or any dreams. They just go with the flow and try to excel in whatever they do. Without defining the goals or the roads ‘options’ towards the goals. But I’m wondering, "not having any goals" could be, in a way, a goal in itself? A goal is something you want for you, in this case: not to have goals. And dreams? I’m convinced now, that everybody has a dream, because the personal dream is deeply connected with the personal mission, so those who say they do not have any dream, they simply have not discovered it yet.


First step > 'What do you want?'


With this in mind I would say that starting an interview with the question “what do you (really) want?”, might be an effective way to develop a potential collaboration. The GROW model has then started with one of the simplest yet difficult to answer question. 

In such interviewing approach, there’s no right or wrong answer. Because it is merely about predictability, about how things could go. Predictability in the workplace builds “the trust that allows people to synchronize their actions in mutually productive ways”, so the more predictable the employees and the organizations are, the better they can shape the future, bringing a sense of order and appurtenance to this order.

And yes, it is difficult to survive in an unpredictable environment, because our survival still depends on the ability to respond quickly to changes and forecast the consequences of our actions. In real-life business situations, knowhow and experience are crucial, but the ability to handle situations that you haven’t had before and couldn’t have prepared for is equally vital.

What proves to be actually relevant in the interviewing session is the way the candidate chooses to reply to hypothetical and surprising questions or situations like “if you could "synthetize" yourself in one single word, what would it be?”, or “let’s imagine we are using a time machine which takes us after 6 months since you’ve got this job we are discussing now, please think about what was important to you when it came to choosing this job?”, “What did you achieve and not achieve in this period?”, “What did reaching the goal offer you”?

Other questions related to first phase of the GROW model, namely “setting goal” might be: “what would you like to accomplish in your career/job?” Or, "what do you want to change in your professional role?”, “what would the benefits be if you achieved this job?”, wWhat would this mean to you?", "which of your values do you need to consider when setting this goal?"


Second step > Current status


In the step 2 of the GROW model, “reality”, the candidate becomes aware of the current situation he/she is in. Sometimes this phase reveals some worries and beliefs that might hold the candidate back from overcoming obstacles or crisis situation at work. Relevant questions to discover the reality of a candidate are: “what's happening to you now?” ,“what is the result of that?”, “what went well and what did not go well at your current working experience?”, “is this always a problem or are there situations in which it isn't? If yes, what are those situations?” , "what are the defining factors that can make the difference in your new job?”, “what have you done so far to build your career?”


Third step > Options


Step three of the GROW model is to explore options, in the same hypothetical scenario, in moving further and generate ideas that can contribute to achieving the job and performance on that job: “what could you do as a first step in performing the assigned tasks?”, “what would happen if you did nothing?”, “ in what area you need to improve your skills and knowledge to perform better?", “how could you redesign your environment to support you in achieving best performance in this job?”,  “what could you change or eliminate in your environment that is holding you back?” ,“how can your surroundings support you?, "what are the costs and benefits of this job for you?”

The last step of the GROW model is identifying specific steps and agree concrete actions (“way forward”): “where does this job fit in with your personal priorities at the moment?”, “what obstacles do you expect to meet at the beginning of the collaboration, in case we decide to go on?” ,“ are all obstacles taken into account? If yes, how will you overcome them?” ,“ how motivated are you, on a scale from 1 to 10, to perform in this job?”, "what do you need to have a 10? Where can you get it”?


What's in it for me as a recruiter?


Building such scenarios during interviewing reveals a skill which might be useful in any organization: self-awareness and could give us an insight into candidate’s hidden dreams, into the creative thinking capacity and the ability to build relationships with people or into his fears, concerns, attitude towards risk and teamwork and most important, into the values of the candidate. Discovering some of the values of the candidate is quite a victory for an interviewer. Why? Because values hides the triggers of a person’s motivations and predicts future behaviors.

Of course, I also follow regular job interview protocol, discussing his or her background, education and experience levels, too. But the questions adapted from the Grow model could be a better predictive tool than most of the questions thrown around during job interviews. That’s because what I’m really looking for, at the end of the day, is people who can think on their feet and are able to project into the future, by predicting and then transforming it. Not necessarily experienced people, but competent and talented persons able to develop themselves, to fit in the company culture, to do the extra mile when necessary, to start identifying themselves with the brand, the vision and mission of the company.

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