The Tough Interview Question Tiger Woods Asked His Coach

By | September 25, 2014

Kool Derby

Before making an important hiring decision, you must ask the tough questions of those who will help you become successful. You’re interested in people who can think through the question, and provide an answer that makes sense and not just one that sounds right.

Recently, I was getting a haircut at a barbershop near my office, and there were a couple gentlemen in front of me. To kill some time, I grabbed the current copy of Golf Digest and read the article promoting the book of Tiger Woods’ ex-coach Hank Haney, The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods.

While I have some interest in golf, I was more interested in the business application of the article. As a leaders, you want to hire the right people to handle the mission critical jobs in your company. Many factors are considered when going through the interview process.

On March 8, 2004, Haney was having dinner with his father at a Plano, Texas steakhouse. He informed his dad that an important phone call might be forthcoming, but he wasn’t sure if it was coming that evening. Shortly after dinner began, Haney’s mobile phone rang, and he observed the number originated from the 407 area code, which he knew belonged to the Orlando, Florida area.

Tiger was businesslike, “Hank, I want to know if you’ll help me with my golf game.”

While Haney was excited, he controlled his emotions. The greatest golfer in the world had just asked him to be his coach.

Haney responded: “Sure, Tiger. Of course.”

Tiger was not in the mood to chitchat. He wanted to know if Haney was prepared to hit the ground running. He was already the best in his game, but he wanted to get better. He was interested in learning how Haney could help him widen the gap between him and the competition.

Tiger asked: “What do you think I need to do better?”

This is a tough question. When interviewing the next person to fill an important role in your organization, make sure to ask it. You can learn more about the prospect’s background, how much they know about your business, and their ability to think on their feet. You want someone who is forthright with you, and not someone who thinks you’re the greatest.

Tiger Woods was already head-and-shoulders above everyone else, having won many major championship events (14 as of this writing). He wanted to surpass the 18 wins of golfing-giant, Jack Nicklaus. He wanted an edge, and Haney needed to have the right plan. He needed to have the right answer.

Haney’s response to Tiger’s specific question landed him the position: “It doesn’t look like you have a real step-by-step plan. I think when you’re trying to improve, the most important thing is to always have a plan.”

Haney understood that Tiger had the confidence and skill to win, but this alone was insufficient to stay ahead of the pack. He needed a plan that kept him sharp. In fact, Haney recommend a big change in Tiger’s grip of the golf club. Tiger resisted at first, but soon adopted the change, and it improved his game markedly.

You must look for top-notch people to join your organization. Put them on the spot, and ask them what they feel you can do to be the best in your industry. You should not hire them because they have the best interview response. Instead, you hire the people who have the confidence to share the reality of the situation, and a solution that will make you a world-class organization.

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