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8 of the best ways to demonstrate your growth mindset in a job interview

Chris Dottie MBE, Managing Director, Hays Spain

“You try something, it doesn’t work, and maybe people even criticise you. In a fixed mindset, you say, ‘I tried this, it’s over.’ In a growth mindset, you look for what you’ve learned.” Carol Dweck, Stanford University Psychologist

Why adopting a growth mindset is more important than ever before

At Hays Spain, we review the performance of new colleagues after their first three and six months in the company. My colleagues conducting these performance reviews will testify that my continual catchphrase in these meetings is “I don’t care how good they are, I care how much they are improving”.

To be honest, for many jobs, the degree to which an employee matches the skills profile of a role one hundred percent is not a critical success factor. Yes, a better skills match can reduce training investment slightly, or produce results slightly quicker, but the impact on long-term success in the role is usually marginal. What is critical, however, is the degree to which employees have a mindset of growth, which I’ll go on to shortly, and strong metacognition skills – i.e. knowing how to learn, improve and grow.

As our CEO, Alistair Cox explained in his LinkedIn Influencer blog, according to Carol Dweck many people have a mostly fixed mindset, believing that their skills abilities are relatively unchangeable. On the other hand, “a growth mindset is all about believing that you can develop your existing skills and abilities with practice and effort. In short, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that no matter what level of capability you possess right now, there’s always something new you can learn and become better at.” Or, to quote a slightly different analyst of human behaviour, Muhammed Ali “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”.

I think we’d all agree that the one thing that’s constant in today’s rapidly evolving world of work is change. And working with this backdrop of constant change means that in order to be successful, we must try and approach every task – no matter how challenging, with a mindset of growth. Why? Because all this change means that we’re ultimately going to need to be operating out of our comfort zones more often, as Alistair explains: “For most, this means operating outside of our comfort zones more often. It means a shift from working in set spheres in which we know we can perform well, spheres in which there’s no perceived risk of failure or of looking stupid. A move to dealing with different departments and external partners and suppliers more regularly, to interacting with people who we may deem more knowledgeable than us, people we are more likely to see as a threat.”

How to prove to your interviewer that your default mindset is one of growth

Employers are also recognising that if their employees are fixed in their mindsets, then there is an innate risk that their organisations will be fixed too – fixed in a stitch in time, without the necessary ingredients to innovate and drive forward. That’s a scary place to be.

So, how can you prove to your interviewer, that, more often than not, your default mindset is one of growth? Below I’ve plotted out eight key ways I think you can do this:

1. Prepare fully for the interview beforehand

Those with a growth mindset will see a job interview as an opportunity to learn more about a business and the industry it operates in. They’ll see it as a challenge that they need to overcome – and overcome in a proactive and positive way, instead of something to feel daunted or intimidated by.

One way you can really show your interviewer that you have the growth mindset they’re looking for is to not scrimp on your pre-interview research. See your interview preparation as a project in itself – be thorough and don’t leave any stone unturned. Research the company in full, your interviewer, recent industry news or product launches – everything. Doing so will demonstrate to your interviewer that you’re proactive, engaged, and have embraced the challenge of preparing for the interview wholeheartedly.

2. Demonstrate your strong problem-solving skills

Those with a growth mindset try to approach any problems they face head-on. They aren’t afraid to make mistakes as part of that process, and, instead, tend to see problems as an opportunity to learn and develop. They don’t let the voices in their head, voices like ‘I’m not good with numbers’, take over and knock their confidence or approach to solving a given problem. They have an unwavering belief in their ability to solve them, even if, admittedly, the problem might be in an area they aren’t an expert in. They see problems and the process of solving them as an opportunity to learn, develop and get better.

So, prior to your next interview, try to think back to when you’ve had to solve a problem – ideally a problem that was a little out of your comfort zone. Be prepared to talk your interviewer through how you approached solving that problem from start to finish, explaining how you proactively handled any hurdles along the way and importantly, what you learnt during that process. And don’t worry if you didn’t actually manage to solve the problem – what matters in the interviewer’s mind is that you have a proactive approach to problem solving, and tackle them head on.

3. Highlight your commitment to continuous upskilling and lifelong learning

Those with a growth mindset love learning – and not just in those areas in which they feel the most comfortable with or are even the most naturally interested in – but in a broad range of topics. They have a zest for self-improvement – so, reading, listening to podcasts, working towards qualifications or attending industry events are all habits, or even rituals for them – they don’t even think twice about doing them.

They also understand that the mind is a muscle – it needs challenges to grow, and that learning a new skill isn’t just going to happen overnight. They know that to really master a new skill it takes practice, effort and time. Lastly, they try to see those who they may find intimidating as people they can learn from. Essentially, those with a growth mindset have an unwavering commitment to their own learning – and try to see everything and everyone they come into contact with as an opportunity to get better.

So, in your next job interview, voice your commitment to continuous upskilling and lifelong learning. If you’ve learnt any new skills or attended any training courses then weave these into your answers. It’s also a good idea to ask the interviewer about the organisation’s commitment to supporting the learning and development of their employees.

4. Admit to your failures and explain what you’ve learnt from them

Those with a growth mindset appreciate and understand that failure is a key aspect of learning and growth. So, that awkward interview question: “Can you tell me about a time you’ve failed?” isn’t one to shy away from.

So, before the interview, plan out which failure you plan to talk about – and make it genuine – perhaps an oversight or error that caused a slight ripple in the ocean. In the interview, don’t make excuses or blame others, instead, explain how it happened, and, importantly, explain what you learnt and what you would do differently next time.

5. Showcase how you set yourself goals and are motivated to reach them

People with a growth mindset are well versed in, wherever possible, taking a proactive approach to any task, no matter now challenging or difficult they may perceive it to be. A common tactic is setting SMART goals or targets – breaking down each project into manageable and realistic tasks or goals, with the completion of each of these acting as an innate boost or a motivator.

So, in your next interview, explain how you like to set yourself personal SMART goals or work towards set milestones in order to motivate yourself to get even the most difficult or challenging of project done on time, and to a high quality.

6. Show that you are comfortable with being out of your comfort zone

As the world of work continues to change and evolve at an unprecedented rate, it’s likely that we’re all going to be working outside of our comfort zones more often.

So, you need to prove that you are able to step beyond the boundaries of your normal day-to-day routine and explore new territory with zeal, confidence and proactivity. An example of which could be learning to use a new piece of technology or tool which you’ve had no prior experience of and then training other members of your team on its use. Essentially, you need to prove to the interviewer that you belief in yourself and your ability to operate outside of your comfort zone, whilst driving the business forward and delivering results.

7. Ask well-prepared questions to prove your inquisitiveness

Being perceived as a curious and interested candidate in the mind of the interviewer will help them see you as somebody who has an innate mindset of growth. So, ask positive questions of them and the company which you have prepared beforehand – this will demonstrate that you see others as invaluable sources of learning and growth. For instance, you could ask about the interviewer’s career to date, what they’ve learned, their experience of the workplace culture, and other questions that prove your interest in learning from others. I’ve plotted out a few questions you could ask your interviewer in this blog.

8. The hard work doesn’t just stop once the interview has ended

Those with a growth mindset understand that the interview experience doesn’t stop once you’ve walked out of the interview door. So, be proactive in sending up a follow up email via your recruiter to the interviewer, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in the role. This will serve as another example of proactivity and tendency to go above and beyond.

If you’re faced with rejection, use your growth mindset to help you see this as an opportunity to learn and improve your performance for next time. Above all, don’t give up or feel defeated. This is just another learning experience which can help you develop and grow.

On the flipside, if you’re offered the role, continue to showcase your mindset of growth in the way that you prepare for your first day, and how you behave in those first few weeks, months and years.

There’s no doubt about it, to succeed in today and tomorrow’s world of work, we all need to adopt a growth mindset more often in order to ensure our success. Hopefully these tips will help you position yourself in the interviewer’s mind as someone who can help them take their business forward, innovate and relish change.

About this author

A native of Liverpool, Chris joined Hays in 1996, working in the UK and Portugal before arriving in Spain in 2002. He is Managing Director for the Hays group in Spain, with offices located in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao and Seville.

He has a degree in International Business and Modern Languages from Aston University, including a year’s study at l’École Superieur de Sciences Commerciales d’Angers and has since completed Executive Education courses at Ashridge Business School and IMD. He is a regular public commentator on the world of work and international trade.

For the past four years Chris has served as President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain and currently serves as a Non Executive Director on the Board of the British Chambers of Commerce. Chris was awarded an MBE for services to British business on the New Years Honours List in 2020.

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