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How to Show Off Your Growth Mindset in Interviews


A person in an interview who is showing off their growth mindset

When hiring managers are interviewing for a role, one of the top traits they’re seeking is a growth mindset.


They want to know that you’re adaptable, resilient, and eager to learn and improve.


During the interview process, hiring managers will be listening to more than just your story and experience. They’ll be listening for your mindset.


Fortunately, if you do have a growth mindset (or are cultivating one!), there are ways to answer interview questions that can help showcase this. 


In this article we’ll go through some practice interview questions about the growth mindset, and then look at good and bad sample answers.


What is a Growth Mindset?


A growth mindset is a perspective based on the belief that abilities can developed through dedication and effort. The opposite is a “fixed mindset,” which sees abilities as fixed.


Psychologist Carol Dweck popularized the terms in her hallmark book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.


Here are a few more differences between the underlying beliefs that go into a growth mindset and a fixed mindset:


Growth Mindset Beliefs

Fixed Mindset Beliefs

You can develop any talent through hard work

You are either born with talents or you're not, and there's nothing you can do to change it

Anyone can master a skill with deliberate practice over a long period of time

To master a skill, you must be born with a natural talent

Challenges are a great opportunity for perseverance and growth

Challenges are to be avoided because they threaten your feelings of competence

Effort is necessary to learn and improve

Success should come easily and without effort

Feedback is a fantastic way to learn how to improve your performance

Feedback is a personal attack because they are criticizing your performance which you can’t change

Failure is to be embraced because it’s a treasure-trove of lessons on how to improve next time

Failure means you weren’t good enough

If a task feels difficult, it’s an opportunity to become more skilled

If a task feels difficult, it means you’re unskilled


In addition to a growth mindset, here are the other top skills that employers are looking for in applicants.


An example of a growth mindset in action


As an example, imagine that Alex is a software developer, and they receive an important new project that requires them to pick up a new programming language. The deadline is tight, and Alex needs to deliver quality code. 


If Alex has a fixed mindset, they’ll think something like, “Ugh, I’m not good at learning new languages. I don’t want to fail at this project, and have everyone see me as a hack.” 


With this attitude, Alex might reject the project entirely, give up when things get tough, or just approach it with undue anxiety.


Now, if Alex responds with a growth mindset, they’ll think something like, “Cool! An opportunity to learn something entirely new and put me out of my comfort zone! This might not be easy, but I’ll definitely grow a lot from it.”


And with this attitude, Alex will come in with much more resilience, optimism, and pep in their step.


Imagine if you were a hiring manager—which version of Alex would you rather have on your team?


Why Companies Prefer Candidates With a Growth Mindset


When you’re prepping for an interview, it can be helpful to put yourself in your potential employer’s shoes to get a sense of what they’re looking for.


To understand why growth mindsets are so appealing, let’s start by looking at what the data says. 


Compared to those with a fixed mindset, people with a growth mindset:



Pretty compelling, isn’t it?


Now, you can see why employers want new team members who are hungry to learn, eager to find opportunities to grow, and unfazed by failure.


All you have to do is speak to the values that make up a growth mindset.


5 Growth Mindset Interview Questions to Prepare For


With that said, let’s dive into some possible interview questions that could come up, and figure out how to showcase your growth mindset in each scenario.


1. Tell me about one of your recent failures


Thomas Edison once famously said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” That’s the type of attitude that employers want to hire!


This question sits at the heart of the growth mindset. How you think about failure says a lot about you.


When an employer asks this question, they want to hear about a true failure. They don’t want to hear about a success veiled as a failure.


Ultimately, an employer asks this question as a way to look out for three qualities in you:


  1. Your ability to take responsibility for your mistakes

  2. Your resilience to overcome obstacles and continue to problem-solve

  3. Your self-awareness and your ability to learn from your experience


When you encounter this question, make sure to use the SOAR format. SOAR stands for: situation, obstacle, action result.


What was the situation? What got in the way of success? What action did you take? And what did you learn? 


If you want to learn more about answering this interview question, check out this TikTok video I made.


When answering this question, keep in mind that a good answer to this interview question will:


  • Show that you aren’t afraid of failure

  • Describe what actions or mistakes led to the failure  

  • Express that you view failure as a chance to learn

  • Take responsibility for your mistakes instead of blaming others


A bad answer to this question will:


  • Show squirming and discomfort thinking about failure

  • Avoid an honest answer and give a type of humble brag

  • View the failure as a disaster that you wish never had happened

  • Blame someone else for the failure


Here’s a great sample answer to this question: 


At my last workplace, I was given a big project with a tight timeline. When the deadline was about to roll around, to be honest, I felt uncertain about the quality of my project. But in the moment I decided to prioritize timeliness over quality. [So far, this answer has displayed a sense of reflection.]


I ended up delivering something subpar that the client was dissatisfied with.


I felt really bad. But it taught me so much about prioritizing quality. Since then, I’ve developed way more rigorous testing protocols and gotten feedback earlier on in my process. [This shows they learned something from their mistake.]


I didn’t enjoy creating a bad product, but in hindsight, it was kind of a blessing in disguise because it taught me so much. [This shows a mindset of seeing the gift in failure.]


And here’s a subpar sample answer to this question:


I honestly can't think of any significant failures in my career. I always strive for perfection in everything I do, and while I've faced challenges, I prefer to focus on my successes rather than dwell on failures. [This immediately suggests an unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.]


I believe in learning from every experience, but I haven't encountered any failures that I couldn't quickly turn around. [This also suggests a lack of humility.]


Or


There was one project where there was a tight deadline and we got the project in late. It was a disaster for the client. [So far so good.]


To be honest, I did my part fully and executed my responsibilities. But someone else on the team didn’t edit the document in time and it hurt the project for all of us. [This is a terrible case of not taking responsibility for an error or showing places where they could improve.]


2. What new skills are you hoping to develop in this role?


This is a question that will give you a chance to directly apply your growth mindset to this job. 


Someone with a growth mindset will feel excited to develop new skills, and will likely already have mulled this question over. In fact, the skills they'll learn in this role might be the very reason they were excited to apply for the job in the first place.


A good answer to this question will:


  • Show excitement at the prospect of learning

  • Show that you’ve already thought about all the ways you can learn and evolve

  • Link the learning in this role to your greater career goals

  • Give an example of how they’ve grown and learned in a past role


A bad answer to this question will:


  • Express that because you’re so experienced/talented, you don’t need to learn more

  • View learning more as a chore rather than an exciting possibility

  • View learning in a limited sense, like learning new protocols and procedures rather than developing skills or growing as a person

  • Blames someone else for why they couldn't grow in a past role


Here’s a great sample answer to this question: 


Ooh, yes, there’s a lot I’m excited to learn! [It’s a good sign to show excitement at the prospect of learning!]


I’ve been studying sales for years, but I’m always surprised at how much I can learn from every new team I join or every new methodology I study. At my last job, their sales approach focused far more on the solution than the problem, and that helped round out my skillset. [This is a good sign that they give an example of something they learned in the past role! It shows how they'll approach their next role.]


I know your team has a special approach to sales, and I’m excited to add new tools to my tool kit. [This shows humility and a recognition that there’s always more to learn.]


This will also be my first time using your new CRM, and I’m excited to stretch my brain to learn something new. I’m hoping the process will also teach me new techniques to grow my organizational skillset. [This shows they are not afraid to take on a new challenge and look forward to learning.]


And here's a subpar sample answer to this question:


Oh, what do I want to learn? [They feel surprised by the question and don’t tend to think in terms of what they can learn.]


Well, I've been in sales for over a decade. So I feel very confident in my skills, and I pretty much know all there is to know at this point. [Yikes.]


I know your team has a specific methodology, so I’ll definitely have to learn how you do things. [They view learning more as something to memorize rather than something that expands your mind.]


3. What’s your approach to seeking feedback and learning from it?


How a person relates to feedback is another cornerstone of their mindset.


Let’s be honest, receiving feedback can be uncomfortable for almost all of us. But if you have a growth mindset, you’ll be able to look past the bruise to your pride and see how big of a gift feedback is.


Bill Gates said it pretty straightforwardly in his TedTalk: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”


However, those with a fixed mindset hate feedback. They believe that their talents are fixed, so hearing feedback about something they can’t change feels like an insult or criticism.


A good answer to this question will:


  • Demonstrate that you see the value of feedback

  • Show that you are proactive in seeking out feedback

  • Take feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve


A bad answer to this question will:


  • Show resistance or dislike for feedback

  • Indicate that you rarely seek feedback and prefer to work independently without input from others

  • React defensively or dismissively to feedback instead of viewing it constructively


Here’s a great sample answer to this question: 


I make sure that everyone I work with knows that I like to receive feedback. I really think it’s the best way for me to see my blind spots so I can improve in the areas that have the greatest impact on the team. In my current role, I regularly meet with colleagues to ask for feedback. The best question I ask is, “What is one thing that I do that gets in my way?” [Shows they value improvement, and have clearly asked for feedback before.]


Sometimes feedback can sting, but it’s always well worth it for the insight and transparency it offers. [Even if feedback is uncomfortable, they don’t view it as criticism.]


And here's a subpar sample answer to this question:


I don't usually seek out feedback unless it's absolutely necessary. I trust my work, and I prefer to rely on my own judgment [This is code for “I’m not open to improving.”]


I’m not saying I’m not open to feedback. But historically, when people give me feedback, it doesn’t feel that helpful because they don’t see where I’m coming from [This shows that they don’t let feedback impact them at all.]


4. What’s a time that you were proactive in finding opportunities for growth at work? 


If you have a growth mindset, then it’s likely that you don’t just show up to work and do the bare minimum to get by. 


The ideal employee is not someone who just clocks in and clocks out. Employers want to hire someone who shows up to work proactively looking for ways to contribute and learn.


A good answer to this question will:


  • Show that you take initiative

  • Show a desire to get better at your job

  • Show a desire to learn new skills at work


A bad answer to this question will:


  • Show a passive attitude and that you only take what’s given to you

  • Say something vague that suggests you haven’t gone out of your way to grow at work


Here’s a great sample answer to this question: 


I know as an employee, one of the best things I can do for my manager is to save them time. So I’m often looking for tasks I can take off their plate. That helps free up their time and also gives me projects where I can learn new skills [This demonstrates both proactivity, and a desire to pick up skills.]


At my last company, I noticed my boss seemed overwhelmed with coordinating meetings, so I volunteered to take over the scheduling and meeting coordination. It doesn’t sound that glamorous, but I recognized it would be a forcing function for me to develop my organizational and time management skills. Plus it freed up my boss’ time, so it was a win-win [this shows how open they are to improving any of their skills.]


And here's a subpar sample answer to this question:


I tend to focus on doing excellent work at what’s in my job description. I know that a company is hiring me to do a certain job, so I want to do that job well. And if my manager thinks I need to learn something new, I trust they’d let me know [This conveys a lack of proactivity and an unwillingness to seek out new experiences.]


5. What’s something you read or listened to recently that changed your perspective?


People with a growth mindset are constantly seeking to learn new ideas and find new perspectives. 


If someone has a growth mindset, it will permeate into all parts of their life. They’ll likely read articles about how to improve their finances, read books about how to be a better friend, and listen to podcasts about how to live a more fulfilled life.


If you have a love of learning, don’t hide it!


A good answer to this question will:


  • Demonstrate that you’re hungry to constantly learn and grow

  • Show that you’re willing to change your perspective

  • Express an openness to new ideas


A bad answer to this question will:


  • Show that you don’t prioritize learning

  • Reveal that you don’t often shift your perspective

  • Indicate a lack of curiosity


Here’s a great sample answer to this question: 


I was listening to this intriguing podcast the other day about how AI and the future of the internet might impact content creators [Notice if this person lights up when talking about what they’ve learned. Their excitement plus the use of words like “intriguing” might indicate that they are a curious person who likes to learn.]


It made me realize that it’s becoming more and more important for creators to be personal and vulnerable, which is something AI can’t do [They shared an insight, which conveys that their worldview is constantly expanding.]


And then I realized that for this role, I think it’ll be important to write all the marketing copy with as personal a voice as possible to connect with the audience and differentiate ourselves from AI [They applied their learning to this role, which shows they’re already trying to get better at the job.]


And here's a subpar sample answer to this question:


I recently listened to a podcast about time management. It was interesting, but honestly, it didn’t change my perspective much [Yikes!]


I feel like I already know how to manage my time pretty well, so there weren’t too many new tips, though it did reinforce what I know to be working [they don’t seem to be open to change.]


Ace Your Interview


To demonstrate your growth mindset and ace your interview, just remember to:


  • Show your enthusiasm for learning

  • Talk about how you embrace challenges as ways to expand out of your comfort zone

  • Note how you use failures as a way to grow and improve

  • Communicate that you appreciate feedback as a way to learn


For more comprehensive tips on how to ace interviews, here’s our ultimate interview guide.


If you really want to ensure you do well on your interview, probably the most effective way to improve your interview skills is to work with a career coach. Career coaches can give you real-time interview practice and live feedback on what’s working and what’s not.


If you’re curious to see if a career coach might be a good fit for you, here is the coaching directory of the International Association of Career Coaches. 

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