"So, do you have any questions for us?"
Nothing strikes more fear into a job interviewee's heart than this question. Even if you spent hours researching the company, preparing things to say, and rehearsing your timing, this simple request can be totally paralyzing. Why? A lot of things can run through your head.
All of these anxieties are understandable. But the question and answer portion of an interview is not one that you can take lightly or brush off. It's the most important part of the entire application process, because it's where you get to surprise your interviewer.
The Secret Truth About Hiring Managers
Hiring managers do a lot of interviewing. It's not special for them. Every day, people just like you come in and they give the same boring spiel over and over and over, talking about "leadership" and "being a team player."
The people they want, the people they say "Yes!" to right away--they aren't the best at giving that boring spiel. They're the ones who flip the script.
But it's not easy to do that. After all, the hiring managers themselves put all the ingredients of a boring spiel in their job applications:
"We know exactly who we're looking for," they seem to be saying. Come in for an interview, sure, but keep in mind--this is what we want.
When you get rejected from a job you were 99% sure you would get, it's often because you took these requirements to heart. You tried to prove that you met each one, and in the process you came off as stilted and boring. You tried to fit into a mold.
The fact that so many job ads include bulleted lists of requirements probably has way more to do with the simple fact that liberal use of bullets makes ads more empirically appealing and easier to read. "Job listings that use bulleted lists for one third of their content are the most popular," Kieran Snyder tells us, and she's the CEO of Textio, $9.5M-backed AI startup that counts hiring managers at Microsoft, Square, and Atlassian among its customers.
Hiring managers copy and paste their requirements from previous job ads, they know they won't have any shortage of people coming in, and they don't have time to write anything better. So stop paying so much attention. No interviewer knows what they want. They want you to show them.
The 1 Question You Need To Ask
How do you show a hiring manager that you are what they want? Simple. Start off by listing some of the reasons you think want the position and how it aligns with your interests. Then pause and ask the question:
"But I have one concern. Is this really a good place for someone with a growth mindset?"
This is the 1 question that best guarantees you a shot at winning the interview. It's assertive, it's surprising, and it puts the hiring manager in the position of enticing you.
Best of all, it demonstrates that you're the kind of candidate every hiring manager wants.
What Is A Growth Mindset?
A person with a strong growth mindset is fundamentally different from most of the people around them--and it has nothing to do with what you've accomplished or what "bucket" a hiring manager thinks they can put you in.
It has to do with belief. A person with a growth mindset believes one thing: that intelligence is something that can be developed. A lot of people claim to believe that, yet they still have a fixed mindset. The key to understanding the growth mindset is seeing how that one attitude reverberates through the entirety of your being. When you truly believe deep-down that intelligence is malleable, you:
The concept of the growth mindset was first described by psychologist Carol Dweck, who came upon it when studying what set successful students apart from their less successful peers.
What she found was that those students who believed their intelligence could be developed had the above traits and achieved at far higher rates than their peers with more fixed mindsets. And the same holds true for everything you do in life. So asking a hiring manager this question doesn't just show that you're a great candidate, it indicates something even more powerful: that you're desirable because you expect the same kind of mentality from your job.
Be The Candidate They Remember
Asking this question is also effective bceause hiring managers are highly aware that there are a lot of environments out there where growth mentalities are not expected or appreciated. In a lot of outdated industries, they can be actively counter-productive. When deviance gets normalized, even putting in a solid day's work can make others distrust you.
Hiring managers know there are two types of people. One type does what they're told, stays late occasionally, and doesn't cause issues. They produce solid work and don't complain.
The other type leaves their mark on everything they do and they're not ashamed of it. Every single day, they find themselves in uncharted waters--even if they're in the same role as the first type of person--because they're always trying to improve the processes that other people leave alone.
Most people are the first type. Hiring managers are perfectly willing to hire them because they often turn out just fine. But show them you're the second kind of person, and they'll have no choice but to hire you.
Just Be Bold
It's not easy to ask a question like "Is this a good place for someone with a growth mindset?" in a job interview. It can feel nerve wracking, like you're going to offend the person you're interviewing with or put them on the defensive. But if that happens, you don't want to work there anyways.
The more likely outcome is pleasant surprise that you hold yourself in high enough esteem to even ask a question like that. They'll be taken aback at first, maybe, but they'll think really highly of you afterwards. And they'll know for sure that you're a Type A candidate who demands a high level of quality both from yourself and your workplace.
As Paul Jun at Help Scout says, this is the best way for an individual to stand out and also the best way for any company to start growing the future perfect team:
To encourage the development of new traits or skills, it's important to identify the mindset that permeates the company. In short, what do you believe? Do you believe you can become a better writer, designer, manager, and leader? Are youborn creative or do you become creative?
This simple testament of "Yes, I can learn this" versus "No, I was born this way" has a profound impact on our behavior as well as the quality of our lives.
So just do it. Be bold. I think you'll like what happens when you try.