If You Only Had ONE Job Interview Question to Ask? – Revisited

Cover of "Mindset: The New Psychology of ...

Cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The question “If You Had Only ONE Job Interview Question to Ask” was posed this past May. The suggestion merits revisiting based on an aside Carol Dweck made this past week when I caught her presentation at my son’s grade school, Marin Country Day School.

Dweck’s research – which has more depth and vigor than I’ve distilled here – has pointed to the existence of two types of mindets – that of a “fixed” mindset and that of a “growth” mindset in children as well as adults. Even more important, those mindsets can be changed and transformed by learning and the type of praise and rewards that are directed people’s way.

More on her work can be found at Mindset Online and there will be more to come on Carol’s work – which has focused on kids and learning (and performance) – in the next week or so.

What caught my ear was that apparently she’s been retained by one of the US Major League Baseball teams to help develop interview screening questions for them to use when they interview prospective draft choices. She didn’t say, but my money is on the Oakland Athletics as the team by whom she’s been retained.

Why the Oakland Athletics?

As Mark Dodgson, David Gann, Ammon Salter have noted in their book The Management of Technological Innovation: Strategy and Practice, “The Athletettic’s or “A” as they are known, have [also] been innovators in the way players are selected to be on the team, allowing them to be competitive with other teams even though they spend much less on player’s salaries.” Seemingly a couple steps ahead of anyone else, I’d be curious (as a lifetime Los Angeles Dodger’s fan) to find out what the A’s knew something that no one else did.

Dweck’s suggestion was strikingly simple: ask the recruit what what they expected at the next level of play (competition) and what they would have to do to prepare or change. As her research has demonstrated, “growth mindset” individuals are always trying to figure out how to learn, grow, and develop themselves further. They know that success is about hard work, trying, effort, and multiple strategies. Fixed mindset individuals tend to avoid experimenting, learning, and in a way, growing: they think they’ve got all they need to succeed.

Reflection, self-introspection, and an orientation toward learning more and working harder (think Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods for examples) may turn out to be markers for people whose capacity to continue to develop and grow exists. The “no big deal”, “I’ll do the same things I’ve always done” type answer suggests someone whose capacity or interest to grow is limited or non-existant.

My suggested question from May “How would the people with whom you’ve worked describe you and in doing so what would they list as your strengths as well as your gaps?” had some elements (introspection, self-relfection) that you’d want to see.

Carol’s though takes it up a notch or two into finding out if the recruit / candidate has the mindset to learn and grow to the new role, not just be reflective on the old role.

More to come.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, new role, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.