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Interview Week: Characteristics of Growth Oriented Questions

Published 11/22/2017

In today's episode, we kick off interview week by talking about Heather's question about moving into devops from her current position.

Check out the Beyond Bootcamp Interview Week Prep Guide at https://beyondbootcamp.io now!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
How do you handle a question that you quite simply don't have the answer to? In particular, when you encounter this during an interview, that's what we're talking about in today's episode. And it kind of goes back to our previous episode, The Question from Heather, about DevOps. If you haven't listened to that one, I encourage you to go back and listen to it. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developers He and it is Interview Week. These three episodes this week are going to be about interviewing. And the reality is, this is probably going to happen. You're probably going to get a question that either you don't have a good answer to, or you don't have a clear answer to, or perhaps your answer is undesirable. So for example, you may get a question about your own experience. This isn't just about technical questions, by the way. This includes the questions about your background, your experience. Like Heather's previous question on the previous episode, the question about experience is one that everyone is going to get. And a lot of the time, especially if you're new to the software development industry, this question has unfortunately perhaps an undesirable answer. What is your experience? What level of experience do you have with technology X, Y, or Z? And to every question that you have in your interview, you have the opportunity to respond in a way that helps you or hurts you. I did an episode recently in the Developer Career Robemap, a great developer series, a great developer mindset series about having a growth mindset. And this is something that has garnered a lot of research recently, specifically Carol Dwick. Dr. Carol Dwick has talked about the growth mindset. There's a great TED talk that is kind of the introduction to this concept. But the important thing to remember here is in every scenario, you have the opportunity to take a closed mindset response, right? Or to have an open and growth-oriented mindset response. So in today's episode, I'm going to give you three characteristics of answers that point to that open mindset, the growth mindset, turning a bad situation for your own good. Okay, so three characteristics. The first characteristic is an evolving answer. An evolving answer. What this means is, as you answer the question, you're going to continue to have new ways of addressing the question. There's so many opportunities in open space with questions that you don't have a perfect answer to. Giving multiple answers to the same question, as long as the interviewers are not trying to move the interview along very quickly, and you have to kind of stay sensitive to that, but multiple answers to the same question that show your reasoning, that show your ability to handle uncertainty. Giving answers may also look like multiple conditional responses, right? So setting up a system of response rather than a singular response. In the opposite of this, a closed answer is one that dies quickly. Think about the kind of the conceptual idea here. The growing answer, the evolving answer, is one that continues to find new pathways and continues to find new solutions. Don't confuse this with a neurotic answer or one that is winding and doesn't really have a direction. Instead, this should feel more like an expansion of your answer, right? It should build off of itself. It should start with a solid foundation. In the opposite of this, the closed answer is going to sound relatively limited. It's going to sound restrictive. It's going to sound kind of like a dead end. So that's the first characteristic of a growth-oriented answer to a question that evolving aspects of your answer. The second characteristic of an open response, right, a growth-oriented response, is to recognize the opportunity for growth, recognizing the opportunity. Another way of looking at this is understanding and affirming places where you need to grow. The places where you need more research or the places where you need more practice. And the idea here is to use the question as kind of a map to the areas where you need work. And the idea here is to use the opposition, use this difficult question as a teacher rather than as an enemy. Research this opportunity of the unknown to learn rather than to feel defeated or to fail. And during an interview, the important thing to remember is explaining these thoughts out loud. Don't hold this stuff in. Don't internalize this concept of turning the question into a teacher. Instead, talk this out with your potential employer. Talk this stuff out because if they don't know what's going on in your head, they're only going to guess. And most of the time, silence means confusion, fear, anxiety. If you are not explaining what you're thinking, of course at the same time, if you do need a few minutes of silence to gather your thoughts, then say that. Let them know that, hey, I'm going to take a second to think about this. I don't want you to think that I'm checking out. I just need to mentally process the question so I can answer it properly. This kind of response is much better than pure silence. And it's certainly much better than just kind of talking aimlessly and winding down a path that ultimately doesn't lead anywhere. So the first characteristic is a growth-oriented response or a evolving response. The second characteristic is converting the question from an enemy to a teacher and viewing it as an opportunity for growth and a map towards the places where you need to grow. And the final characteristic is quite simply honesty. If you don't know about a certain subject, at first it may seem like it would be to your advantage to pull as much knowledge as you can together from the back of your brain to try to appear as if you know about that subject. This is totally the opposite of true. You couldn't do a worse thing and a couple of reasons why. Number one, the interviewer knows quite a bit about the subject most likely. It's difficult to ask a question about a subject that you don't know much about and be able to evaluate the answer. This may not always be true, but in general you should assume that the questions that your interviewers are asking, they know the answers to these questions. They have a pretty good grasp on the subjects. And as a result of this, quite simply put, they're not going to be fooled. So if you're trying to appear intelligent about a subject to someone who is already intelligent about that subject, then your shortcomings are going to be not only obvious, but underlined. You're going to highlight your shortcomings in that particular area. So this works antithetical to where you're putting your energy. It actually works against you to do this. And of course, the second reason that this makes no sense to do is because if you are actively being dishonest during an interview, then there's no reason to believe that you won't actively be dishonest when you're working for that company. As an interviewer myself, one of the traits that I look for in any given employee, no matter what the position is, is humility, this idea that you always have more to learn. That's a growth oriented mindset that you always have more to strive for, more to perfect, more knowledge to gain, and more habits to create, more processes to refine. There's always growth available. And if you don't recognize the need to grow, in other words, if you don't see your own shortcomings, if you fool yourself by trying to fool me that you know about a particular subject, then that perception of humility for you, even in your best intention attempt to answer a question, the perception of humility just kind of vanishes. And the only thing that's left over is this perspective of manipulation, someone who is willing to paint a picture of reality that doesn't actually exist. So an honest answer to a question that doesn't necessarily have to be self-deprecating, you don't want to say, yeah, I don't know that because I'm really a bad programmer. Instead, the tone should be one of bravery entering to a new domain of knowledge, one that is driven to understand something that you don't understand yet. And the first step to understanding that thing is recognizing that you don't already know it. And your capacity to learn is demonstrated by your capacity to be honest with yourself. If you can't recognize that you have something to learn first, then the process of learning is going to be haphazard at best, and more likely it's going to be counterproductive. So instead of having this self-deprecated response, once again, this closed, dying way of answering a question that doesn't evolve, instead have an evolving answer that validates the reality that you don't have the answer, that you don't have an immediate answer, but that you have a direction, and this is what it is. You have a way of accomplishing that learning objective. You can wrap your brain around an unknown subject. This is as important of a quality as any static knowledge that you already have in your brain. Everything is dynamic and you're always going to have something to learn. And if you can display that ability and that drive in an interview, that is extremely valuable to an employer because it means that when you encounter the unknown in a realistic scenario in the future, you're going to have a way of thinking about that. That is growth oriented. That is accomplishment oriented rather than a defensive model, rather than something that kind of makes excuses for your lack of knowledge. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope you've been inspired by these two episodes of Interview Week and that if you are preparing for an interview, that these episodes are helpful to you, that they encourage you, and that they give you a sense of bravery and excitement to go into an interview that you otherwise wouldn't have had. I also encourage you if you are preparing for an interview and even if you're not, if you're a developer who is especially early in your career or if you're a developer that has never really found a sense of purpose in your work, I encourage you to go and download the Interview Week prep guide. This is a book that I've written. You can find it at BeyondBooCamp.io, it's totally free, you enter your email and I'll send it to you, it's in a link that I send you in an email, but I'll send you this, it's a PDF, it's a 100 page PDF and it has exercises that will help you uncover some of those purpose driven mindset things, some of your strengths, some of the things that you naturally want to pursue and end up doing in your career. And unfortunately, so many people who work in this industry and really any industry never actually connect to that underlying purpose and never take the time to uncover the things that they care about and I encourage you to do that. If you're a driven developer, that's who the show is made for, driven developers, that means that you do want to find that purpose and if you haven't found a resource that will help you do that, then head over to BeyondBooCamp.io and hopefully, you know, this is going to provide you with some needed inspiration and a pathway to learning what those underlying purpose driven kind of things are, but it's also going to help you connect to the company's purpose, right? And how you can take your purpose and the company's purpose and create a story that puts you to together. Of course, there's a bunch of practical tips that are specific to interviewing as well, so there's a ton of value, again, it's totally free. Now you have to make the decision of whether you consider yourself a part of that group of people. Do you consider yourself a driven developer? If the answer is yes, then two things that I want you to do, number one, get that guide, especially if you haven't really articulated your own purpose, your own mission as developer and encourage you to get that guide at BeyondBooCamp.io. But the second thing I want you to do is in whatever podcasting app you're currently listening to this episode and go ahead and subscribe to Developer Tea. This is going to help you stay up to date with the most recent episodes of the show and we have three episodes a week, so it's very easy to get behind if you don't subscribe. So thank you so much for listening to today's episode. We'll be talking about interviews once again in the next episode of Developer Tea. Until next time, enjoy your tea.