Closing The Gap

Lyft's VP of design uses this go-to interview question to test a candidate's 'growth mindset'—here's how to answer it

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As a long-time executive in Silicon Valley, Katie Dill knows what it takes to hire and build a solid team.

In her current role as Lyft's vice president of design, Dill oversees a staff of 140 people, and she spearheads the company's design process for its app, website, bikes and scooters.

To ensure that she's hiring the right people, she tells CNBC Make It that she relies on one simple go-to interview question. "I really like to hear things through stories," she says. "So, I ask to hear a story about something they have worked on that they really liked and that they felt best utilized their greatest skills."

Lyft's VP of design Katie Dill.
Credit: Lyft

After hearing the candidate's story about an assignment they were excited to work on, Dill says she then likes to ask the candidate how would they go about working on that assignment today. "How would they do it differently," she says. "And frankly, you know, there are a surprising number of folks who will say, 'Oh, I did it perfectly,' and you're like, "Whoa, red flag.'"

Rather than being afraid to talk about your mistakes or errors, Dill says you should openly talk about how you would use the knowledge you have now to go back and improve a past experience.

For example, maybe at your last job you managed a small team of people for the first time on a big project. When you look back, if there are ways in which you could have been a better leader or a better team player, then Dill says you should openly express that in the interview.

Owning that you have room for improvement is "a good thing," she says. "We look for people that have that growth mindset."

Similar to Dill, Facebook's vice president of product Julie Zhuo also likes to see how well a candidate can acknowledge their room for growth. That's why, she says, her favorite go-to interview question is, "Tell me about a hard situation — something really challenging that you went through in the last year or last two years." After they describe the experience to her, she then likes to ask, "Well, if you can go back to the very beginning and change anything about how you went through it, what would you do differently?"

With this question, Zhuo says she can easily "hear a candidate and how they introspect." She can also tell from this question if they're excited to learn and if "they take lessons from what's happened in the past."

Like Dill, Zhuo says that if a candidate responds with, "I wouldn't do anything differently," the she immediately views it as a red flag. Instead, she says, she looks for an applicant who shows "they're excited to tell me all the things that they would do differently, because they've learned so much."

In that case, she explains, "I get a lot more excited about that candidate, because they're showing a lot more productivity, and they're showing that they can learn and grow really quickly."

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