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The Advantage of Hiring Growth-Minded Talent

January 31, 2017 at 12:00 PM William Clarke

TraitPost8Header_LightbulbCLouds.pngThis is the eighth in a series of ten posts on hiring candidates with characteristics linked to high performance. Each post focuses on a single key candidate trait, why it matters and how recruiters can develop processes to correctly and fairly evaluate for it.

So far, we’ve covered the science of first impressions, hiring for personality versus character, how to hire committed candidates, how to find motivated candidates, how to hire collaborative individuals, how to hire passionate candidates, and finding candidates with the right skillset for your role.

This post will look at the concept of a growth mindset, explore why it’s a valuable quality in successful hires and discuss why these hires can have a positive, long-term impact on your organization.

What growth mindset means

The idea of growth mindset was developed by education researchers to describe how children can be taught to develop their intelligence and abilities through the persistent application of effective learning strategies. Those with a growth mindset learn to prioritize effort and improvement over natural talent.

The alternative to a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, or the idea that you are either good or bad at something. To those locked into a fixed mindset, failure can be devastating because it means that you’re bad at whatever it is you’re doing. It can result in responding negatively to setbacks - giving up or cheating. In contrast, a growth mindset reacts to setbacks and feedback not as negative moments to be avoided, but instead as useful information that is a crucial part of the learning process.

A growth mindset can easily be mistaken for hard work, but effort alone does not lead to growth. Thoughtless effort can be wasteful, inefficient, and counterproductive. That’s why a true growth-minded individual is strategic, with the ability to focus their efforts on specific goal-oriented tasks. More than that, the growth mindset also helps people to treat challenges like opportunities and failures as data points rather than catastrophic events. In the context of work, it facilitates the type of continuous learning and strategic risk-taking that lead to greater more impactful innovation, creativity, and productivity.

Appealing to growth-minded candidates

Attracting certain kinds of candidates means constructing every part of your hiring process - job descriptions, interview questions, your careers page - to engage them with your brand and your value to them as an employer.

What are you offering to your employees? Are you supporting their professional and personal growth by offering healthy work-life balance, a nurturing and supportive work environment, opportunities for advancement, competitive wages, and solid benefits? Have certain employees at your organization climbed the ladder through their hard work and initiative? Highlight their stories to show the value you give your employees.

A professional growth path that challenges and rewards your employees is perhaps the single most important factor for people choosing whether or not to take a job. If a growth-minded candidate sees that your organization offers them opportunities to reach their goals, they are far more likely to join the team.

Screening for growth-mindedness

To identify the most growth-minded candidates in your pool, figure out a candidate’s process for overcoming challenges, specifically how they evaluate, adapt and overcome hiccups when they arise. This can be as simple as asking “Tell me about a time you had to overcome failure?” in an interview or as involved as giving them a genuine business problem and asking them to come up with a solution.

It’s not only about finding out about their solutions; it’s also about their thought process. How do they frame problems? Are they someone who pulls people together to figure something out or more of a lone wolf who plows ahead in search of a solution? There’s no wrong or right answer, but learning about how candidates think about problems and develop solutions will tell you a lot about their willingness to learn and perseverance.

Why resilience is the essence of growth

Change is constant. Best practices change. Technologies evolve. The marketplace evolves. The biggest value of the growth mindset is that it promotes resilience, which allows you to understand, react, and overcome challenges.

This is crucial because the difficulty of achieving anything once pales in comparison to the difficulty of achieving something again and again. Under even the best circumstances, consistent success is enormously hard. Amid an evolving landscape of customer, competitor, and employees, a growth-minded company culture can be a strong competitive advantage. Since change is unavoidable, how your organization reacts to those changes will define it.

But this doesn’t just happen organically. In fact, it’s often the reverse. As chronicled by legendary Harvard professor Clayton Christensen in his seminal book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, the very processes that first drive a company’s success are the processes that undervalue disruptive technology down the road. In other words, the immediate ROI of innovation is low. That’s because a fixed mindset often develops even in formerly growth-minded environments, and changes are viewed with suspicion and doubt.  A growth mindset holds that change is inevitable. Even more, change is an opportunity. The more people you hire who believe that the more resilient your organization will be.


As the modern economy continues to evolve past the rote, repetitive jobs of the past, roles that require greater degrees of emotional intelligence, collaboration and critical thinking skills will continue to grow in importance. For these roles, an individual’s ability to learn and relearn the nuances and particulars of evolving situations, environments and technologies is all the more important. The best hires won’t just be great the role you hire them for. They’ll be capable and motivated to move into advanced roles and leveraging their experience towards increasing responsibilities.

Other posts in the Evaluating the Traits of High-Performing Employees series (so far):

1. What The Science of First Impressions Can Tell Us About Recruiting

2. The Dangers of Hiring Candidates Based on Personality

3. Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Talent For The Long Term

4. How to Identify and Assess Motivation in High-Performing Candidates

5. How Hiring Talent Breeds a Creative, Scaleable Organization

6. Why Passion is the Keystone to Success

7. How to Tell if a Candidate's Skills Fit Your Role

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