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Behavioral Interview Guidebook

Answering "Tell me about a time when..." for Growth Mindset

Learn how to answer behavioral questions on growth mindset, for front end / web developers / software engineers. Refer to sample answers.

As mentioned in our behavioral interview preparation overview, growth mindset is one of the 8 main categories of questions to prepare for.

In this guide, you will learn how to tackle them:

  1. Evaluation criteria in detail
  2. Abstracting possible questions into common themes
  3. Suggested answer framework
  4. Sample questions and answers

Evaluation Criteria in Detail

When rating candidates under this category, interviewers are often looking at the following criteria:

  • Having self awareness of strengths and development areas.
  • Actively soliciting feedback from others and creating feedback loops.
  • Taking feedback and setbacks well, viewing them as opportunities.
  • Takes personal accountability for failures.
  • Reflecting, modeling best practices and applying lessons to new situations.
  • Energized by setting and working towards challenging goals.
  • Proactively learning new skills and applying to work.

Abstracting Growth Mindset Questions

Common Questions

  • What do you think is your greatest area for improvement?
  • Can you tell me about a time you improved upon your work upon receiving criticism or feedback?
  • Tell me about a time you set a difficult goal for yourself and achieved it.
  • Tell me about a time you learnt a new skill outside of work and applied it to your work.
  • Tell me about a time you learnt a new skill set after observing others leveraging it to great success.
  • How do you stay up to date on the latest front end technologies and techniques?
  • Can you provide an example of a time when you had to adapt to a new technical environment or framework?
  • Imagine you need to implement a new system that you do not have much experience with. What steps do you take to gather information and ensure successful execution?

Themes Identified

As mentioned in our behavioral interview preparation overview, it is impractical to prepare answers specifically for every behavioral question out there. However, by batching specific questions into similar themes and preparing stories that cover a large number of question requirements, we can reduce the number of stories to prepare to around 3-5 stories.

These are the themes which seem to recur:

  • Receiving and managing feedback.
  • Mindset towards challenges and stretch goals.
  • Continued learning.

Suggested Answer Framework

As always, the STAR format is the simplest and most effective framework that we recommend to structure your story.

Here are our recommended approaches for each identified theme, with which you can structure your story around:

Receiving and Managing Feedback/Setbacks

  1. Actively solicit feedback from others where possible e.g. after every large project.
  2. Take personal accountability for mistakes and produce an action plan to address them.
  3. Have a healthy mindset towards feedback / setbacks
    1. View them as opportunities to improve yourself
    2. Focus on being constructive and solutions-focused than emotions-driven.
  4. Take steps to reflect upon past experiences in order to model best practices and put them into action in the next relevant situation.

Mindset Towards Challenges / Stretch Goals

  1. Derive energy from setting and working towards stretch goals, seeing them as opportunities for growth.
  2. Display consistency and discipline in following through with detailed plan.

Continued Learning

A good answer combines a consistent schedule and effort placed into learning, as well as how the learning was proactively applied to work. e.g. "I learned about X because I was doing Y. This impacted the way that I was tackling Z at work because it made me realize W and V".

The points below are key ideas you can structure your answer around technical learning; however, you should still add on concrete examples of events, newsletters or communities you have actually participated in, to showcase your willingness to keep up with trends.

  1. Follow relevant blogs, newsletters, podcasts that cover the latest developments in front end technologies and techniques. Give some examples (which you do actually follow) and the content or tech they provide.
    1. Twitter Influencers
      1. Dan Abramov — Co-creator of Redux, React core team.
      2. Evan You — Creator of Vue.js and Vite.
      3. Rich Harris — Creator of Svelte and Rollup.
      4. Kent C. Dodds — Popular React ecosystem course creator.
      5. Josh W. Comeau — Popular front end course creator.
    2. Blogs & Magazines
      1. CSS-Tricks
      2. ui.dev
      3. JavaScript Weekly
      4. Best of JavaScript
    3. Podcasts
      1. Syntax
      2. JS Party
      3. The Changelog
  2. Attend tech conferences and meetups to learn new developments, network and get hands-on experience with the latest tools and technologies.
  3. Experiment and build projects using the latest technologies and techniques. This could involve building small projects on your own or contributing to open source projects.
  4. Stay engaged with the broader front end development community by participating in online forums, following relevant Twitter accounts and hashtags, and joining local user groups or meetups.

Sample Questions and Answers

How do you stay up to date on the latest front end technologies and techniques?

I have been working at a big tech company for the past two years now and the company uses a mix of external and internal technologies for our front end stack. Because we have a huge code base and established practice of doing things, we tend to not upgrade libraries that often and change our technology choices. It was only after a year into the job that I realized that I have been too comfortable in my role since I have fully ramped up on the code base and haven't learnt anything new for the past year. It was then that I decided that I have to be proactive in my learning in order to keep my skills sharp and relevant.

The Front End ecosystem moves really fast and there's a joke that there's a new JavaScript library emerging every day. Thankfully the ecosystem is more stable compared to 2015/2016 when a new wave of front end tooling first emerged. To keep myself updated without suffering from JavaScript fatigue, I spend a weekend every month going through front end newsletters like "This Week in React" and "JavaScript Weekly" and reading engineering blogs. If I see something interesting or is relevant to my job, I will dive deeper into them by trying out small examples and building small prototypes in my company's code base. For example, I recently discovered React Query, which is a data fetching library for React that uses a declarative paradigm for fetching data and am trying to incorporate it into my work. I also recently discovered tRPC, a library that enforces type safety between client and server boundaries, which is an issue that has caused some bugs for us.

To make this learning process more fun and collaborative, I started a front end social club within my company by creating a new Slack channel and inviting a few like-minded coworkers to join. Anyone can share front end news they find interesting there and discuss front end technologies. It has been pretty well-received, with over 30 people currently in the channel and activity nearly everyday. A side effect of this initiative is that people also start asking questions about front end issues they are facing at work, and we created another Slack channel for people to get help on front end issues. Feedback has been really positive so far!

This answer uses the STAR technique in a subtle fashion and demonstrates many qualities interviewers would like to see in candidates:

  • Passion: Keen to learn more about front end domain.
  • Growth: Identified that the lack of growth would be a problem.
  • Initiative: Acted on the problem of lack of growth.
  • Problem solving: Thought of ways to solve the lack of growth, and executed on it.
  • Building camaraderie: Rallying like minded folks for a common cause.
  • Helps improves others: Created Slack channels for sharing knowledge and supporting others.

Can you provide an example of a time when you had to adapt to a new technical environment or framework?

When I joined my current company back in 2019, I was fresh out of college and had no experience with the front end stack that the company was using, which used React, Apollo, Styled Components, TypeScript for their front end stack and a Django + GraphQL back end. Back in college, I was mainly using Vue.js for front end development as it was the JavaScript framework of choice taught in the web development class and haven't used GraphQL before.

It was definitely a huge learning curve for me at the start and I was really afraid of underperforming due to my unfamiliarity with the tech stack. Thankfully I had a mentor who gave me a lot of guidance on the tech stack and came up with a number of onboarding tasks which progressively got harder. I first spent a few days reading the documentation websites of the technologies and trying out the examples on their websites. I made it a point to understand the problems that these libraries were solving and how they were better than prior art because I think knowing that is important for fully appreciating the library and using the right tool for the right job. I also looked up some resources that compared Vue.js to React, as they were quite similar yet had some differences. That helped me to learn React faster (fully grasping React hooks still took me some time though). When I had time at nights or on weekends, I'd explore building small projects using these new technologies and also rebuild my personal blog using Gatsby (because it used both React and GraphQL).

Within two months, I felt like I had learnt so much and was comfortable with most of the code base. I could build end to end features without much guidance from my mentor. To help future new employees who might face the same onboarding challenge, I jotted down my learnings in our internal wiki along with links to the best resources for learning the topic. My manager was surprised by the initiative and commended me for that. Today, it is part of our official engineering onboarding resource and I update it every once in a while. A few new joiners have also thanked me for sharing my knowledge in the wiki and making their onboarding process smoother.

Analysis of the answer:

  • Coachable: Follows guidance/suggestions by the mentor.
  • Problem solving: Came up with a few ways to help themselves onboard faster.
  • Initiative: Initiative to start the wiki.
  • Empathy: See that others might face the same issues and started the wiki.
  • Helps improves others: Newjoiners benefit from the wiki.