Julie Zhuo has made hundreds of hires for Facebook and says she always looks for a learning mindset in candidates.
She believes one question for interviewees cuts right to the chase: She asks them to tell her about a hard or challenging situation they’ve encountered in their career.Zhuo then asks an immediate follow-up question: If you could revisit that experience, what would you do differently?
If the candidate claims everything that went wrong was outside of their control, it’s a red flag.
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Facebook executive Julie Zhuo has made hundreds of hires. Currently the vice president of product design, Zhuo started as an intern over 10 years ago. At the time, Facebook had only around 100 employees. Now her team alone has over 250.
Over the years, Zhuo has become a master interviewer. She takes hiring and recruiting seriously. Bringing in good people who in turn bring in more good people determines the culture and growth of her team.
How to interview for a growth mindset
A key personality trait Zhuo looks for is a learning mindset. She has a question that cuts straight to the chase.
She asks candidates to tell her about a hard or challenging situation they’ve encountered in their career. Once she gets the story, Zhuo asks an immediate follow-up question: If you could revisit that experience, what would you do differently?
“I love that question because it allows me to hear a candidate and how they introspect,” Zhuo tells CNBC Make It. She’s curious how you might adjust your strategy or problem-solving approach if you had to go through it again.
Responding that you’d do nothing differently is clearly the wrong answer. Zhuo sees it as a red flag if the candidate claims everything that went wrong was outside of their control.
There’s a right answer, of course. It’s to present lots of ideas of how you might tackle things differently the second time around. “I get really excited about that candidate because they’re showing a lot of productivity, and they’re showing that they can learn really quickly,” Zhuo explains.
Hiring someone even if they don’t check all the boxes
“The most important thing to remember about hiring is this: Hiring is not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to build the future of your organization,” Zhuo says about her hiring process in a recent LinkedIn post.
She describes an interview early in her management career with a young grad named Tom.
Tom didn’t quite nail his interview. He struggled to solve the engineering task she had given him, getting stuck at a few points along the way. But he kept talking through the problem and seemed determined to get there.
Despite his failure to complete the task successfully, Zhuo decided to hire him. She admired his perseverance, thoughtfulness, and dedication. Tom quickly moved up in the organization and became a senior engineering leader. She gave him a chance, even though he didn’t exactly tick the right boxes on paper. How you solve a problem on the spot isn’t necessarily a predictor of future success.
Embracing the right hiring mindset
Zhuo encourages hiring managers to hire thoughtfully and strategically as they can. She acknowledges this can be hard when everyone is feeling the strain of being short-staffed. You might feel the urge to plug the holes as quickly as possible with anyone who can do the job.
Instead, she urges hiring managers to think about what they want the future of their team to look like. Zhuo has observed even a single amazing hire can have a huge impact on a team’s success.
“Hiring well is the single most important thing you can do,” she says.