Ace your next job interview by adopting this mindset

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If you’re looking for a job, chances are you’ve heard the standard tips: "Don’t underestimate the value of eye contact," "Dress for the job you want" and, "Remember to smile."

Ace your next job interview by adopting this mindset

Every article on finding a job (not to mention every well-meaning friend and family member) seems to repeat these tips or other well-worn adages.

But often, hard skills aren’t enough to ace an interview and land a job. Instead, you should focus on a soft skill that can make or break your chances for success — a growth mindset. Here’s why your next job might depend on this skill (and how you can develop it).

Growth mindset 101
"The theories of intelligence" refers to a person’s underlying beliefs about whether his or her intelligence, talents and abilities can improve. The theory has two opposing beliefs: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck coined these terms. The growth mindset is characterized by the belief that there are no limits to human growth and potential. The fixed mindset, on the other hand, focuses on limits, barriers and setbacks. People with this mindset view life as predetermined and outside of their control.

That’s the official explanation, but I like to think of it the way Yoda put it in one of the classic Star Wars films.

How the growth mindset is like 'The Force’
The growth mindset is to your job search what "the force" is to the Jedi. There’s a scene in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker tries to use the force to lift his fighter jet out of a murky swamp but fails. He bitterly professes that the task is impossible.

Before moving the jet, Yoda responds, "So certain are you. Always with you what cannot be done."

Yoda was implying that Luke had a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. When people believe that there’s a limit to their talents and abilities, their fixed mindset makes the possible seem impossible. However, people with a growth mindset don’t see failure as a permanent position. Rather, they see it as a steppingstone to something greater. They use this belief — their "Force" — to their advantage.

I’m not suggesting that you need to watch all the Star Wars movies to boost your interview game. But it might be time to take a hard look at your current mindset if you’re finding the job search increasingly difficult.

The benefits of a growth mindset
With its optimistic focus on continual learning and infinite opportunity, a growth mindset allows you to reinvigorate even the most stagnant job searches. Here are just a few of the benefits:

Increased confidence: Many people become nervous before job interviews because they believe the process will reveal their flaws and weaknesses. This stems from a fixed mindset. An interviewee with a growth mindset is much calmer and more self-assured. He or she believes the interview will be productive whether he or she is ultimately hired or not.

Persistence: Dweck’s research shows that people who connect their failures to a lack of ability quickly become discouraged and either run away or give up on tasks — even in areas in which they have displayed competence. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, acknowledge that they can learn from mistakes and improve through deliberate and intentional action.

Emotional intelligence: James Gross, a Stanford psychology professor, found that students with fixed mindsets showed poorer social and emotional adjustment than students with growth mindsets. The latter students were more in control of their emotions.

You get out what you put in
Laura Kray and Michael Haselhuhn, professors at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that negotiators who had a growth mindset were not only better at "claiming value" for themselves, but they were also better at "creating value" for their counterparts, resulting in win-win scenarios.

Apply this growth mindset during your next interview, and you’ll be more likely to create a win-win scenario for you and your potential employer. Start with these steps:

Make a commitment: Developing a growth mindset requires intent, so it’s imperative that you’re committed to change. First, determine where you currently fall on the mindset spectrum. Look at your behavior — especially your reaction to failure. Are you defensive and critical, or open and receptive? Do you run from challenging situations and avoid uncomfortable tasks, or do you look at obstacles and failures as steppingstones to something greater?

Reward yourself for your effort: Praise yourself for your effort, creativity, strategy, improvisation, perseverance and improvement rather than the outcome. Start small, and develop a simple rewards system. For instance, treat yourself to a coffee after two hours of interview prep. The more you can get into a growth mindset, the more natural it will become over time.

Focus on past failures: People with a fixed mindset have a hard time admitting their mistakes. They avoid constructive feedback and, as a result, find it difficult to correct deficiencies.

To adopt a growth mindset, it’s critical that you address your failures head-on so you can learn from them and move forward. This will also make you the type of person people want to work with — one who takes constructive criticism and uses it to improve.

Push yourself: Being vulnerable is key to achieving a growth mindset, so find ways to go outside of your comfort zone. Do you get nervous talking to new people? Strike up a conversation with someone in line at Starbucks. Have trouble talking about yourself? Make an effort to give an elevator pitch (edited for a social situation, of course) to three people at your next cocktail party.

The key to succeeding with a growth mindset is to use past challenges to develop resilience and boost motivation and productivity. Praise the process and the effort it took to get where you are, and remember that although failure is inevitable, it can be a tremendous growth opportunity if you let it.

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