By Courtney Conley
CNBC, Make It, April 12, 2019.
Julie Zhuo is VP of product design at Facebook and as a top Silicon Valley executive, she knows a few things about landing a job in tech.
After graduating from Stanford University, she started her career at Facebook as an intern and worked her way up to manager by 25. Her experiences as a young leader in tech inspired her new book, “The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. ”
In her more than 10 years at Facebook, Zhuo has interviewed dozens of candidates eager to land jobs at the social media company. She tells CNBC Make It that she has a simple, go-to interview question she always asks to test how well a candidate will fit in.
“My favorite interview question is to ask someone, ‘Hey, tell me about a hard situation — something really challenging that you went through in the last year or last two years,’” she says. “After they describe it to me, I 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?’”
Asking this questions, she says, allows her to “hear a candidate and how they introspect.”
“I can easily tell if this is the kind of person who goes [and] approaches new opportunities with a growth mindset. Are they excited to learn? Are they introspective, and do they take lessons from what’s happened in the past?”
Zhuo adds that a red flag response would be a candidate saying something like, “I wouldn’t do anything differently because everything that didn’t go well was outside of my control.”
Instead, she says, a candidate should deliver a response that 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 says, “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.”
Zhou believes that interviews are a two-way street, and says she also leaves room in every one of her interviews for applicants to ask her questions.
“I love it when [candidates] ask me a lot of questions about my team, the environment and the culture that we work in,” she says. “That shows me that a candidate is really interested in learning the nitty gritty and the details and the color of what it’s like to work on this team and in this environment.”
She adds that a successful interview is one where the applicant’s questions allow her to be as “honest and transparent as possible” about what it’s like to work at her company.
“It’s kind of like dating,” she says. “You want to make sure that it’s a good match. And you want to make sure that the things that you’re able to provide in your team, or you know the mission of your team, the purpose of your team, the values of your team, are a good fit for the person who’s looking for the role.”