The potential of a job candidate is determined by their ability and desire to grow as a professional. Employers look for candidates who not only can successfully perform the job today but eventually can develop themselves further to take on greater responsibilities and add more value to the company. It’s therefore likely that interviewers will ask you growth potential interview questions.
By analyzing your skills, abilities, competencies, and asking the right questions during the interview, interviewers try to assess your growth potential. They want to ensure that they get a long-term return on their hiring decision. For them, your ability to perform is based on your potential to succeed.
In today’s markets and fast-paced environments, employers look for employees who can grow into new positions or leadership roles in the future. For you, as a job candidate, it’s important that you can provide evidence of what you have created, changed, or initiated in your professional career. These are all factors that can help demonstrate that you possess dynamic growth potential.
In this article, we discuss why the interviewer asks you questions to assess your growth potential and how you should answer these questions. Furthermore, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
What interviewers look for in your answers
Just like you should be interested in developing yourself throughout your career, interviewers look for candidates who do just that. Employees that have room to grow in meaningful ways are happier in the long run. Furthermore, it will benefit the performance of the company. In other words, the potential to grow and the opportunity to do so benefits both the employee and the employer.
Interviewers want to assess the following elements when discussing your potential to grow:
Your dedication to developing new skills
Interviewers are interested in you as a person and your desire to develop new skills in the position that you’re applying for. In other words, your career success depends on your willingness to learn. The willingness to learn is one of the most important qualities that interviewers look for when hiring new employees.
During job interviews, the interviewers are analyzing your current skills but also want to focus on your ability to learn new ones. Growth potential is an important quality in employees. Your willingness to learn and develop yourself demonstrates that specific capability.
If you’re genuinely interested in the position, you should also ask the interviewer questions to find out more about the learning and development opportunities. This way, you’re able to gauge the career growth potential at the organization. Think, for instance, of a question such as ‘What routes for career development does your organization offer?’
Your desire and ambition to climb the ladder
Employers are generally looking for confident employees who have already thought about their career goals. The reason for asking about your ambition is to find out whether or not the position and the company will help you get you where you want to be.
This has everything to do with finding out whether or not you will be a good fit for the position and company culture. If you fit the position and company well, you are more likely to stay with them for the long term. This is why interviewers often ask questions such as, ‘How will this position help you achieve your career goals?’ If the interviewer does not ask you this question, it’s always a good idea to highlight the reasons why and how this position will contribute to your goals in your answers.
Another reason for interviewers to ask about how the job will help you achieve your goals is to assess in general how much you know about the sector, the market, how much research you have done on the company, and how committed you are to your career. Another question that interviewers use to test this is, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’
Your desire to grow personally
Before you go to a job interview, it’s important that you have thought about your career and how this position will help you accomplish your goals. Think of your career in terms of short term and long term goals. If the interviewer brings up your goals during the interview and you can provide him or her with a well thought out answer that demonstrates your desire to grow as a professional and goals that align with the job and company, you will leave the right impression.
For you to grow as a professional in your career, it’s up to you to make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen. This is also the message and attitude that you should convey during the interview. If you’re proactive and ambitious about reaching your goals and growing personally, make sure to demonstrate this through examples in your answers.
Why the interviewer is asking you growth potential interview questions
There are multiple reasons why interviewers are interested in your growth potential. For employers, it’s important to hire candidates that are able to perform the job today but can also grow into positions higher up the ranks and take on greater responsibilities. This way, employees stay with the company for a longer period and can add more value to the company over time. This is called the long-term return on their hiring investment.
Interviewers, in general, want to gain more knowledge during the job interview about who you really are, how you view yourself, what your goals are, and how you approach your work and career. Basically, the interviewers want to get questions such as the following answered by you:
- How self-aware are you? Do you know what you want out of your career?
- What are your career goals?
- How realistic and clear are your career goals?
- What skills do you have that match the job requirements?
- What skills do you need to develop to make the next step in your career?
- How do you see this position helping you to achieve your goals?
- What experience do you have that can add value to the company?
- What are your strengths? How can they help you in your career path, and how can they benefit the company?
- What are your weaknesses? Have you done anything to improve them up until now, and what can you do in the future to improve them?
- What potential do you have to grow within the company in the way that you want as a professional?
Interviewers consider the following elements when making hiring decisions:
The costs of bad hires
The answers that you give the interviewer during a job interview should demonstrate self-awareness. This means that you’re aware of how you can use your strengths for the benefit of a company. The same goes for the ability to discuss your weaknesses. If the interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, you should be able to discuss your development points or how you improved yourself over the last year(s).
The main goal of an interviewer is to make the right hiring decision. If he or she makes a bad decision with regard to hiring, this is not only about losing money but can also lead to a decrease in productivity. Of course, companies try to avoid this at all costs. Not hiring the right candidate can also leave a bad impression with customers clients, but also colleagues.
Another cost of making a bad hiring decision is losing time. If a candidate gets hired that does not fit the job profile well, does not live up to expectations, or does not develop themself over time, the company needs to search for a new candidate.
Interviewers will do everything to avoid a situation in which the wrong person gets hired. This is also one of the reasons why they assess your growth potential. They want to know if you can grow into a position, make a promotion eventually, and add value to the company in general.
Specific details of your behavior that indicate growth potential
During the interview, interviewers look for clues in your answers that indicate growth potential. For instance, if you aspire to reach certain positions or you indicate that you want to increase your knowledge and skills. The same goes for your self-awareness about your development points and plans on how to improve them in the future.
By asking you about your career goals, interviewers want you to tell more about how you plan on achieving them. They look for performance goals you set in order to attain your desired outcome in your career. For instance, you might need more experience in a certain field to get to a specific management position. Your career ambitions should include improving your skills and abilities.
This is also the reason why interviewers use behavioral interview questions. The questions give the interviewer the ability to get more in-depth information about your behavior in the workplace. These types of questions are discussed in more detail further on in this article.
For instance, a behavioral interview question related to growth potential is ‘Tell me about a time when your manager was unavailable when you faced a problem. How did you handle the situation? Who did you ask for advice?’ This specific question required you to discuss your behavior in the workplace and how you have handled challenging situations in the past. The interviewer is interested in how you adapted to the situation and which actions you took.
Your past behavior as a predictor for your future performance
The earlier discussed behavioral questions help interviewers assess your future success in the position that you’re applying for. By analyzing your past behavior in certain situations, they can accurately determine whether or not you have growth potential. This proven interview technique can give more insight into your future work performance.
Make sure that prior to your interview, you prepare for these questions and expect related questions about, for instance, your strengths and weaknesses. By preparing example answers with scenario’s that you’ve encountered in the past, you can provide a concise and concrete answer without missing important details. The most efficient way to do this is by using the STAR interview technique. This technique helps you structure your answers in a concise and logical way.
STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your walkthrough.
Avoiding bad hiring decisions
The bottom line for interviewers is that they want to avoid making a bad hiring decision. By mixing career goal questions with behavioral interview questions, they try to uncover your growth potential and en likeliness of succeeding in the position you’re applying for.
Interviewers are interested in your self-awareness, self-knowledge, and previous patterns in work situations to find out whether or not you have the right potential to develop yourself as a professional.
Interview questions about career goals
Your response to interview questions such as ‘What are your career goals?‘ help interviewers find out if your professional goals and expectations align with the goals of the job and company. Other ways interviewers can ask you the same question to find out more about your growth potential:
- What are your short term career goals?
- What are your long term career goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are your future plans if we hire you?
These are all common interview questions. Basically, career goals are milestones that you hope to accomplish as you progress in your career. Your career goals are just as important as your qualifications, education, and professional experience. You can therefore almost certainly expect questions about your plans for the future.
Your career goals are discussed during job interviews because the interviewer wants to find out a couple of things about you. First, they want to know whether or not you plan on staying at the company for a while or if you are likely to leave if you get another opportunity.
Second, it shows if you have a plan in your career and how you plan on developing yourself. Furthermore, your answer gives them an understanding of if your professional goals and expectations of the position match what they can offer you. Based on your answers, interviewers can gauge your potential to grow and develop yourself as a professional.
If your answer indicates that your goals or ambitions do not align with the company goals of you have a general lack of aspiration, this can be considered as a red flag. The same goes for providing too general or cliché answers or providing unrealistic goals. These are all viewed as warning signs and could negatively influence your chances of landing the job. Read more about defining your career goals and answering career goals questions here.
Behavioral job interview questions
Behavioral interview questions can be used to assess your growth potential. These strategic interview questions require you to provide answers that include example situations that you experience in professional work environments. In other words, these questions focus on work situations that you experienced in the past and the way you responded to them. How you respond to these questions, help the interviewer understand your work methods and ethics.
The logic behind these questions is that analyzing your past behavior is the best indicator to predict your future performance. This also includes your growth potential.
If certain situations that ask for you to adapt and learn new knowledge or skills and you fail to do so or you fail to demonstrate this in your answers, you might not be the right person for the job in the eyes of an interviewer. The answers you give should, of course, convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job and that you do possess the required growth potential.
Behavioral questions usually start with:
- Tell me about a time when (..)
- Give me an example of (..)
- Describe how you have handled (..)
- Have you ever experienced (..)
- Walk me through (..)
- Describe a situation where (..)
The interviewer wants to discuss previous work situations and wants you to explain what actions you took, and why you decided to take them. For instance, to assess your level of adaptability, leadership skills or potential, and creative thinking skills. These are all examples of skills that are needed to develop yourself and grow as a professional in your career.
By preparing example scenarios, you can give exactly the information that interviewers are looking for. Make sure that you provide the interviewer the Situation you were in, your Task in that situation, the Action you took, and the specific Results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer.
How to demonstrate your growth potential in job interviews
There are multiple ways how you can show the interviewer that you are self-aware, that you know which way you want to go with your career and how you’re working on it.
Give the interviewer examples of how you’re self-teaching
If you’re developing yourself and if you’re a learner, in general, you can use this to your advantage in your answers. Employers are looking for candidates who stay on top of trends and developments without superiors asking them to do so.
If you’re self-motivated and constantly learning to provide the interviewer with examples of how you do this, for instance, you can talk about how you have volunteered for new projects or assignments, how you learned how to code, or about any additional education or training, you followed to develop yourself.
Highlight your dedication to (professional) growth
When you’re discussing what you have done in the past to grow as a professional such as volunteering experience, it’s important to highlight the growth that you have achieved. In other words, talk about what you’re doing currently and how it helps you develop yourself. Show your enthusiasm for your participation that goes beyond just your positions in previous companies.
Quantify how your ideas and contributions helped your employer
To give your answers extra weight, you can, if possible, quantify how your ideas and contributions helped achieve success. Talk about what you learned and how, for instance, an idea of yours let to an increase in monthly or yearly turnover. Remember, numbers don’t lie, and it’s a great way to demonstrate your growth potential in a job interview.
Ask the interviewer the right questions back
Always remember that a job interview is a two-way street. This means that you should also ask the interviewer questions back. Besides that, this is a great opportunity to get more information about the company and the position it’s also a way to demonstrate that you did your homework and came prepared. Well-thought-out questions can help show your willingness to learn already during the interview.
Red flags for interviewers
Just like there are points to focus on when you want to convey your attitude of willingness to learn, there are also red flags that you should avoid at all costs. These red flags will negatively impact your chances of landing the job and making the right impression.
Not providing enough detail
When the interviewer is trying to assess your growth potential by asking a certain question, it’s important that you provide him or her with details about your career goals and how you plan on developing yourself or how you did so in the past.
If you fail to provide specific details about what you claimed in your resume or cover letter, this can be considered a red flag by the interviewer. If you, for instance, claim that you have successfully followed a training or course that can benefit you in the position that you’re applying for, you need to make sure that you’re able to back this up through clear examples. You can expect interviewers to ask questions and follow-up questions about what you say in the documents you provided to them in your application.
Failing to provide enough detail about you or your professional experience could hurt your chances of getting the job. If the interviewer has difficulty verifying your claims, this could be a red flag for them.
Failing to respond effectively
In your job interview, you want to demonstrate that you really have the potential to grow, that you’re aware of your career goals, and that you’re working on becoming a better professional in your field. Failing to respond effectively to questions or follow-up questions, you can come across weak.
When you’re preparing for common interview questions and questions that you’re expecting based on the research you did on the company and position, also think of possible follow-up questions. If you prepare the right way, you already know some example scenarios that you can use in your answers. Based on these scenarios, you can make an educated guess of the follow-up questions that you can logically expect.
For instance, if you’re preparing for the interview question ‘Describe a time when you had to work on a task outside of your job description?‘ the interviewer will most likely follow-up with something like ‘How did you approach this situation?‘ or ‘What was the outcome?‘
Not taking responsibility
An important aspect of showing growth potential is the ability to take responsibility. If you can’t or don’t show that you’re able to take responsibility for a failed project or a mistake, this can be considered as a red flag. The ability to reflect on work situations and self-awareness, in general, are important characteristics to possess as a professional.
Employers look for candidates that can admit mistakes and can discuss what they learned from their errors. If you have made thoughtful mistakes in the past and the interviewer asks you to discuss this, explain to them what the situation was and how you tried to fix your error.
The most effective way to discuss this is by using the STAR interview technique. STAR is an acronym that stands for situation, task, action, result. It’s an easy way to logically structure your answer by describing the situation you were in, the tasks you had in that situation, the actions you took to address the situation, and the results you got based on your actions.
Remember that interviewers know that you’re human too and that you make mistakes, just like every other person. It’s important that your answers show that you can take responsibility for situations you are in and that you describe the actions you took to fix any problems.
Negative attitude or answers
Negativity in your attitude or answers is always a warning sign for an interviewer. Think, for instance, talking negatively about previous employers or colleagues, but also situations in general. A negative undertone in your answers can leave the wrong impression. Therefore, focus on yourself, your goals, and stay positive to put yourself in the best possible position to get the job that you’re applying for.
Common growth potential interview questions
Below you can find commonly asked growth potential interview questions:
- Why are you better now at what you do compared to a year ago?
- Tell me about a time you took action to resolve a specific problem.
- Tell me about a time you had to communicate effectively to work through a problem.
- Which of your skills areas need improvement? What do you plan on doing about it?
- Can you tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership?
- Tell me about a team project that you worked on.
- What do you like about your work?
- Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict within the team. How did you handle it? What was the result?
- Are you easy to get along with?
- What steps did you take last year to improve your qualifications?
- Tell me how you manage difficult employees.
- Why should we take a risk on you?
- Describe a team experience that you found rewarding.
- Tell me about a time you worked in a fast-paced environment and how you adapted.
- Describe a time when you had to mediate a disagreement? (conflict resolution)
Preparing answers to growth potential job interview questions
To make sure that you’re ready for your interview and confidently can discuss your career goals and plan of action on how you have developed and will develop yourself further in the future, you need to prepare the right way. There are a couple of basic steps that you can take to start your preparation. Below we discuss a couple of elements that can help you prepare for growth potential interview questions.
Start by doing research
The first step to make sure you’re prepared for interview questions about your growth potential is doing your homework. Study the job description to make sure you understand what the company expects from you in terms of competencies, skills, and abilities.
The same goes for the company. It’s essential that you’re aware of their mission statement, history, product or service lines, management, and company culture. Furthermore, make sure that you understand the industries the company is in and who their competitors are as well.
You can find most information you need on the company website, their social media accounts, LinkedIn page, and Google News. If you can get some additional inside information from your network, that’s even better.
Create a list of competencies, skills, and abilities
Based on the research you have done on the company and position you can create a list of required competencies, skills, and abilities. This list can help you prepare answers to interview questions that you expect.
- How do you adjust to changing situations that you have no control over?
- Tell me about a time you worked on the creation of a new product or service.
These behavioral questions require you to provide the interviewer with examples of situations from your work experience. Even though these questions may seem challenging, they are a great opportunity for you to show your skills, competencies, and results.
In general, a lot of companies look for similar skills in candidates to gauge their growth potential. Think, for instance of teamwork, leadership, adaptability, taking responsibility, etc. Once you created a list of competencies, skills, and abilities, you can rank them on importance in relation to the job requirements.
Come up with a list of your past experiences that relate to the job requirements
When you have created a list of competencies, skills, and abilities, you can think of past experiences that you can use as examples to demonstrate your suitability. Write your examples down and highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior related to the competencies, skills, and abilities.
Focus on preparing concise and to-the-point answers. Also, practice enough so that you can fluently provide your answers. If you recite your answers you will not come across natural. Just prepare your answers enough so that you can use them to your advantage in your interview.
Prepare answer scenarios for successful situations and challenging ones
Being able to discuss successful situations is just as important as the ability to discussing difficult or challenging situations. Ensure that you have some examples prepared of situations in which you faced a challenge or problem but came out successfully. Explain to the interviewer what you did, why you did it, and what the results of your actions were. Also, tell the interviewer what you learned from the situation.
Focus on demonstrating your growth potential by including competencies and skills required for the job in your answers. Think of how you’ve solved problems during work, how you adapted to a challenging situation, and how you approach situations in general.
There’s a good chance that the interviewer will ask you follow-up questions to test your self-awareness. For instance, he or she could ask how you might handle a similar kind of situation differently now.
Structure your answers logically
It’s important that you convey your answer in a structured and logical way. The STAR method is a great way to do this. It’s an interview technique of structuring your answer by describing the (S) situation you were in, that (T) tasks you had in that situation, the (A) actions you took, and the (R) results that you got from your actions. These steps help you to walk the interviewer through a situation efficiently and effectively. Below the STAR interview technique is discussed step by step.
Take the following elements into account when you’re structuring your answers:
- Make sure you’re able to give the interviewer a logical answer in the form of a chronologically structured story. As stated, you can use the STAR interview technique to do this.
- Focus on demonstrating the competencies, skills, and abilities that are required for the job that you’re applying for. This is what the interviewer wants to see from you. Ensure that you match your qualifications to the job and skills as mentioned in the job description. Make sure to prepare several example situations of skills and abilities that you think will be discussed based on your research. Depending on the actual questions you get you can use these prepared examples to your advantage
- Give honest answers. Interviewers are trained to notice when you’re making up a story. Furthermore, you can expect follow-up questions from the interviewer to go more in-depth into the situations you provide them with.
STAR Interview Technique to Answer Growth Potential Questions
During your job interview, the interviewer will ask you different kinds of questions to assess your growth potential. Some of these questions will require you to provide actual work situations that you’ve been in before. In other words, you need to share a story of how you handled a situation in the past. These questions are called behavioral interview questions.
The best way to answer them is by using the STAR interview technique, which was also discussed earlier in this article. Now, we will take a closer at each step in the STAR method so that you can use this technique to your advantage.
Always start your answers by providing the interviewer a clear picture of the situation you were in. Clarify the problem or challenge, and provide relevant details and context so that the interviewer understands your point of view.
Next, talk about the task you had in that particular situation. What were you responsible for? What requirements did you need to fulfill to address the situation? It’s important that you mention the challenge you were facing and what barriers you needed to overcome.
Tell the interviewer which actions you took to resolve the problem or challenge that you faced. Give them a step by step explanation of the actions you took.
End your answer by discussing the results of your actions. Take credit for your behavior that led to specific results. Tell them what happened and what you have accomplished. Furthermore, tell them what you learned from the situation. This is a great way to demonstrate your growth potential. Focus on providing positive results and positive learning experiences as these are opportunities to show your suitability for the job.
Sample answers to growth potential job interview questions
The example answers written out below are to be used for inspirational purposes. They are general answers to common growth potential interview questions. Don’t forget to structure your own answers detailed enough to convince the interviewer of your suitability for the job.
Answer Example 1:
‘Why are you better now at what you do compared to a year ago?’
‘Last year I’ve worked hard on improving my public speaking skills to become a more confident and compelling speaker. I realized that if want to grow in my career and become a top manager, I would have to sharpen my communication skills as well.
Whether I’m leading a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, I have to speak publically more often as I develop myself as a professional. By developing these skills through extensive practice and following a communication course I got more confidence as a manager and I believe that this will make my team more productive as well.
Developing my public speaking skills to an expert level is my goal. I’m still working on becoming better and go from a good speaker to a great public speaker.’
Why this is a strong answer
- The provided example is related to your growth as a professional and relevant to the workplace.
- This answer shows important skills such as being pro-active, taking leadership responsibility, and self-awareness.
- The answer shows that you’re working on becoming better and that you have set new goals to grow further.
Answer Example 2:
‘What would motivate you to make a move from your current position?’
‘I’ve started at my current position right out of university. I got hired after successfully completing my graduate internship and research at the company. For me, it was a great opportunity to implement the results that I got from my research. I’ve had the opportunity to establish my own position within the organization as I was able to see many aspects of different positions during my five years there.
After a two-year trainee program in the company, I started working for the marketing department. In the last two years, I’ve been steadily been among the top performers and last year alone I was able to increase my sales by more than 25%.
What would motivate me to make a move from this position is an opportunity to take my sales skills into a more senior position at a larger company. This is also the reason why I applied for this job. It’s a perfect fit for my experience, skills, and career goals.’
Why this is a strong answer
- This example shows that you already thought about an answer to such a question. The answer explains what would motivate you to make a from your current job.
- This example is related and relevant to the workplace. It describes important skills and abilities related to the job that you’re applying for.
- By quantifying your work accomplishments you give more weight to your answer.
Answer Example 3:
‘Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation and your manager was not available. How did you handle the situation?
‘In my previous job, I was assigned the project coordinator position by my manager. We worked on a project for a big client together with a team from another department. My manager started the project by making a plan of action for both teams during the first team meeting. Both teams and their members were assigned tasks and responsibilities.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, my manager had to go on medical leave after a couple of weeks. However, after a month we found out that there was an overlap in work that was being done based on confusion stemming from the plan of action. I knew this was a challenge that required immediate attention.
As a project coordinator, I knew it was up to me to take action. Twice a week I organized standup meetings in which both teams would discuss their tasks for the week and any challenges they faced. This way, everybody would be up to date, and we could help each other out where and when needed.
Even though it was an unexpected and difficult challenge, both teams together managed well and we were able to deliver everything within the deadline.’
Why this is a strong answer
- This example shows a couple of important skills that interviewers look for such as taking responsibility, leadership potential, and communication skills.
- The answer directly answers the question by providing an example scenario of how you faced a challenge and how you handled the situation.
- This example shows your leadership potential by making clear that you understood that the situation required immediate attention and that you followed up by taking action.