7 Questions You Wouldn’t Expect During a Millennial Interview

May 18, 2010

The task of recruiting millennials/Gen-Yers continues to be an exercise in expecting the unexpected. Because this demographic views the worker-supervisor relationship differently than previous generations and has a unique sense of transparency, recruiting millennials/Gen-Yers continues to challenge both recruiters and hiring managers.

In search of the job that suits their lifestyle, they are asking questions that would have seemed out of bounds by traditional standards. In fielding these questions, recruiters and hiring managers should understand the thinking behind the reasoning — and then ultimately determine if there is a correct fit.

The following seven questions are from actual interviews. The responses are intended to provide some context to recruiters and hiring managers, so they can understand why those questions were asked and to ultimately make a sound evaluation of a candidate’s potential.

If I don’t like my boss, how can I get that changed?

Millennials feel unencumbered about speaking up for what they want. Throughout their childhood, they watched their helicopter parents repeatedly move obstacles out of the way — whether it was calling the school about a grade, or complaining to a coach for more playing time. Millennials have internalized the behavior modeled by their parents. It is their first nature to expect the terms of conditions to be modified to suit their needs.

How many hours per day will I be expected to work?

Yes, millennials really are asking how much time they will need to put in. It’s not that they lack a strong work ethic; they are very hard-working. It’s just that they feel they are highly efficient and can get things done faster than people from other generations. Working remotely with clear guidelines about what millennials need to accomplish and deliver can be a win-win for the employee and the company.

Do you allow the use of Facebook?

Blurred boundaries are a fundamental part of a millennial’s existence. Millennials do not see a clear division between work and leisure. It all blends together as they multi-task down their to-do list. Checking in on Facebook seems as natural to them as a baby boomer checking voicemail. Many millennials now come “pre-wired”; their phones can now access any site any time they want.

If I don’t like my pay, who do I talk to about fixing that?

This comment reflects the intense focus on making sure millennial children are treated with dignity and respect and that their self-esteem is a top priority. This is the attitude that perpetuated trophies for children for simply participating on a sports team. Everyone is a winner, irrespective of how the team performed. Millennials see no problem asking what they want, even on this most sensitive issue of compensation. And, they don’t really understand why you wouldn’t do the same for yourself.

If we do reading for our job, can we do it at the gym during work hours?

Multi-tasking is also a cornerstone of the millennial experience. Growing up in a busy, digital world, it seems perfectly logical to kill two birds with one stone. Doing multiple things at the same time — time stacking, as it were — is good time management. Since the line between work and play is already faint, asking a question that baby boomers would never consider is what millennials are all about.

Who will be my mentor and coach while I’m learning the new job?

Millennials are accustomed to a lot of attention. They expect a plan from an authority figure outlining how they will become proficient in new tasks or skills. This is the mental framework they have ported over from their education. The rubric teaching model adopted by schools over the past 20 years provides students with scoring tools that divide an assignment into its component parts and objectives. This model provides a clear description of what is an acceptable and unacceptable level of performance for each part. In many cases, rubrics are provided to students at the time an assignment, so they know exactly what to do to get the grade they want. As a result, most millennials are used to well-defined assignments, clear benchmarks, and continual feedback and discussion with their mentor. They naturally assume that process is in the work world.

What does the company do to make work fun?

Millennials don’t bring the mind set that the reason they call it “work” is because it is work. They read about “cool companies” offering yoga, movie nights, coffee bars, basketball courts, and free onsite lunches. Making work fun is possible, but requires a new paradigm for employers.

So how should recruiters and hiring managers interpret all this?

First, millennials are not deliberately disrespecting the relationship between employer and employee. They just don’t conceive of work the way seasoned recruiters or hiring managers do. Secondly, step outside the traditional frame of reference in order to find the employees who could be future leaders. Understanding what millennials think and why their experiences have led to their questions and answers will provide a great deal of insight — and minimize frustration. Refusing to interview candidates whose resumes include their favorite yoga or music will quickly narrow down the pool of candidates.

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