Marketing February 11, 2016 Last updated February 10th, 2016 1,647 Reads share

How to Interview Millennials:Trophies for Everyone?

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Interviewing prospects for an open position is as much of an art form as it is a science. For an experienced hiring manager, it can at times feel like trying to solve Rubik’s cube, especially when it comes to evaluating Millennials. Relating to a generation raised in the era of orange slices and trophies for everyone can initially be a challenge for older employees.

If you are in charge of hiring, interviewing the next generation of America’s workforce is something that absolutely must be mastered.  Millennials today make up the highest proportion of the workforce, over 53 million and growing. As they rise through the ranks, they will ultimately become the new managers and stakeholders of the company. Therefore, it is essential to make well-informed decisions now to ensure the health of your organization in the future.

If you’re one of the many interviewers confused or frustrated with trying to understand the millennial generation, read on. This post will offer some context, help you ask insightful questions, and give you the confidence to evaluate your prospects wisely.

Why the Confusion?

Millennials, typically defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, are the first digital generation. They were raised with the internet, learned multiculturalism in the playground, and are the products of hands-on (or some might say “helicopter”) parenting. Additionally, Millennials have come to the age of interconnected, 24/7 communication where the internet and social media have a pervasive influence on daily life.

Each of these characteristics can be a positive. And each can just as easily cause mutterings about the generation gap.

The Upside of Millennial Differences

Those who are successful at hiring millennials point out the many strengths they bring to an organization. Productivity using the latest technology is in their DNA. They can text, tweet and pick up new ways of communicating with ease. They know how to prioritize and convey information concisely. Their meetings tend to be short and to the point.

Millennials have excellent networking skills, the result of a lifetime of email and cell phones. Today’s young workers no longer rely on an over-stuffed rolodex or a drawer of business cards to connect with professional peers. They are highly adept and using customer relationship management (CRM) tools and online networks such as LinkedIn to assemble and manage their professional networks. Ever-present access to their professional networks is always just a few clicks away thanks to cloud technology.

Millennials are inclined to be ambitious and focused on clearly defined goals for their lives. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well with Millennials. A study showed that more than 25% of millennials would happily start a business of their own if they were laid off and couldn’t find a job.

The Downside of Millennial Differences

But all is not rosy. As a group, Millennials tend to lack commitment. Socializing and spending time with family and friends may be a higher priority than slogging at work for long hours to finish a project. Overall, Millennials do not wish to be defined strictly by their jobs. For a minority of them, social media is a major distraction and leads to a lack of focus and consistency in workplace performance.

They can often seem overconfident in the eyes of their older peers. Adoring parents, striving to build their children’s self-esteem, often resorted to praise that wasn’t earned amongst Millennials. The confidence they have is often not understood or appreciated by others, and can be perceived as arrogance or entitlement. Millennials are less likely to respond favorably when scolded or even challenged by bosses.

How to Interview a Millennial

Now that you know who Millennials are, and how their outlook may be different from yours, use that context to guide your interview and selection of new hires.

Questions are your friend, especially open-ended ones. Though a staple of all job interviews, because millennials have relatively little past work experience to reference (compared to older generations), interview questions are often the best way of gauging their future performance and behavior in your workplace environment. Here are six questions to start with, many of the also being suggested in a recent list of 12 published on

  1. Would you like to be an inventor or a leader? It is helpful to know if they like to “build things or build people” because it helps you match them with the right position.
  2. When did you exceed the expectations of your boss? If he/she can come up with clear, practical examples, it shows that they are motivated by more than just the paycheck.
  3. Did you ever feel helpless but still felt in your bones that you would make out ok in the end? Every team and company need optimistic people. Fill positions with workers who see the glass half full. They are much more likely to aim for big, hairy goals and change the future for the better.
  4. Did you ever fail? Everyone fails, but millennials can see reality in a different light. As a group, they got awards for simply participating, not earning. Hire people who acknowledge that they have failed and have been able to move beyond it.
  5. What part of this job will keep you motivated? Keep an ear for an honest answer. You want to know how they see themselves fitting in for the long haul.
  6. Where do you expect to be in five years? This lets them know that you offer career paths, a real incentive for ambitious, focused millennials. Hire people who can give you a well thought out answer, indicating they have a desire to achieve.

At the end of the day, hiring millennials is much the same as hiring any other age group. However understanding the generational differences between them and older employees helps to hire managers to interpret better their answers to questions and to evaluate better the capabilities of each prospect. Use your experience and trained ear to listen to their responses. It will give you the information you need to hire the best of the millennial generation for your company.

Images: ”Author’s Own“


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Christopher Jan Benitez

Christopher Jan Benitez

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