Hiring Gen Y (Part 5): Interviewing Millennials

by Traci K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

Entitlement and informality are the words of the day.  When you begin to understand the interview process for Generation Y candidates, these words may be circling in your mind as the reputation of today’s young professionals precedes them.  Standard questions are bound to produce surprising responses, especially if you haven’t got a clue what you’re in for.  How about that clue…

Millennials are informal.  They don’t like dress codes, they don’t like strict or traditional rules, they don’t like stuffy – they pretty much don’t like anything to do with formality.  This is something to keep in mind while interviewing.  They mean no disrespect, but don’t be caught off guard by the tennis shoes or the fact that they are leaning back in their chair while speaking to you.  Pass over the fact that they use the word “like” as if they get paid for each time it’s spoken.  Don’t take offense when they admit they haven’t a clue exactly what your company does or that you are one of so many companies they’ve applied to, you’ll have to refresh their memory.

Generation Y is nothing if not honest.  They are opinionated and feel they know what they are worth.  For those reasons, being themselves in an interview is not seen as improper.  The employer is just as much on the judgment stand as the candidate.  Again, they know their worth, so Gen Yers interview as if they have multiple offers on the table already.  Appreciate their confidence, but put them in their place.  Let them know exactly what the competition is like for your position and what the environment will be should they get the job.  Don’t oversell your company or you will be back to hiring again before you can say “run home to mom and dad”.

The new HR Assistant at my company came from a temp agency.  She previously worked as an Executive Assistant and held that position for 5 months before she quit without another job lined up.  She was hired to be the go-to person for the owner of an up-and-coming financial reporting software company.  She was told she would be scheduling meetings, planning travel and events, creating presentations, and handling other daily administrative tasks, with the opportunity to move into a higher level position as the company was expanding at a rapid pace.  With a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and a hatred for late hours and the grueling schedules that accompany the industry, she thought this would be a great way to get her foot in the door with an innovative company.

Within the first two months she was in charge of picking up dry cleaning, coordinating the schedules of the owner’s ex-wife and new girlfriend, and making restaurant reservations.  Instead of an executive assistant, she was a personal assistant, and the last straw was drawn when she was at her boss’s hotel room, packing his clothing for an upcoming trip to India.  That may sound extreme, but most of us in this economy would not have quit on the spot.  Scooping her up from the temp agency and giving her the opportunity to explore HR was the best move for the both of us.

She’s a valuable asset and a breath of fresh air in our department.  We recognize the need to follow up on assignments as she is not highly detail-oriented and she has the ability to voice her dislike for given tasks, however, she owns up to mistakes and has an unmistakable assurance in her abilities and enthusiasm about life.  Her honesty and integrity are appreciated in light of the small sense of entitlement she conveys.  When interviewing those from Gen Y, keep in mind the price they might pay for being so honest.

Behavioral interview questions are highly effective with Millennials because they will give you those honest answers.  You can assess their abilities and weaknesses better than seasoned interviewers.  It’s all about clear communication.  They will let you know what kind of employee you can expect if you can be willing to accept them for who they are and allow them the chance to grow with your organization.

Millennials want a defined career path.  They know where they want to be in 5 or 10 years and hope you have the track that will get them there.  It’s all about the next step.  “If I exceed expectations, what position could I be promoted into next year?”  They are said to expect titles and benefits on a silver platter, without the years of work the rest of us have put into the roles we play today.  Be realistic when you describe the position you are hiring for and where your company sees the candidate going, if anywhere.  Flat organizational trees are not of interest, so if you are a company that has one, be prepared to explain how you can offset it with other opportunities.

Let’s make it clear that not all Gen Yers are described by the outline of this post.  I have worked with many young professionals that fit these characteristics to a “T”, but I’ve also worked with a few that didn’t.  Generalizations are called so because they are describing something in general, but there are always exceptions to the rules.  That being said, I haven’t worked with a young professional that didn’t fit at least one of the pieces of the Gen Y reputation puzzle.  Go into the interview making very clear the expectations of the position and the company.  Once hired, you can train your Millennials on the work environment you prefer.  Prepare your team for the challenges of the intergenerational workplace – the next unavoidable hurdle for tomorrow’s Human Resource Departments.  Step Six – Training Your New Hires will get you started.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

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