7 Questions You Wouldn’t Expect During a Millennial Interview

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?

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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.

Diane Spiegel is CEO of The End Result, a leading corporate training and development firm, and creator of the Sage Leadership Tools, which help managers work more effectively with millennials.


19 Comments on “7 Questions You Wouldn’t Expect During a Millennial Interview

  1. I suspected our elders said the same about us back in the Stone Age…
    Anyway, not to worry:
    A persistantly high unemployment rate can do wonders to unrealistic work expectations…


    Keith “Flint Engineer Recruiter” Halperin

  2. I dont see anything wrong with these questions,

    If an employee has an issue with their boss there should be a documented process to deal with the issue.

    Hours of work is a standard question, they may not like the answer.

    Facebook is not only allowed but encouraged (get with it people email is dead).

    If I assign a huge reading or study workload to a salaried employee I don’t care where they do it.

    Pay issues should have a documented procedure to arbitrate.

    If they don’t ask for a mentor and coach I am not hiring them, how do you expect them to improve.

    Well work may not always be fun, but it can be challenging, exciting and rewarding it is your job as the boss to be able to answer this one.

  3. When I read the article title, I expected to find some outrageous list of questions upon clicking through, but as a global recruiting strategy adviser I really don’t have any issues with any of these questions.

    With all do respect to those posting comments previously, if the millennial’s in question are of average or above average intelligence there are a number of aggressively growing global companies comfortable with this mindset. Will they deliver on all of the kids expectations, not at all, but expectations evolve with good management.

    I don’t understand what’s wrong with asking “If I can accomplish the job you designed leveraging your antiquated perspective as to how the work would be done in a fraction of the time you estimated, why can’t I go off and do something of more value to me?” Jobs are compensated, supposedly on the value of the work to be completed, not the time it takes to do it (with the exception of service based roles). If you are an MBO organization, act like it.

    I also don’t see why it unreasonable to ask what I should do about a crappy boss, after all, nearly all organizations tout an opportunity to work with great people. If you don’t want me asking the question, brand yourself as an organization with crappy managers and I’ll know to stay away.

    As for facebook, I could send a query out to my network via e-mail and get a response in a few days or I could do it via facebook and get a response within minutes, which sounds more productive to you? In this day and age, what you know is worth a fraction of knowing how to find out what you don’t know and learn quickly.

    The world is littered with unenlightened organizations that adhere to a worldview woefully out of date with society. I can assure you that an organizations perspective about what they are willing to accept talent wise will change much faster than societies expectations as desperation sets in. If you doubt this, talk to a few hiring managers in India or China where things are getting pretty bad pretty quick.

  4. Hi Maureen,

    It’s no secret that despite massive populations, India and China both suffer from severe skills shortages, particularly in professional disciplines. Compounded wage growth in India for the last four years exceeds 47%. Keep in mind that 47% is based on the average across all professions. In some professions and regions the scarcity of skills has forced astounding gains in comp packages (think parity with US and UK wages) and cut throat labor poaching. China and India both have had to import middle and senior level management talent for years, but are now finding they need to import talent at all levels. Throughout South-East Asia the story is fairly similar. Scarcity in Singapore for example has forced wages in the financial services sector above parity with the US.

  5. Seems like some of us need a reality check here…

    Diane has nailed this topic and has used a terrific vehicle to demonstrate the unique character of the largest generation the business world has ever seen through the use of typical Net Generation interview questions (I like Net Gen best as it provides better imagery than any letter could…). She couldn’t have picked 7 questions that better encapsulates Net Gen characteristics. These illustrate this generation beautifully – and those of us in Talent Management roles need to study and adapt.

    That’s right – you all better realize that the Net Gen, millions larger than the Baby Boomers (Grown Up Digital, Tapscott ), are taking the world by storm – more than 50% of the global population is under the age of 30!
    The points that Diane illustrates that are of interest to them are real and if you don’t embrace them you will literally be run over, and in five years your business will suffer mightily as your competitors who did will fly right past…

    One last point, and this is mostly evolutionary – the Net Gen workers who are now pushing 30 all had these characteristics – but had to suppress them as the first ones into the market. The high achievers in this class who are now in management are encouraged by the younger workers streaming onto their teams to make Net Gen interests the norm. In other words, you’re being delusional to think that this largest generation in history will bend to the norms of the past…

    Stellar Diane!

  6. I don’t have an issue with any of these questions. Interestingly enough, I get asked some, though worded differently but context the same, from non-millennial candidates as well. People are just keeping up with the times…

  7. Candice – that’s exactly right…much as the Greatest Generation were molded by the Boomers (in just about every way), the Net Gen are already having a huge impact on society in general…”keeping up with the times” in your example is a perfect illustration of how its happening in our Talent Management world!

  8. Another dimension of this conversation is how “shocked” seasoned managers are when they see personal info on resumes and cover letters. So many of us over 40 were conditioned not to share personal data as it could make you look weak. Millennials as well as Gen Xers stand by who they are and if you as the hiring manager or supervisor don’t like this level of disclosure, than these candidates will find places that do. As the Great Recession recedes organizations will feel the impact if they select to hang on to old paradigms.

    Diane Spiegel
    Blog: http://www.the-end-result.com/blog/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/SageTools

  9. Great summation! The questions don’t surprise me. I have clients who ask this type questions in mock interviews. I advise them to size up the interviewer to determine if they will be open to such questions. Then adjust their tactics. After all the interview is about getting the job. I advise them to search out the answers to these questions outside of the main interview via contacting others in the company and reading their philosophy.

  10. Thanks again, Daine. I see many people put their LinkedIn Profile URLs on theri resumes. I don’t instead, I put a tiny url of a cleaned up Google search of myself, for all to see. Here it is:

    Consider this if you will: imagine where you give me your name or address or telephone or email, and in a few minutes I’m able to find out all sorts of things about you which are part of what I call “the Digital Dossier”. Here’s an early step toward that: http://www.spokeo.com/



  11. It’s quite fascinating to learn more about the differences between the generations as it relates to the workplace. I’d be curious to learn who are some of these more progressive organizations are. Supporting a retail line of banking does not allow any flexibility and in fact seems to be moving backwards. It will be interesting to see where we land in a few years. Any input would be much appreciated!!
    Carol Essig

  12. Carol the emerging industries that thrive on ingenuity and innovation are where you see an openness to embracing these generational differences – one of the best places to see it is in the Clean Energy/Clean Tech arena. In fact one of the larger and more “traditional” clean energy companies, Johnson Controls, recently released a lengthy report on Gen Y and the Workplace – check it out http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2010/05/19/gen-y-green-demands-workplace -btw, you don’t have to wait five years -its happening now!

    …and a follow up to Keith’s mention of spokeo.com, another site to take a look at is placeyourname.com where one can craft a more professional Googling of thier name…

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