Adjusting Interviews for Generation X Values
INTERVIEW EDGE • OCT 1993
Interviewers need to be ready to adjust their questions and techniques for a new generation of workers with new values now entering the workforce. This group, born between 1964 and 1975, is known as "Generation X" or the "Baby Bust Generation."
A dramatic example of this new generation's values was seen in the recent decision by Dave Williams, a member of the Houston Oilers football team, to skip a day of work (in his case, to miss a football game) and join his wife in the delivery room for the birth of their first child. The cost to him? A day's pay which amounted to $111,000.
Williams, a member of Generation X, has different values from those of the Houston Oilers owners, in their 70's, and coaches, in their 50's. The difference in values was so dramatic that Connie Chung did a special on her network TV show, labeling the differences between Williams and the Oilers front office hierarchy as "generational." Chung pointed out that those men in their 50's and 70's grew up at a time when work came first and family obligations took second place. Not so for Williams.
These new attitudes about family values and work suggest a profound change in the way Generation X members approach not only work, but interviews and the workplace as well. Here is the way the gap is described in a Fortune Magazine article, "Why Busters Hate Boomers."
"Xers bring a different set of values to the workplace, values that in many ways are a reaction to the workaholism they associate with their older boomer brethren ... What's different is that lifetime employment is a thing of the past. Therefore, twentysomethings ask, 'Where will loyalty and dues-paying get us?' "
Interviewers, and the company's they work for, must find new ways to respond to this new generation. Jobs need to be restructured to respond to today's workers' values such as creativity, autonomy, independence and the need for stimulating work projects. Talent is no doubt there, but lack of awareness about the new values can obscure the selection process.