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Interviewing Millennials Entering the Workforce

INTERVIEW EDGE • MAY 2010

Many employers struggle to adapt to the Millennial generation – which comprises the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Getting to know Millennials better can help you prepare for them in the interview and in the workplace.

Who They Are

The Millennial generation includes those born between 1980 and 2000. As the economy improves, many employers continue scrambling to adapt to this generation since they comprise the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Formed by the Internet, hands-on parenting, and multiculturalism, the Millennials have a lot going for them.

Here's a look at the strengths of millennials entering the workforce.

• Productivity. Text messages, tweets, and social networks – the foundation of Millennial life – may pay dividends in the workplace. Adept at 140-character communication, Millennials have an advantage over older workers still bogged down in older technologies. Millennials' ability to prioritize, optimize and above all, communicate succinctly, may eventually mean the end of unproductive meetings and phone calls.

• Networking Skills. Growing up with email and cell phones keep Millennials constantly plugged into a network of family and friends, fostering the desire – and ability – to work collaboratively and within teams. And because Millennials also grew up in an increasingly open and multicultural society, they tend to be more inclusive than their predecessors.

• Ambition. Many Millennials entering the workforce bring a set of defined goals to the first day on the job. With influences like role-playing video games – where ordinary players accomplish difficult feats through strategy and foresight – it's easy to see that they would expect similar, real-world challenges. Further, women now outnumber men as college graduates and the number of women with ambitions for a professional career has never been higher.

•Entrepreneurial. Research from JWT Worldwide indicates that more than a quarter of Millennials would start their own business if they were laid off or had trouble finding a job. And more than a third say they have friends who are doing interesting, entrepreneurial things to make more money.

But Millennials also have their limitations:

• Lack of commitment. The newest generation tends to put family and friends first. Faced with a choice between working long hours to build a career and socializing, at least some Millennials are likely to choose the latter. In the same way, Millennials are reluctant to let their jobs define them. For many Millennials, work is simply a way to support an attractive lifestyle. This tends to foster a free agent mentality that's always on the lookout for the next best offer.

• Overconfident. Doting parents willing to advocate on their behalf and a lifetime of often-undeserved praise have given many Millennials a false sense of confidence. But that can quickly dissipate when they're reprimanded or challenged, and some may lack the fortitude and independence to stand on their own. On the other hand, Millennials entering the workforce aren't above questioning higher-ups when it suits them.

Interviewing Millennials

Given all this, what's the best way to deal with Millennials? First and foremost, it's important to seek Millennial candidates who are committed, hard working, and motivated. We suggest the following:

• Use questions that elicit information about candidates' level of dedication in the past. For instance, ask when they showed a commitment to great service or exceeded their boss's expectations. Candidates who can give credible examples are more likely to be motivated by results than by a paycheck.

• Follow up with questions about motivation, such as, "What in this job will sustain your interest and motivation?" This allows candidates to give an honest assessment of their buy-in to your organization and where they see themselves fitting in long term.

• Additional questions should focus on potential liabilities. Does the candidate seem to lack confidence, independence, or a willingness to work hard? If so, ask for specific examples that demonstrate those traits. Candidates who have trouble citing quality examples might not be the best fit for your organization.

• Be careful how your organization presents itself during the interview process. Millennials may be turned off by stressful interviews or an overbearing line of questioning. And be straightforward with candidates; Millennials expect candor.

Each generation offers a unique set of talents and limitations in the workforce – the Millennials are no exception.