The Changing Nature of the Work Interview: Interviewing a Millennial

by Saba Software | Posted | Talent Acquisition

The Changing Nature of the Work Interview: Interviewing a Millennial

Over the past decade we’ve seen the world and the workplace change together – for better and for worse. Technology has swept through our offices and increased the way we perform on the job.

We’re more efficient, accessible and reliable, however it’s not just the way we work that has changed, it’s also who we’re working alongside.

Most of you are well aware that we now have four different generations currently working together: Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials.

This is the first time in history that such a mix of people – with different skills and mindsets – have come together to work in one place. The most significant change noted by many employees and employers is the integration of Millennials, and their mindset towards work and the workplace.

This change has sparked a lot of debate among businesses and organizations that will need to find replacements for the retiring Traditionalists and Boomers in the next few years. It’s crucial that hiring managers and recruiters learn early on how to identify and select the best talent from the Millennial talent pool for the future of their organizations.

Funny enough, spotting a candidate may turn out to be the easy part, thanks to Google and social networks, but it’s the interview that can be the most challenging.

Interviewing a Millennial

Let’s take a closer look at how the interview model has changed and some tips and tricks for companies and recruiters to use when interviewing and scouting for potential Millennial employees.

Know Your Potential Candidate

Knowing who you’re going to interview (and who’s going to interview you) is as easy as a Google search. Have a look at your job candidates public social profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get a feel for who you’ll be meeting.

Tip: Web searching for your candidate will give you a better idea about what they’ve done or are doing, and whether they’d be a good fit for your company.

The old style interview isn’t going to cut it for this tech-savvy generation. They’re not sure where they’ll be in five years, their strengths might look like weaknesses to you, and they most likely won’t want to sit at a desk five days a week, eight hours a day.

When we reflect back on all the interviews we’ve been through or given, we can all agree that there are basic questions that are going to be (and have been) asked in every interview. These “common” questions are also available – with answers – online.

Therefore, the questions you ask your Millennial candidates should be centered on their experiences and behaviour- not what their parents or the internet told them to say.

Let’s take a look at a few of “common” interview questions, and why they might not apply to your Millennial interview:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Millennials have seen so much change in six months that asking them to predict the next five years seems unrealistic. They might ask themselves, “does this company know where it will be in five years?” While that might sound condescending, it’s the nature of the current world that makes them unsure of what to expect in five years – rapid changes in technology, unstable government, and extreme economic inequality.

Tip: Ask what type of skills they would like to learn throughout their time with your company like, “What do you want to get out of this position?” This question is also closely related to “What are your career goals?”

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

This is a hard question for some Millennials to answer, because the majority of them have little to no work experience due to unemployment or schooling. Instead of focusing on a professional accomplishment, they might be prone to provide you with a personal accomplishment (i.e. Travelling to three different countries alone…). While this is something to be proud of, it’s not going to get you the information you need.

Tip: Specifically focus on professional accomplishments. If they don’t have any professional experience, ask them about their volunteering or school work. Make sure you define exactly what you mean by “accomplishment”.

What are you trying to measure – Their ability to successfully complete a task? Their level of commitment or independence? Figure out what you want to know, and be specific with this question.

What can you bring to this company (i.e. Why should we hire you)?

As said above, a lot Millennails don’t have enough work experience to speak of, which means they might not yet know what they can bring to the table. They might give you vague answers like, “I’m easygoing and get along with others” or “I have great internet skills.” Unless the position is one that requires intense formal training (i.e. IT, nursing or teaching), you may not get the descriptive, professional answer you’re hoping for.

Tip: Divide this question into two parts. Part one is to ask about their skill set: “What are your three best professional skills, and can you provide examples that demonstrate why?” After all, their skill set is what they will bring to the company.

Part two is to focus on their ability to positively impact the company: “Can you give me examples of how and where you’ve made a positive difference professionally or in school or through volunteering? What did you do to help make this positive change happen? Who helped you?”

These questions will also tell you about their leadership abilities, their dedication, and whether or not they are adaptable to different situations.

These questions will also tell you about their leadership abilities dedication and whether or not they are adaptable to different situations

Now that we’ve reviewed the “common” questions, let’s take a look at “current” questions (answers not found on the internet!) that directly address common characteristics about Millennials, and tell you more – both personally and professionally – about potential candidates and their eligibility for the position.

Commitment level

A negative trait often associated with Millennials is a lack of commitment. Contrary to that reputation, data supports that Millennials are quite committed to their work, but they do not value face time the way other generations do. What they seek in a job is the ability be creative and to contribute to the success of the organization. Therefore, asking questions centered on their successes will help you understand what kind of projects motivate them and whether they will be fit for your organization.

Examples: “What type of projects have you worked on before?”, “Can you give us an example of a time where you worked on a project that exceeded your manager’s expectations? What were the results, and what did you do to make those results happen?”

Dedication level

Another talked about trait, is the Millennial’s apparent lack of dedication to a project or their work. To help you understand what they’re interested in, and if they will be a good fit for the position you are offering, ask questions that talk about what motivates them.

Examples: “What is it about this position that interests you?”, “What do you consider a challenge?”, “What type of work interests you?”, “How would or do you measure your performance?”


To really find out if your Millennial is the right candidate for the role you are looking to fill, you need to match her traits to those you are looking for, such as: independence, confidence, work ethic and social skills. While she may not have adequate work experience to demonstrate those traits, ask questions that reveal them through other areas in your young candidate’s life.

Tip: Ask what they do in their free time. Knowing what your Millennial job candidates do in their free time will show you whether or not they’re active and reliable. Do they belong to any social or community groups? Answers to these questions can help you understand what they are passionate about and can be a meaningful signal of leadership ability or other key traits needed to succeed in the position you are looking to fill.

Examples: “What type of group work have you done before?”, “What was your role in the group and what did you do to ensure success of the project?”, “What was the final outcome of the project?” and “How do you deal with conflict?”, “What do you do in your free time?”

Across the Table: Why the Millennial Will Choose You

Why the Millennial Will Choose You

Interviews are a two-way street: you’re evaluating the interviewee and he’s evaluating you. Millennials are no strangers to questions or evaluations – their parents and teachers have questioned and evaluated them throughout their whole lives. Take this into consideration because they will be evaluating you, your company’s work environment and culture.

Throughout their young lifetime they’ve seen their parents take jobs they hate or friends who aren’t making what they’re worth or companies who’ve exploited their employees. Millennials aren’t the type to settle for just any job, which is another reason the nature of the workplace is changing.

Here are two major things you need to keep in mind when interviewing and potentially hiring a Millennial:

1. Be honest, but not aggressive during the interview

As the interviewer, you also need to be aware of your actions- you don’t want to come off as overbearing and controlling. Millennials are known to stay away from stressful interviews and work environments. However, they do want you to be straightforward with them. Tell them what you expect, how you expect it done and the level of commitment you want for a particular position.

The idea of working with someone who is going to increase stress instead of productivity will send a Millennial running. It’s not that they can’t handle it; it’s that they don’t want to.

They’ve seen firsthand the pressure and stress their parents went through, and understand that they have other options. Be confident and assertive, not aggressive or judgemental.

2. Talk about your work culture and environment

What are your office hours? Does your company host employee social events? Is there anything that makes you stand out from the crowd? Millennials want their work and social life to be mixed together; they want to work with people they can also consider friends. Further, Millennials want to believe in what your company does, and will support a company who is open and considerate of their employees.

The biggest sell to a Millennial is a flexible work environment – they want the option to come into work between the hours of 8 and 10am, and to leave anywhere between 4 and 8pm.

They’re also going to ask you about working remotely. Seeing as they’re the key holders to the internet, they understand that work can be done anywhere at any time. Being able to offer them this flexibility will entice them to your organization. Millennials want your trust, and if you trust them, they will work hard to give you the best results for any project.

Finding the right Millennial may take some time, as it would with any candidate, but it will be worth the wait. And regardless of which generation we fit into, we’re all individuals which should be top of mind when considering anyone for any position.

I hope these tips and tricks help give you some direction towards finding your next Millennial employee. Let us know your thoughts or experiences about interviewing and working with Millennials.

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