The Gen Y Job Interview Challenge

Published on
March 28, 2014
Martina Mangelsdorf
"Be yourself because the world needs your skill and talent to become a better place. You are not only here to embrace your dream but to protect and defend it. All it has is YOU."
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Instead of offering advice on how to interview Gen Y candidates, I thought for a change I’d focus on the other half that asks questions during an interview – the candidate. I bet recruiters out there have all sorts of anecdotal stories about the crazy questions Gen Yers ask in job interviews. While these stories might be amusing, surprising or simply shocking, if you make an effort to actually look beyond the literal question to identify the real theme or concern, some questions don’t seem so bad after all. Sure, sometimes the wording is unfortunate and awkward but don’t forget that Gen Y is a species with a language of their own. The following exercise will stretch your reframing skills and offers suggestions on how to respond to the Gen Y Job Interview Challenge:

Gen Y Interview Question: Can I bring my iPhone, iPad or MacBook to work and use them?

  • What they’re really asking: Does your organization have a BYOD policy or how do you incorporate the latest Technology at work?
  • Gen Yers might be tech-dependent but they know how to increase productivity and maximize outputs by leveraging technology. By asking for your company’s take on this, they are trying to gauge the effectiveness of your technological infrastructure to make sure that joining your company won’t throw them back in the IT Stone Age.
  • Your response: Explain your organization’s technology standards and why BYOD might not be an option in your business. (BYOD = Bring Your Own Device)

Gen Y Interview Question: Can I text my manager if I am sick rather than call in?

  • What they’re really asking: What Communication preferences are predominant in your work environment and what communication channels are acceptable?
  • Gen Y wants to ensure that communication is easy, straight forward and painless in your organization, so they won’t have to waste their time by dealing with communication formalities and etiquette when they join.
  • Your response: Addressing your organization’s communication customs will help resolve their concerns.

Gen Y Interview Question: Do I have to show up every day?

  • What they’re really asking: Does your organization have a policy on flexible/mobile work arrangements in order to engage employees by allowing Flexibility?
  • Gen Y appreciates flexibility as one of their core values – inside the workplace and away from it. Notice that the question is about showing up, not about actually doing the work or producing results. In the mind of Gen Y, presence does not equal performance.
  • Your response: Ask the candidate what work set-up would be ideal for them and then explain what kind of flexible arrangements you might be able to offer and what not.

Gen Y Interview Question: How long will it take to reach the next management level?

  • What they’re really asking: How does your organization ensure Fast Career Progression for high potential talent?
  • Gen Yers are impatient and self-absorbed. Of course, they think of themselves as the cream of the crop, after all that’s what their parents have been telling them forever. In this fast-paced world, slowness and non-progress means fallback or failure.
  • Your response: Clearly describe the requirements for moving up the career ladder, why such prerequisites make sense and how you identify people’s potential and track their performance. Be transparent about your talent management and provide realistic time frames. Then point out some intermediate development steps of how people get there, what skills they learn along the way and what short-term goals are attainable.

Gen Y Interview Question: What kind of training will I receive on the job?

  • What they’re really asking: How does your company handle Learning and Development?
  • Gen Y is ambitious and expects their employer to provide ample opportunities for professional development and personal growth. As a beginner in the world of work, for them this equals classic training programs which they consider self-evident and not as a form of reward in exchange for performance. Instead of seeing the arrogance in this attitude, reframe it and appreciate the fact that they want to learn and evolve.
  • Your response: Truthfully describe the requirements for being selected for learning and development programs in your organization but also emphasize the 70/20/10 model of learning and explain the wealth of (informal) learning opportunities on the job.

Gen Y Interview Question: Does your company have frequent bonus and award programs?

  • What they’re really asking: What concepts of Instant Gratification do you offer?
  • Gen Yers are feedback junkies and if I say feedback, I really mean positive reinforcement. They just can’t get enough of it; recognition has to be frequent and immediate. Annual bonus cycles and performance management appear antique and simply do not capture the Gen Y attention span long enough to incentivize desired behaviors and performance.
  • Your response: Unfortunately, most corporate reward programs do not (yet) cater to this Gen Y need for immediacy. If that’s the case, be transparent about it and ask what other forms of gratification or recognition might motivate the candidate along the way.

What “crazy” Gen Y questions have you heard in job interviews that you could possibly reframe and comprehend from a Gen Y perspective?

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