Interviews With Millennials
Tuesday, I received a phone call from my friend Ellen. We haven't talked since the election, so it was a good time for her to check in and catch up. I have known Ellen for many years. A fellow Baby-boomer with a marketing background, she is currently selling syndicated research services as an independent contractor. Ellen had some interesting thoughts about our future under a Trump administration; however, she is most interested to see the repeal of Obama-care. Like so many Americans, her insurance premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Ellen said that she had found an opportunity to work part-time and receive insurance benefits. The prospective employer is a health maintenance company, a natural fit for her as she is very health-conscious and athletic. She went on to say that being interviewed by a Millennial is strange, yet amusing. At one point she was asked, “where do you see yourself in five years?” In other words, what are your long-term goals? I pictured her sitting on a beach drinking a Pina Colada. We had a good laugh about that, as she plans to retire in five years. I told her that the interviewer was probably working off a script and needed to "check off" that question. I thanked her for providing the inspiration for this post. The next day, I had a meeting with a CMO candidate currently between jobs. Let's call him Bill. Bill, also a baby boomer, said he is frustrated interviewing with millennials. His concern isn't that he cannot work for a younger boss, but he believes they are biased against older candidates. His belief creates a natural tension. He told me that he had completed a series of interviews the prior day which did not go well. His prospective supervisor, a millennial, admitted that he was not an experienced interviewer. At some point in the interview, he asked Bill a series of questions as to how he would resolve particular problems the Company is experiencing. Bill admitted that he was disappointed with his response. He told the interviewer that he was uncomfortable answering the question as he did not have enough background information about the situation. That comment caused his interviewer to become defensive. It created a tense moment that may have cost Bill the job. He said that he finally answered the question, speaking to how he had resolved similar issues for former employers. My advice to Bill was to focus on how he dealt with similar situations in the past and to omit the comments about his feeling for the question.
[Tweet "There reasons why Baby-boomers and Millennials might not connect during an interview."] The biases held by each group toward the other are challenging. However, I think the underlying issue is a lack of skills. I have long known that most people are poor interviewers. It is not surprising, as I have met few people who have had any training for recruiting and selection. They may have read a book on interviewing, but they don’t put much effort into planning for the discussion. Most companies don’t make this kind of training a priority, or they assume their hiring managers know how to recruit and hire employees. It is somewhat baffling to me as recruiting, selection, and team building is vital to the success of the firm.
If one has not been trained to conduct an interview, it is unlikely they have the skills to be interviewed. I coach my candidates to prepare for the not-competent interviewer. I advise them to be proactive, to find opportunities to exercise some control over the discussion. I make sure they are prepared to answer questions a competent interviewer would ask. I direct them to articles for additional insight on the subject, including those I have written, which are available in my archives.
This is the New Normal. Baby-boomers will be working for Millennials. We must learn to adapt to this dynamic. Interpersonal skills must be developed and refined. In response to this need, our consulting group, ITB Partners, has begun training hiring managers to be more effective interviewers. If you are an employer looking to improve the effectiveness of your recruiting and selection program, we should talk. If you are a job seeker looking to improve your skills, we are here to help you.
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal
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