The Top Ten Interview Questions to Ask Millennials
By: Dona DeZube
Preparing for interviews to recruit Millennials candidates requires the same diligent interview preparation as you would do for any interview. Your interview questions should also give your Gen Y job applicant a chance to shine, as well as show what’s in it for them to work for your organization.
Experts also recommend that you ask questions about the old-fashioned basics, or the soft skills, that young people sometimes lack.
Mix and match any of these ten job interview questions to help select the right Millennial for your next job opening:
1. What have you done in the past that will help you do this job?
Younger Millennials may not have a great deal of work experience. But that shouldn’t be a showstopper. Asking about their transferrable experience, such as projects they’ve worked on at school, a team they were on, or volunteer work, also helps put them at ease, says Dr. Chip Espinoza, author of Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce and academic director of the Organizational Psychology program at Concordia University, Irvine, California.
It’s also a great job interview question because it shows the candidate you respect them and acknowledge their history, even if they’re just starting out in the workplace. You can ask older Gen Y Millennials about industry certifications, what they’ve learned by solving problems in prior jobs, or what they discovered about themselves in past psychometric tests.
2. Have you ever had to wear a uniform, cover up a tattoo, or work at a time that was difficult for you, like early in the morning or late at night? How did you handle that?
With this job interview question, you’re listening to see how the candidate coped with a task that required them to make compromises in personal style or conform to standards they didn’t agree with.
Follow up by talking about the most unpleasant aspects of the job, whether it involves grunt work or dealing with rude customers, says Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy and founder of Rainmaker Thinking Inc., New Haven, Connecticut.
“You’re better off trying to scare them away by telling them the downsides of the job. Recruiting is one part sales, but you have to stop selling at a certain point and start selecting,” Tulgan explains. Someone who still wants the job after hearing the negatives is more likely to last in the position.
3. Have you ever been passed over for an award or a promotion you thought you were going to get? How did you react?
“Millennials are used to lots of participation rewards,” says Lee Caraher, author of Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making It Work at Work. “This question will show you whether they understand that everyone can’t win in everything and how resilient they are.”
4. How do you like to receive feedback?
The goal of this question is to gently point out that your employees hear things they don’t want to hear. Millennials often fear making the wrong decision. By asking about feedback, you’re signaling that this position will need involve some trial and error.
When a job seeker has a difficult time answering the question, Tulgen suggests you follow up with: Tell me about a time you were given a test score, evaluation or feedback that was more difficult than you expected, or had to follow instructions even though you didn’t agree.
Discussing expectations around feedback can also help you assess and balance the job seeker’s expectations with what your office culture can deliver.
5. What kind of relationship do you expect to have with your boss?
Millennials may have never had a formal relationship with a boss; this interview question prevents a mismatch in expectations. “Millennials want people to be friendly with them,” Espinoza says. “Working for you may be the first time they have a relationship with an authority figure that they don’t perceive as being friendly.”
6. Describe a good day in the office. How are you spending your time? Where are you?
“A lot of Millennials are disappointed when they find out they’re sitting for only 40 minutes at a time and that they need to force themselves to get up and get out,” Caraher says. “I hear so many complaints about this from Millennials.”
This job interview question also gives you a chance to talk about the daily rhythms of the job.
7. Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult customer, in person or on the phone.
Many Millennials would consider it rude to call someone without first texting. In fact it’s not unusual for them to graduate from college without ever having telephoned someone they didn’t know.
When the position you have open involves interacting with people, in person or over the phone, a behavioral interview question about interpersonal skills will highlight gaps in the applicant’s experience, Tulgan says.
8. What do you read or listen to every day to get the news of the day?
This question reveals the candidate’s curiosity and interest in the broader world, Caraher says. Do they read anything beyond Buzzfeed and Twitter?
9. If we gave you time off to be involved with the community, what would you do?
Even as consumers, Millennials align with organizations that give back to the community, Espinoza says.
Asking this question serves two purposes. It lets Millennials know you value philanthropy; it also identifies the candidate’s enthusiasm about contributing to a holiday food drive or a charity walk.
10. What do you want to accomplish with this job? What are your goals?
In asking these questions, you’re indirectly asking how long a job seeker wants to stay with your organization and their expectations about achieving their career goals.
You can follow up by laying out a three-year map of where they’ll start in this job and how your organization’s development and coaching programs will prepare them to move up or move on.
“Tell them: ‘If you work hard and hit these milestones, this is what you’ll get,’” Espinoza says. “Just be aware that if you hold out a map, they’ll hold you to it.”