15 Top Questions to ask the Millennial Candidate

One of the many conversations heard by the water cooler or the coffee machine near the HR department is about the job interview of the candidates. Mostly informal conversations, often associates talk about the kind of people they interview. It can be about the topic of discussion, the blank stares they receive from the candidate, and even the age of the candidate. 

Below is an example of a snippet overheard: 

Interviewer 1: “I am only halfway through a day packed with back-to-back interviews. It’s so tiring and I have no promising leads so far.”

Interviewer 2: “What was the age of these candidates?”

Interviewer 1: “I guess between 25 to 32”.

Interviewer 2: “Ah! Now I get it. You were interviewing millennials. No wonder you feel this way.”

This statement is commonly heard among interviewers, who are on the lookout for young talent. They also find themselves in a catch-22 situation because although these candidates have the necessary technical skills and expertise, they may not meet the organization’s expectations or tend to come across as ‘unmanageable’.

Before generalizing this group of talent, it is imperative to understand the generation called ‘Millennials’!

The last century has seen 5 generations, each of which has had very different values and ideals. This has happened because every generation has a realization about what didn’t work for the previous one and has tried to fix that gap by changing their approach to life. 

Millennials are called so because they become adults at the turn of the millennium. This tech-savvy generation also experienced the beginning of the internet and personal computers and relies on technology to simplify their lives. Millennials are said to be the only generation that will choose a laptop or a notebook over a desktop. Research shows that 70% own a laptop as compared to 57% who own a desktop. 

They are highly educated, technically skilled individuals who believe in expressing confidence in their work and finding meaning in their actions. Unfortunately, millennials may have entered the world of work around the Great Recession in 2008 and found themselves struggling to find and keep jobs. This also influenced many millennials to turn towards entrepreneurship. 

According to a survey taken 21 years ago by Wall Street Journal and NBC, the most important principles of Americans were hard work, religion, patriotism, and having children. The same survey was repeated in 2021. Although hard work remained the main ideology, the importance of the other three values of the average American has declined, due to changing priorities of people.

Millennials are seen as independent, open-minded, expressive, and results-oriented. However, they are also referred to as ‘Generation Me’ – self-centered, entitled, and obsessed with social media. 

Deeper conversations with them will show you that they are flexible, open to change, value diversity and inclusion in workplaces, are concerned about the environment, and are even altruistic!

The millennial generation seeks a balance between what they want for themselves versus what is expected of them, between feeling independent and social, and between commitment and freedom.

So, what do millennials value in a job? 

Table of Contents

What are the common aspirations of millennials?

Baby boomers regarded hard work to be very important and many of them ended up becoming workaholics. Thus, millennials became the generation to focus on work-life balance. 

In a study conducted by the Career Advisory Board at DeVry University, researchers found that many millennials seek ‘meaningful work’ than just working for money. This was quite contrary to the image recruiters had about them since millennials were perceived as materialistic, entitled, and lacking loyalty. Achievements at work are often viewed as contributions they make to themselves.

This generation also dislikes routine, mundane work day in and day out and seeks stimulating activities to keep them interested and motivated.

Millennials believe in contributing to society and making a positive impact on the environment. Hence, they expect that the company they work for also has strong corporate ethics and solid corporate social responsibility programs. Research by Capital Group found that 82% of millennials prefer to take a job in an organization that is focused on corporate responsibility.

They are uncomfortable with rigid corporate work structures and aspects that limit creativity and connection with others. They want a workspace that helps them feel comfortable and enjoy their work. Thus, the work culture of a company is one of the top priorities for them.

They appreciate transparency in communication and flexibility in their mode of working viz. remote working, which allows them to maintain a good work-life balance. 

How to interview the millennial?

Now that you have understood what millennials look for in a job, the questions you want to ask need to be phrased appropriately. Instead of asking regular, pointed questions, the interviewer could make the interview fairly informal and conversational.

It is important to connect with the candidate by asking engaging questions that allow the candidate to express themselves. Communication can be fairly informal and more conversational. 

Here are some do’s and don’ts while interviewing millennials:

Do’s

  • Let it be a two-way conversation
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Allow fun and expression in the conversation
  • Phrase your questions to sound more conversational
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the work culture and work-life balance
  • Prepare your questions to assess the candidates on various skills and competencies

Don’ts 

  •  Avoid making the interview an interrogation 
  •  Refrain from over-claiming anything about the organization 
  •  Try not to judge but understand the perspective
  •  Avoid jumping to any conclusions 

There are some interviewing techniques that you must use:

  • Star method – This involves asking the candidate to present a Situation (reflecting a competency), what tasks were carried out, actions taken and the result of the situation. Example: Create a situation where the candidate has to achieve a goal you have set and how they would go about achieving it.
  • Competency-Based Interview (CBI) – The candidate is asked questions related to a competency. Example: what is a big decision you have made?
  • Behavioral Event Interview (BEI) – This involves evaluating the candidate for their behaviors, responses, and approach to challenging situations. Example: How do you approach problems?

15 best interview questions for millennials 

#1 Would you prefer working alone or in a team? Why?

This question indicates if the candidate would be a team player or not. While all projects and jobs may not require them to be in a team, the mindset shows if they can cope with a change in the situation.

#2 Would you like to play a big role in a small company or a small role in a big company?

This is to understand how the candidate would perceive their job role. Some candidates need more visibility and may feel lost in a company with too many people. Others may feel that they are contributing to a bigger cause through their role.  

#3 What helps you perform at your best?

This indicates a candidate’s motivators and the environment they seek to do their best.

#4 What stresses you out at work?

Managing stress and pressure due to mounting workload, deadlines and team dynamics may be major factors in a millennial’s decision to stay back in the company. This helps the manager with job allocation and coaching support.

#5 What kind of relationship would you want to have with your manager? Do you like to receive feedback, formally or informally?

The response to this question shows how the candidate perceives his professional relationships. This helps managers understand how their communication, feedback, and leadership styles must be.

#6 What social causes are you or would you like to be involved in?

Social causes are indicators of what matters to a candidate and implicitly reveal their purpose. If their interests match with the company’s values and CSR initiatives, employee retention can be higher.

#7 What is your opinion about our organization/products/services?

This question shows if the candidate has researched the company as well as their buy-in. Candidates, who have had a positive experience with the products or services, may stay back longer.

#8 What do you want to achieve through this job?

This indicates ambition as well as a candidate’s understanding and expectations from the job role as well as the organization.

#9 What do you feel about failure? What impact does it have on you?

The response to this question indicates resilience and also is a subtle indicator of a candidate’s self-concept.

#10 Do you have an idea about where you want to be in five years in the company?

This indicates goal clarity and if the candidate can envision themselves with the company in the long run.

#11 When do you feel helpless and what do you do to pull through?

This question is a subtle indicator of many aspects such as emotional intelligence, stress responses, problem-solving, resilience, and/ or the need for support.

#12 How do you prioritize your tasks? When do you feel stuck in managing your tasks?

This shows the ability of a candidate to understand their capabilities to perform tasks as well as gauge the importance or urgency of outcomes. It also indicates the ability to learn from experience, ask for help and manage time.

#13 When did you work in a team with people having different opinions and how did you manage to maintain relationships while achieving goals? 

This question is a clear indicator of a candidate’s capability to listen and understand others, empathize, cooperate, be assertive and focus on the goal.

#14 Is there a decision that you have regretted and how did you work around it?

This question shows ownership (self-acceptance) and self-confidence in a candidate.

#15 Tell me about a time you were passed up for an award or promotion you felt you deserved. 

This indicates a candidate’s need for acknowledgment and assertiveness as well as their perception of achievement. 

Wrap up

Every generation has its pros and cons and understanding their perspective and priorities can help recruiters hire good resources and keep them in the organization.

Millennials can bring a great blend of technical talent as well as creativity to the organization. What gets them into the organization is the work culture and opportunities for interesting and meaningful work. But what will make them stay in the company are mutually-agreed goals and expectations and flexibility.   

Recruiters can understand them better by engaging with them and listening to their perspectives and recognizing their priorities. 

Chip Espinoza – the expert on the millennial generation summed it up beautifully:

Millennials want to find meaning in their work, and they want to make a difference. They want to be listened to. They want you to understand that they fuse life and work. They want to have a say in how they do their work. They want to be rewarded. They want to be recognized. They want a good relationship with their boss. They want to learn. But most of all, they want to succeed. They want to have fun!

FAQs on Best Interview Questions for Millennials 

What is the biggest precaution a recruiter must take while interviewing millennials?

A recruiter interviewing millennials (even otherwise) must avoid stereotyping the candidates. The responses that a recruiter may get may be quite different and it is natural for an interviewer to judge the candidate.

What kind of questions must be asked of a millennial candidate? 

The interviewer must ensure that the questions are not too formal, vague, and/or pointed. Too many questions that are common and traditional may not elicit the desired responses from the candidate. There is a possibility that the candidate may be stereotyped because of their responses to typical questions.

What do millennials appreciate in an interview?

Millennials like to be communicated openly and with transparency. They also wish to know more about the organization’s culture, ethics, contributions, and values. They would also want the interviewer to provide them with post-interview feedback.

What skills does a recruiter need to interview millennials?

An interviewer needs to know that the candidate has the appropriate job as well as soft skills. However, these skills need to be applied appropriately while interviewing millennials. Some of the more significant ones are:

1. Probing
2. Listening
3. Empathy

How can an interviewer make the most of the interviews with millennial candidates?

Some ways to make the most of the interviews are:

– being open about your expectations
– speaking the ‘millennial’ language
– emphasizing benefits and incentives
– focusing on the big picture
– assessing coachability in the long-run

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