It's never been easier to look better on paper than you are in life. The internet is full of tricks for building résumés and interviewing. And nobody knows this better than the Millennial generation. But while they're often labeled as listless, proud, and unmotivated, I have found just the opposite.
They're a wonderful generation--about 75 percent of my office is under 30--but they're a different breed. And interviewing them is trickier than any other group I've encountered. They are here in number and aren't going away. They are your future. If you can get the interview right, and find the right match between a legitimate candidate and your company, you will have a wonderful run and maybe even a new breakthrough as a business.
So how do you know who is for real, and who is a fake?
Here are five questions I've found very helpful in interviewing the under-30 crowd:
1. Tell me about an initiative you led or were part of leading.
The old axiom is true: The best predictor of future performance is past performance. No matter how old (or young) your interviewee is, he or she should be able to point to something new they led. Were they too radical? Were they collaborative in their leadership?
2. Tell me about a meaningful experience you had serving or contributing to a cause. What about that time motivated you to do more?
Perhaps nothing defines Millennials more than their commitment to working for a greater cause. Regardless of faith basis, members of this group want to do something that matters. For example, every Millennial who has joined our firm has taken a pay cut to come work with us. Why? We are a cause-driven company.
Your job as the interviewer should be to figure out what particularly matters to someone, and to determine whether his or her motivation matches your company's vision.
For example, if you are in an oil and gas exploration company and you ask this question, it might help if the candidate you are interested in lets you know about his or her volunteer history with Greenpeace.
3. Describe for me a time when you faced criticism and how you responded to it.
This question is intentionally vague. I want to hear if the criticism was valid. I want to know if the candidate describes him- or herself as a victim. I want to test self-awareness. Self-awareness is not common among any generation, and if a younger person has it, he or she is miles ahead of most of the rest.
4. When have you been asked to work too much, and how did you respond?
Millennials are often labeled as lazy (I think because they are misunderstood). Many times, they will ask for more time off rather than more money. Unlocking a candidate's understanding of work ethic is key to making a good Millennial hire.
This question allows the candidate to admit if he or she has been asked to do too much, and also reveals someone's ability (or inability) to "manage up" and work with supervisors in a respectful and productive manner.
5. Whom do you go to for life and career advice?
I took a really big job when I was 31. I was in way over my head and had no idea how much so. The one thing I had going for me? Because I was 31, I knew everything....
If you can find a person early in his or her career who is able to admit not having all the answers, you've made a great find. Finding a younger candidate who can name older, wiser people to lean into for advice? Both rare and worth a serious look.
This generation is a very savvy, smart group. They are able to beat most of the interview questions people usually ask. Often mislabeled as lazy, unmotivated, and untrainable, they are just the opposite, I have found. If you can tap into the key motivators of a Millennial, find one who has self-awareness and the ability to get things done, you're on your way to a very fun ride as an employer. I speak from experience. My team is young. They push me, they stretch me, and they work harder than any group I've ever worked with.
Hiring a great Millennial may be the breakthrough you've been looking for.