Those Pesky Millenials: Interviewing Tips

First – people are people. I think of “Millenials” as anyone around the ages of 17-28, even though some are still in High School. Your candidates may be students still in college or those who opted for Vocational School or On the Job Training. This may or may not be their first job.

You’re starting a relationship. The question is, do you both want to be in this particular relationship or not?

But leave your stereotypes at home. Age and generational biases don’t help when assessing an individual’s strengths or weaknesses for the position. You’re starting a relationship. The question is, do you both want to be in this particular relationship or not? The interview is how you find that out.

I have interviewed thousands of people over my career in the Corporate world  and many of the things I said in yesterday’s post could have applied in every decade to every group of new 20-somethings learning to walk in the Corporate world for the first time.

Yes, technology and parental influence have primed these candidates differently. The suggestions here work well with Millenials, and they work well for any potential candidate no matter their age or experience. Be real. Be honest. Communicate clearly and you should do fine.


  • Know the job before you walk in to interview
    • What will this person be doing on a daily basis?
    • To whom will they report? If not you, what is it like to work with that person?
    • Will there be more than one boss?
    • If this is “entry level” what is the next level for them?
    • How long will it take for a bright and motivated person to move to that next level?
    • Are there tasks and duties not listed in the job description that may come up? Include as many as possible (I had one employee who needed to water our flowers daily and she rebelled. We hadn’t told her about it in the interview and she was offended…)
  • Be clear on the skills needed for this position
    • Are they trainable skills?
    • If yes, how will you arrange for training if the candidate is great, but not skilled at the level you need?
    • What is the time frame for them to get to the level you need?
    • What are the “must have” skills and the “nice to have” skills?
    • If you require strong people skills, develop behavioral questions that will assess that immediately
    • If they’re required to work alone and be self-motivating without supervision, your behavioral questions will help you assess that as well.
    • Are there any cultural norms that must be met? If so, what are they and do they make sense still?

The Interview

Have a comfortable setting. The old idea of making people nervous to see how they react doesn’t work. You can be informal with this age group. I make a point of taking my cell phone out and turning it to Airplane Mode. I don’t ask them to, but I just wait for them to do the same thing. This tells me if they are able to focus on the job at hand without their tech blankie.

I use a model for interviewing created by Harold Hook of Modelnetics™ fame. No matter what generation you interview, this tool is great. The best advice he gave was, “Your question should start with ‘Tell me…’ ask and then stop talking. ” Here are several starter questions you can use to create your own based upon the particular job.

  1. Start with them, but keep it neutral at first
    • Tell me about your work experience (if this is their first paying job, ask about volunteer work, school activities, working at home with parents.)
    • Tell me about experiences you have had that you feel would help you in this job
    • Tell me why you applied for this job
    • Tell me what you know about our company and this position
    • Tell me what you liked about your last job (or your other working experiences)
    • Tell me what you didn’t like
    • Tell me what your expectations are for this job. For the previous jobs? Were they met? If not, what happened?
    • Design applicable behavioral questions for your company:
      • “Recently X happened with one of our customers and they were upset. Tell me what you would have done in that situation.”
      • Tell me about a time you had too many things on your plate and you needed to prioritize and get everything done.
  2. Now get them talking about themselves
    Courtesy Dreamstime
    • Tell me what you think you bring to this job
    • Tell me what your dream job would be
    • Tell me what makes you happy
    • Tell me what makes you angry or frustrated
    • Tell me the contributions you feel you can make to this organization
    • Tell me if you had any ideas about our company when you looked at our website
    • Create the Behavioral questions again:
      • Tell me about a time you made a mistake and learned a valuable lesson
      • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a situation not turning out your way. How did you respond to it?

    3.  Next find out what others think of them

    • Today’s 20-somethings are an aware bunch. With Facebook and all the other social media, they know what others think of them. So ask! You may discover more about your potential hire in this section than any other.
    • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how would your friends and previous co-workers rate you as a Team Player?
    • If I were to ask a former supervisor about you, tell me what they might say
    • If I interviewed 5 random people who used your services at your last job (or volunteer position) tell me what they would  say about your work ethic and your integrity
    • What would your friends and family say about your ability to be on time?
    • Behavioral questions here might be:
      • Let’s say you get this job and while you are at work one day, your friends show up … tell me how you would handle it.
      • Tell me what you would do if your friends ask you to  give them a discount, or take time off right away to go with them?


Notice we haven’t spent a lot of time yet on the company, or on selling the job to the candidate. I agree with what Harold Hook said, “If they don’t pass the first three sections of this, thank them and move on to the next candidate. It makes no sense to waste their time or yours.”  You may decide they aren’t a fit, but think they might be a fit for another job down the road. You can tell them right away, or tell them you will be in touch tomorrow. Let them know up front what the competition looks like. Keep it civil, simple and kind.

If you SAY you will contact them tomorrow, DO IT.

Keep your word. They are more informal than others in past decades, but they expect you will do what you say.

If you think this is a potential top candidate, continue the interview and tell them about the position, a little about the company, then discuss pay.

  • Don’t get carried away
  • Don’t sell too hard
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep
  • Don’t tell too much about Corporate plans in case you don’t hire them. You might be giving away company secrets to someone who will wind up working for the competition!

I like today’s 20-somethings. I’ve hired some that worked out great and a few that didn’t. Their energy, enthusiasm, focus on volunteerism and charities, and their willingness to learn if mentored properly make them a huge asset to your company. They make my days fun and energize my office. Keep it real and you’ll find your next generation team.

Good luck and Happy Interviewing!


© 2014 Beth Terry, CSP

Beth Terry worked with Dunhill Personnel Systems for in Hawaii and was the screener for every candidate who walked through the door. She then worked as VP of Administration for Colliers Monroe Friedlander and interviewed all hires for that company. Next she was the National Manager of Admin for The Shidler Group, a billion dollar commercial Real Estate firm with offices in 16 states. She oversaw all staff and manager hires, trained all the Office Managers, rewrote the Policies & Procedures Manuals for all the states and negotiated the contracts.

About Beth Terry

Beth Terry, CSP, is a speaker, coach, writer and cowgirl. Her audiences are from around the world: she has spoken to almost half a million people in 6 countries. Her passion is watching the "popcorn popper" go off in people's heads when they 'get it.'

One Reply to “Those Pesky Millenials: Interviewing Tips”

  1. Pingback: My New Hire Looked Better on Paper. Now What? | CactusWrangler

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