Bonus Question: How would you grade yourself in terms of face-to-face communication, especially in terms of negotiation or confrontation? Do you consider that a strength or an area for personal development?
Why Ask This Question?
Well, we always want to save the best and most compelling questions for last! In this chapter, we've addressed everything from IM illiteracy to workplace confidentiality to corporate ethics and the importance of professional workplace behavior. Still, the chapter wouldn't be complete without discussing the ''mother'' of all workplace issues having to do with millennials—holding their own when it comes to communication, negotiation, and disagreement.
From the time they were young, millennials had cell phones. And they called each other directly, avoiding the need to speak with parents who answered the home phone and engage in small talk like, This is Sam Falcone. How are you, Mr. Cleaver? Is Theodore home?'' Likewise, to the chagrin of many high school teachers, these students managed to plant an ear bud from their iPods into their ears, which ran from their hip, up their undershirt, over their collar, and under their hair to drown out any unwanted noise'' coming from the front of the classroom. And their response to any undesirable communication with former friends was simply to use a software solution to block all incoming messages from that ex-friend's screen name.
Now those youngsters have grown up. However, their ability to tune out and disconnect, which electronic tools make so easy, is a bit more limited when dealing with real people who won't go away just because you don't like them.
As they say, the path of least resistance is avoidance. And people will tend to avoid confrontation at all costs, if at all possible. So why would we hold these early-career members of the workforce to a higher standard than the generations that came before them? Because prior generations were at least tested in this area. The newer generation, for all its advantages and positive characteristics, still has yet to reveal its true colors in this universally human realm.
Analyzing the Response
Don't be surprised to see candidates shy away from this question. ''Well, negotiation isn't a typical part of my current job, and I guess no one really likes confrontation, so I guess I d say this is more of an area for development than an area of strength for me.
With this open admission, you've got carte blanche to launch into a discussion that truly sets the stage for a successful hire:
''Dennis, we hire a significant number of younger adults in our organization who would fall squarely under the millennial category—basically, people born after 1980 and now somewhere under age 30. And this younger generation has some unique talents and abilities, especially in terms of its tech-savvies. However, some of the folks of my generation have had challenges with the generational politics that come along with working side by side with younger workers who have different ideals and expectations. Let me ask you this—''
At that point, ask one of the following questions using a behavioral interviewing format like this:
''Have you ever disagreed with your boss? If so, how did you voice your opinion, or did you voice it at all?''
''Can you give me an example of how you've handled confrontation with a workplace peer? What were the circumstances, and did you feel a need to escalate the issue to management?''
''Did you ever find yourself in the midst of what I would call generational politics, meaning that typically an older worker had a harder time relating to you or agreeing with your recommendation? How did you handle it, and what would you do differently in retrospect?''
''Have you ever had to supervise someone who was significantly older than you or who didn't take you seriously? What was your approach to strengthening that working relationship?''
''Give me an example of a time when you were given constructive criticism but disagreed with the advice you were being given. Did you simply respectfully listen or did you voice your disagreement?''
''Negotiation can be a win-win or it can be a war of attrition, with one side winning by simply wearing the other side down. What's your natural negotiating style, and how do you define compromise in light of tough negotiations?''
''If someone accused you of focusing more on your lifestyle and friends than on 'blind careerism,' would you consider that a compliment or be offended? What is it about you that makes you feel that way?''
You'll have opened Pandora's box and given the candidate the opportunity to self-assess in light of your biggest concerns. Of course, there s no right or wrong answer here, but you can expect to see candidates who either pride themselves on their association with their cool generation—''Yes, companies are going to have to conform to our generation s way of doing business because there are more of us than there are of them —or who can objectively differentiate themselves in certain ways. For example, a candidate who responds, ''Yes, in many ways I can see what you re saying, but I've always been a hard worker; I've held at least a summer job since I was 14, and my parents taught me to respect my elders and prove my worth,'' will probably transition into your workplace with enough sensitivity to make for a very successful hire.
And there you have it: A strong enough relationship in the interview process to outline your core concerns about a younger generation and its ultimate fit into your organization. Of course, you'll be able to close a desirable candidate at this point by aligning his responses with your company s expectations.
''Dennis, I'm listening to your responses, and it sounds to me as if you have the proper perspective and business maturity to excel in our organization. I read all the literature about millennials, their workplace expectations, and their strengths and shortcomings because, as you know, we tend to hire a lot of earlier-career candidates in our firm. So, it becomes important to me to vet all applicants, so to speak, and ensure that they've got the business maturity and objectivity to assess themselves in light of generational differences in the workplace.
''I feel that you've got that maturity and objectivity, and I'd like you to seriously consider the opportunity of joining us. Think about this interview overnight, and if you've slept on it and are still excited about the opportunity in the morning, give me a call so I can line up additional meetings for you. You've built your resume and career very impressively, and strong companies like ours are always looking for candidates who excel and who stand out as rarities among their peers. I very much believe you're one of those candidates, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you.''
Now that s a close! And you'll certainly have addressed your key concerns so that you won t lay awake at night wondering if you really got into the candidate s head and truly learned what makes him tick.
Is this interviewing strategy for millennials too much to ask? If you go to this depth of interviewing just to see if the individual has the necessary business maturity and career introspection to excel in your company, will you be accused of coddling and coaching rather than bossing?
Maybe. On the other hand, it s very possible that all job candidates—not just millennials—should come to expect this level of commitment from the stewards and guardians of the companies where they d like to work. But the truth is, if you re not matching the individual s personality to your company s corporate culture during the interviewing process, you may end up having to fill that position again six months later.
Instead, think out loud and share your opinions up front. In a way, you'll be putting the candidate s needs before the company s, and that kind of goodwill goes a long way with all hires, not just with the idealistically young.
I know that it's so tempting to hire the individual and let him worry about his own career progression and fit factor. Truth be told, though, you want all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together both for the company and the candidate. If this new hire reveals all the benefits of the millennial generation—hardworking, resourceful, and committed—and your position offers a learning curve, new skill sets, broader responsibilities, and appropriate compensation, then everyone will be happy and the hire will stick.
In essence, you'll not only have helped junior members of the workforce gain new insights into how they should be looking at their own careers but you'll also develop a reputation as a skillful and selfless leader and developer of people. You'll have shifted the employee development paradigm to the preemployment stage. And maybe candidates deserve those few extra minutes of your time to benefit from your expertise. You may just find that a little short-term sacrifice and career counseling on your part will lead to greater stability in your staff and a lot of goodwill in your own career.