7 Creative Interview Questions To Ask Millennials

February 19, 2016


So much is being written about Generation Y, a.k.a. the “Millennials” and the “Next Generation,” in terms of their influence in the workplace and on society overall, and for good reason: There are 90 million Millennials that were born roughly between the years of 1980 and 2000, and this massive demographic bubble is even larger than the Baby Boomer generation that preceded it (roughly 77 million strong). More significantly, Millennials will make up more than half of the U.S. workforce. So the 35-and-under crowd is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and your approach to attracting and retaining this talent pool will likely benefit from a specific strategy that is both challenging and selfless.

On the one hand, Millennials typically want many of the same things that their predecessor generations were looking for at work: A company that articulates a healthy mission, benefits from establishing and practicing the right values, makes a difference in its community, and serves as a responsible and benevolent corporate citizen. What makes them different, on the other hand, is that they’re confident in their abilities to change the world, and they’re not afraid of job change and arguably perceive a lack of job security as normal. Having witnessed their parents’ generation’s lack of job security and uncoupling with corporate America, they arguably search for employment opportunities with the goal of finding experiences that satisfy them and where they can make the most difference. Further, Millennials are the most sophisticated consumers in history. They know how to search for products and opportunities well in advance of a sale or a job interview. As such, they pose a challenge to organizations looking for retention and talent development over the long haul.

Where does that leave you in terms of your approach and strategy to interviewing earlier career candidates? How do you reinvent the interviewing process to account for this massive generation’s focus and values? And how can the interview itself become a demonstration of your organization’s culture and uniqueness as a key selling factor? Make no doubt about it: The interview will remain your opportunity to shine, and if your interviewing approach is done right, you’ll actually be able to move the post-employment talent development paradigm to the pre-employment stage by giving candidates a preview of your approach to personal and professional development.

Here’s how it works: Replace the trite and hackneyed “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you think you’d want to work here” opening questions with much deeper, purposeful queries that help you get to know the candidates better and force them to engage in honest career introspection. Learn about what makes them special, what drives them, and how they’re going about selecting their next company or position. Wow them with your focus on matching your organization’s staffing needs with their career development needs so that it’s a win-win for both sides. Here’s what some of your questions might sound like during your interviewing opener:

  • Walk me through your progression in your career, leading me up to how you landed at your current company and in your present role.
  • What are the two or three criteria you’re using in selecting your next company or position? What’s important to you at this point in your career?
  • What would the ideal opportunity look like in terms of the industry, company, or title that you’re pursuing?

These openers make for an easy entree into any interviewing scenario, but more importantly, they launch the interview with self-assessment questions that allow candidates to speak openly and makes themselves “vulnerable,” an important aspect of establishing trust from the very first encounter. Before the meeting concludes, ask these additional questions to gain a better feel for the candidate’s interest level:

  • What would joining our organization do for you in terms of building your resume over the long term?
  • Now that you’ve had a chance to research us and learn more during this interview, how would this opportunity provide a link to your future career progression?
  • Likewise, if you were to accept a position with us, how would you explain that to a prospective employer five years from now?
  • What would be your next logical move in progression if you remained with your current company, and how long would it take for you to get there? (Alternative: What would have to change at your present company for you to continue working there, and have you spoken with your boss about your concerns?)

Very few interviewers pose such selfless questions, and candidates will likely walk away with a very positive impression: “Wow, I’ve never been asked questions before that really focus on my needs, where I am in my career, and what I’m considering. I really appreciate how that hiring manager handled my interview. And if they approach interviewing this way, I’m guessing that this is an important part of their culture once you’re aboard . . . “ If you as an interviewer make that type of impression, you’ll no doubt have pierced their hearts in addition to engaged their heads. Millennials have forced companies to rethink everything from workplace flexibility to the nature of real-time feedback to the use of cubicles. Now’s the time for the interview to take on new meaning as a more significant exercise to both candidate selection and potential career development.

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Updating your interview process to appeal to more millennials will make your organization more innovative. Build your career in human resources or management with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in the spring of 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at

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