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John Sponton BSc Hons, PgDip, MSc, MCIPD, C.Psycho

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Will we need to tear up our interviews when assessing Generation-Y for more senior roles?

October 14, 2011 11:36 AM written by    1 Comment

Researchers have noted that broader socio-economic trends will not only tend to influence (and shape) us as individuals, but can also lead to patterns of behaviour across groups of individuals born around the same period – for example, Baby Boomers (born c1942–1965), Generation X (born c1966–1979) and Millennials / Generation-Y (those born c 1980 – 2001).

Much has been written about Generation-Y (or Gen-Y) which has benefited from many years of economic prosperity, the growth of technology and changes in family attitudes and education. Recent research into the characteristics of Gen-Y is fascinating if not a little depressing. Hyde and Trickey (Assessment & Development Matters, Autumn 2011) write – “an unexpectedly high level of immaturity within the Gen-Y sample is very much in line with the anecdotal debate and popular media stereotype (of a Millennial)”.

In addition, they quote Mary Crane who runs crash courses for Millennials ( “they have extraordinary technical skills, but childhoods filled with trophies and adulation that has not prepared them for the cold realities of work”.

Other Gen-Y characteristics seen in Hyde & Trickey’s study of over 18,000 working adults in the UK were striking –

Less mature, less confident, less assertive, more cooperative, more eager to please

Question marks were raised about Gen-Y’s ability to show independent-mindedness, decision-making, acceptance of personal responsibility, called for in working life.

Anecdotally, we can add to this the difficulty Gen-Y has in reading books cover-to-cover, brought up in an education system of fact-sheets, multiple-choice answer–sheets and frequent exam re-sitting – will they have the critical thinking abilities to become the next generation of lawyers, accountants, engineers and managers? And what will this all mean for when we need to recruit and assess Gen-Y?

Of course, selection has moved increasingly online, but this only solves part of the problem. Recruitment still ends traditionally in an interview, and, within this category, competency-based interviews are traditionally based on examples of responsibility or activity gained in college, work experience, or holiday jobs.

But, in general, Gen-Ys:

Have fewer of these experiences upon which to draw:

They have had (and want) more of a technology interface than any other generation and many tend not to show signs of shining in 1-1 interaction and contact.

Building on this, even if Gen-Y has the potential to be the next generation of senior professionals and managers, will their potential be masked by their limitations in coming across well in classic 1-1 interview settings? A point further accentuated by the fact that their interviewers may well be of Baby Boomer or Gen-X age and be much more adept in the traditional interview setting!

So, what is the way forward?

  1. Will the interview have to adapt dramatically and move its questions to be more “situationally-focused” – how would you / will you – rather than “historically focused” – how have you etc?
  2. Should selection processes make more extensive use of peer-group interaction exercises, such as practical group exercises, as this is the group which Gen-Y is most comfortable with, and will increasingly work with, as Baby Boomers and Gen-X move on?
  3. Will allowances need to be made for interpersonal skills and communication skills in interviews and group exercises, with the development of these being accepted as priorities, once appointed, rather than as prerequisites at the recruitment stage – with a lowering of standards implied?
  4. Will reasoning tests need to be used with much more care? Should general sample groups containing older candidate data be avoided, as they may well be “contaminated” with individuals used to entirely different and often stronger standards of analytical performance?

One comment on “Will we need to tear up our interviews when assessing Generation-Y for more senior roles?

  1. It naturally seems that the bond would follow the generation into the workplace, intermittently at the demurrals of employers. A survey done by Cisco Systems Inc. shows that these digital natives are intend to lose eminent pay for social media access at work. Generation Y loves its social networking. It seems only normal that the connection would follow the generation into the workplace, sometimes against the objections of companies. A Cisco study suggests that social networking access at the office is considered by several to be more vital than pay raises. Article source: Study: Gen Y would take less pay for Facebook access at work.

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