SmartRecruiters Blog

Gen Y Candidates Turn Interviewer into Interviewee

“Crazy” questions asked by Gen Y candidates in job interviews seem to resonate with many recruiters and hiring managers. Not only do such questions turn the interviewer into the interviewee but sometimes leave us speechless at their naivety, presumptuousness or plain arrogance. 
However, if you make an effort to actually look beyond the literal question and try to decode what Gen Y candidates are really saying, then you’ll find that they’re addressing quite legitimate themes or concerns that are well aligned to the typical values and engagement drivers of Gen Y talent. So here are a few more unusual questions Gen Y candidates ask during job interviews, as well as suggestions how you may want to respond to them:

Gen Y Interview Question: Can I access external social media sites while I’m at work?
What they’re really asking:  How does your organization support collaboration in the workplace?

Gen Yers value affiliation and community. Contrary to popular belief, they do have a strong sense of loyalty, except that it’s not towards employers or institutions but towards a select group of people representing their self-chosen tribe. Collaborating with members of their (virtual) community is an expression of trust and appreciation for one another and social media merely is a tool to facilitate this cooperation. It’s simply part of Gen Y’s communication habits which they naturally aim to extend into the workplace.
Your response: You know that they will access those sites anyway, with or without permission. So hopefully your organization has a social media policy in place that you can share with candidates if this questions comes up.
Gen Y Interview Question: Does your company have a gym, game room, sports team?
What they’re really asking:  What do you offer to ensure your employees’ Well-being?

Health, wellness, fun and play are all essential aspects in the life of Generation Y. Acknowledging and catering to these needs means that an employer truly cares for their associates and that is precisely the kind of support and backup Gen Y is looking for.
Your response: Whatever it is that you can offer – healthy canteen food, membership in a local gym, after work get-togethers – make sure to mention it. Do not forget that you are competing for talent with other employers and whatever it is that you do not offer, someone else does!
Gen Y Interview Question: Do I really need to be on time each day?
What they’re really asking: How do you foster Worklife Integration for your staff?

Very similar to well-being and yet slightly different, worklife integration is important for Gen Y. Whereas other generations tend to separate their professional career from their private life, Generation Y lives in a constant blend of both worlds. As much as they might prefer to come in later in the morning, they are equally willing to work from home at night, if that allows for flexibility to combine work and private matters in a way that suits their lifestyle.
Your response: Explain what kind of programs or policies your organization has in place in order to support worklife integration for young professionals.
Gen Y Interview Question: How much does your company donate to charity every year?
What they’re really asking: What kind of Corporate Social Responsibility programs does your organization have in place and how do you support Sustainability?
Many Gen Yers care for environmental and social issues. They want to know that the company they consider to work for shares the same values and concerns. It’s loyalty towards their sense of purpose that drives this question.
Your response: Outline your organization’s values and how your company assumes responsibility within the global community, e.g. by reducing emissions, saving energy or supporting charity projects.
Gen Y Interview Question: Can I friend my manager on Facebook once I get hired?
What they’re really asking: What is your organization’s code of conduct in order to build effective relationships?
Generation Y is all about relationships, in real life as well as virtually. Coming back to their desire for affiliation, they want to feel close to the people surrounding them. The workplace is no exception. Connecting to colleagues in an informal way to share their personal life is an expression of inviting them into their circle of trust.
Your response: Acknowledge their tendency to adopt a blended worklife persona but also explain that this may not be appropriate for or desired by all co-workers. Clearly state that even if the answer to their question is ‘no’, it doesn’t mean that their manager wouldn’t want to engage with them. He or she would just prefer other means to build rapport.
Gen Y Interview Question: Do I have to wear shoes at the office?
What they’re really asking: How does your organization cater to employees’ different lifestyles?
Personalization is a major trend in the workplace and elsewhere. The way Gen Yers dress is merely an expression of their personal lifestyle. Trying to ensure that their outfit mirrors the uniqueness that their parents have attributed to them all their lives, Gen Yers may not have had to respect any rules in this regard before joining the workforce.
Your response: Kindly explain why a certain dress code is required at your office but also make sure to mention how your organization embraces diversity.
All of these aspects are vital for Gen Y in the way they look at life and how you answer such questions will determine whether or not a candidate chooses to accept your job offer. Rather than ridiculing Gen Y in their ways, let’s embrace their willingness to live true to their values. After all, isn’t that what we have taught them in the first place?

Martina Mangelsdorf

Martina Mangelsdorf is the founder of GAIA Insights, a firm specialized in leadership development for Generation Y. She is also the creator of GOLD™ - Game Oriented Leadership Development - and has an extensive background in recruiting. Prior to running her own business based out of Switzerland, Martina worked for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, DuPont de Nemours and EMDS Group in Latin America, Spain, Belgium and the US.