Going into any job interview in 2017 will be challenging enough. Although the job market has improved substantially since the Great Recession, it’s still no mystery that the level of competition for jobs is fierce. Just getting the opportunity to interview for most positions is a privilege these days. However, the newest generation coming out of college, Millennials, (born 1980-2000) is faced with particular challenges when it comes to the interview itself.
One of the toughest challenges coming into the interview can happen even before the interview begins. This is the true elephant in the room. That is, the almighty stigma. Unfortunately, millennials have received the dishonor of being referred to as lazy, entitled, dependent, and oblivious among other undesirable adjectives. Most of these attributions placed on them by Baby Boomers, and Generation X, are unfair, and even inaccurate.
Ironically, if you look deeper into history you will discover that at one point every generation has been reflected in an unfavorable light by their elders. In his TedX talk entitled “Millennials: Who They Are And Why We Hate Them”, Scott Hess noted that older generations tend to look down upon the younger generations out of jealousy quite possibly. Jealousy in simply being young, having access to things they didn’t have, being more connected, and not having to work nearly as hard for the same outcome.
As a millennial or recent graduate going into an interview with someone who is over 35 (which can be intimidating), the first task you have is to turn any potential subconscious stigma to admiration. The easiest way to do that is to have them forget your age entirely. That is accomplished by how you present your confidence, key into your hidden strengths, and being proactive. Age is generally congruent with confidence. As we grow, we mature, gain more knowledge, and we learn more about ourselves, our abilities, and what we have to offer. A fun way to think about it is reflect on your own self-confidence at the age of 13 and where it is now. If you’re like most, your confidence has gradually increased with age.
Task 1: Reflect Confidence
Most experts on this topic will say that interviewers form judgments about the person they are interviewing within 7-10 seconds. Since we know that the majority of communication between people is actually non-verbal, confidence shows through mannerisms, body language, eye contact, as well as speech. Confidence can be reflected in the following ways:
- Eye contact. This is essential. Direct eye contact symbolizes assurance in oneself as well as interest and engagement. All things the interviewer wants! This is even more important for millennials because as we have become more technology dependent as a society, this has become slightly less important in social life, but has not lost importance in work life.
- Strong posture. Sitting up straight or slightly leaning forward reflect security, enthusiasm, and confidence. Slouching or leaning back does the exact opposite.
- Speak deliberately. This is a sure-fire way to know how prepared you are and how confident you are. If you’re allowing “ums” and “uhs” to dominate your speech it doesn’t reflect confidence. While you shouldn’t have rehearsed answers, you do want to prepare the exact points that you need to make. This way you can sound clear and concise, but not robotic.
Task 2: Use youth to your advantage
The positive attributes millennials have that most people aren’t talking about is their energy and enthusiasm. Despite how their perceived surveys have consistently shown that millennials are eager, and ambitious to make their mark on the world. For employers, this is a highly desirable trait to inject into the office.
As a millennial going into an interview, it is crucial to use this energy and zeal to your advantage. When answering the typical questions of “Why do you want to work here?”, and “What are your strengths?”, for example, you can highlight your enthusiasm to begin your career, your willingness to learn, and your ability to take on increasing demands. All of those reflect youth, ambition, and energy. For employers, this is attractive because they may see you as someone who will come in with a good work ethic, and who could potentially be there for years to come.
Task 3: Go the extra mile.
In today’s job market, so many people are doing the bare minimum and expecting above minimum results. If you’re approach to job searching is apply, apply, apply then wait, unfortunately your success rate will keep you waiting longer. The key for millennials is really going the extra mile and doing well above their peers in terms of effort. In the context of the job interview this really can be accomplished in a few ways. Firstly, make an effort to shake everyone’s hand and make eye contact with all your interviewers (if you have multiple). This is a subtle thing, but it gives you a strong connection and a possible advantage over everyone who didn’t do it. Secondly, write everyone’s names down as they introduce themselves. This way when they do ask a question, you can address them by name and typically most people will be impressed that you took the time to learn theirs. Lastly, make sure you follow up with anyone and everyone you interview with to thank them for the opportunity. This is a critical step that will keep you in the consciousness of the employer and help you land that next job.