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Generational Leadership

Style and Sensibility: Interviewing Smarts to Capture the Best Across the Generations

Style and Sensibility: Interviewing Smarts to Capture the Best Across the Generations

Job interviews can be daunting for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Often the interviewing situation is one where younger people interview older candidates and vice versa. As such, it is an intense intergenerational situation that can make or break future relationships and successes on the job.

Done well, the right candidate (regardless of age and generation) is hired and set up to support business operations. Done poorly, the right candidate is overlooked by the interviewer and the interviewee left with a bad taste of your company. Fortunately a few small steps can help to make the interviewing situation more comfortable, nerves and all.

Traditionalists – tend to focus on respect and authority. They may bring hard copies of their resumes and be more formal in their approach to the interview than younger candidates. Traditionalists are likely dress up more than you are used to for their interviews. Take these as signs that they are dedicated and interested in your job. Let them know that you value their long-time experience and expertise. Expect them to be on time and for you to be respectful of theirs. That includes post-interview follow-up.

Boomers – often worry about ageism during their interviews. Some Boomers have expressed how they feel nervous during job interviews where the interviewer is significantly younger than they are. Make them feel comfortable by talking about the wide range of ages at your workplace and how well you work together. Boomers often come to you because they are looking for a new growth opportunity, or a second or third career. Engage them in that conversation and ask how your company fits into their overall career goals. They have many years ahead of them and appreciate being asked.

Generation X – the most independent minded of the generations, is the least likely to look at their next position as a life-long opportunity. They may come in with more frequent job changes than Boomers or Traditionalists. Talk to them about the different career paths you offer and how they can create their own. Generation X:ers will be next in line to manage across generations, so ask them about their experiences working with diverse teams. Let them know that you value the skills that they bring, like thinking outside the box, then put them to the test to show you how its done.

Millennials or Generation Y – many managers see Millennials as fresh out from college. Know that by now, many are old enough to be candidates for supervisory positions. Generally informal Millennials will often come to an interview extremely prepared, but sometimes not yet have the experience of how to dress appropriately or remember to turn off their cell phones. Use the opportunity to let your potential employee know what is considered to be appropriate behavior with your company while focusing on the skills and experience that the applicant brings. Engage your interviewee by talking about what they are looking for in mentors and learning opportunities and to set and manage expectations.

People from all generations bring a lot to your company. Use the interview situation to find your best candidates by allowing for some generational differences to be an enjoyable part of the conversation.

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About Dr. Annika Hylmö

Dr. Annika Hylmö is an Organizational Strategy Consultant and Executive and Leadership Coach with The Insight Generation. Annika has a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication and a M.A. in International Communication. She can be contacted at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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