Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Overcoming GenY Stereotypes

2011-09-23 07:53:10

Just finished the annual JobMob contest. My entry:

First off, I want to be transparent.

I’m a member of GenX.

That being said, my own career and resume are much more reflective of current GenY statistics, something which has actually helped *me* professionally so I tend to be more more forgiving of short work stints although this is not the norm.

I recruit in the technology sector, which is generally much more in “tune” with the younger workforce.

But there are some stereotypes about GenY that are based on truisms that are giving young professionals a bad rap.
4 Ugly stereotypes about Gen-Y job seekers
1) Rude

If you are applying to an established company, chances are good you will be going through a formal application process. This generally means applying online. This process is uniform and required so that all candidates are considered as objectively as possible, so trying to circumvent the process only gives recruiters and hiring managers a reason to start off with a bad impression.

It may seem cumbersome, but if you are looking for someone else to pay you, just play by their rules.

In the last three months, my company has been hiring interns and I cannot tell you how shocked my hiring managers and my recruiting colleagues are at the rudeness of candidates that we have scheduled for interviews.

Emailing us hours before an interview loop is scheduled to start and saying you’ve taken another job is unprofessional. It’s happened several times with my company in the last few months, and I’m hearing similar stories throughout the recruiting community.

At the very least, you should give a potential employer the courtesy of advance notice; time that busy professionals carve out to meet with candidates means that other work-related meetings cannot occur.

Even better, go on the interviews even if you have another offer in hand; it never hurts to have more than one offer.
2) Lacks Critical Thinking Skills and Self-Motivation

I’ve been seeing a couple of trends in phone screens and interviews the last few years that are leading companies to “no hire” what appear to be great candidates.

Most companies are looking for highly self-motivated and driven professionals. When I was at Microsoft, I was screening recent MBA candidates, and all-too often I heard them say that they are looking for “mentoring” from the organization that hires them.

It’s vital for GenY professionals to understand the difference between “the opportunity to be mentored” and a formal, structured, mentorship program, sponsored and run by Human Resources.

I don’t know of any company that doesn’t encourage their employees to establish a relationship with other, more experienced leaders and to learn and grow. But in a company that values self-motivation, saying you are looking for “mentorship” sends the impression that you are, quite honestly, looking for someone else to tell you what, when, and how to grow your career. And if you cannot do that yourself, you come across as lacking critical thinking skills and indecisive.

Given how ambitious most GenY’ers are, this is a major paradox.

I also have found that in interviews, many candidates talk about the successes and experiences of collaborative projects they have worked on. It’s vital for candidates to remember that they are being considered *individually*, not as a group. Interviewers want to know about you and your contributions and successes, not your teammates.
3) Commitment-phobic and Lazy

The average GenY professional statistically stays at jobs less than two years. Whatever the reasons, this gives the impression that you are only interested in money or the “cool factor”; you seem to be someone with either a short attention span or that doesn’t care about what they are doing enough to become invested in your career and employer.

It takes a lot of time to recruit, hire, and train one employee, so longevity is huge to employers.

You need to seriously think about your motivations and what you are looking for. It starts with your resume, and moves into your interview skills.

I mentioned earlier that I have a lot of short stints on my resume; in my case, it is because I contracted for a long time at Microsoft, where there is a 1-year cap on each contract. I’ve also had the same part-time job for over nine years. Put the two together, and I can show a steady history of commitment and growth. This is what employers are looking for.
4) Unrealistic Expectations

Finally, probably the most damaging stereotype is that of being both lazy and entitled. They go hand in hand.

Most companies have processes in place that are proven successful over the long haul. While having great ideas to contribute is always positive, going into a new job and convinced that you know the way to overhaul the company in the first three months isn’t practical.

Be patient, get to know the processes and the business landscape and don’t be shy about questioning them (Why? What? Who? When?). Do it respectfully, and if you can make a business case supporting your ideas for process improvements, start with the appropriate channels (generally your manager).

Leaders want improvement, but they want it to be backed by data as to how it positively impacts the bottom line.

When you are interviewing, keep this firmly in the back of your mind when you are answering “tell me about a time when” questions. The truth is, in a few years, you’ll be in management and will start to make as many changes as you want and the rest of the world will be able to watch in amazement.
True stories: where Gen-Y stereotypes come from

I sent a “shout out” to my recruiting community for additional feedback and experiences. Below is a response sent to me by a fellow recruiter just finishing up interviewing interns for a Fortune 100 company.

This is an object lesson in why these stereotypes exist:

Not showing up and calling days after the scheduled interview asking to reschedule. Typical excuses are food poisoning and grandmother died.

Showing up late to the interview and not apologizing.

Bringing family members with you to the interview including siblings. Family members not being respectful of the fact this is a place of employment.

Dressing inappropriately for the interview (wearing jeans with holes in them, low cut blouses’, flip-flops), overwhelming smells of smoke and or perfume or cologne, chewing gum.

Not having a properly formatted resume – pasting job descriptions into the resume vs. showcasing the value and contributions they have provided.

Sense of entitlement: I have a degree, why are you not moving forward with me?

Excessive calls to the recruiter asking for status updates, decision status etc. Multiple calls within a week and emails.

Not being respectful of a recruiter’s time: rambling on about personal problems or trying to sell you on why they should have the job, unable to take no for answer.

Unrealistic salary expectations: “I have a degree therefore you should pay me this amount” even though they do not have the actual work experience.

Unrealistic work experience: School projects do not necessarily translate into actual work experience

Lack of follow-up when action is requested or required from the applicant

Coming to the interview unprepared: application, not researching the company

Job hopping: boredom, dissatisfaction with their manager

Not acknowledging team work vs. individual collaboration. In most jobs we work with a variety of team members and to position yourself and the sole contributor doesn’t showcase your ability to work in a cross functional manner that most employers are looking for. And in some cases it comes off as bragging about your contributions.

If you can act professionally and create a great first impression, you have a chance to overcome the stereotypes that are perpetrated by your peers, and blow your competition out of the water

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