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6 interview questions get to the heart of Generation Z


By Andrew Kenney

Generation Z would like a job. The newest section of the workforce – a recent subject of media curiosity and marketing consternation – constitutes about one-quarter of the US population, according to Census data.

Now the first wave of Generation Z, which is considered those born in 1995 or later, is leaving university. With them come the new habits of a digitally networked, post-recession world. It’s enough to make a hiring manager reconsider interview questions. Here’s what to ask:

What can we do for you? Given that they’re roughly 20 years old and younger, Generation Z may show up first for internships. They are looking for new skills (92%), work experience (81%), and personal connections (72%), according to a global online survey by Millennial Branding and Randstad in 2014.

Do you work well alone? The new workforce may be team players. About 84% of university students prefer to work collaboratively, rather than autonomously, according to a 2015 study by Robert Half, a human resources consulting firm, and Enactus, a leadership-focused not-for-profit.

How are you with people? Generation Z may be glued to five screens, but they still have real-life skills. Only 15% of older teenagers prefer to interact with friends via social media, according to a 2014 survey by Northeastern University. About half of 16- to 20-year-olds like to hear from managers face to face, Millennial Branding and Randstad found last year. Similarly, Robert Half reported that 71% of a slightly older demographic preferred face-to-face communication.

What are your sources? Generation Z relies on the internet for research. Google, Wikipedia, and social media sites topped the list in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center survey. About one-quarter are online “constantly,” Pew found separately. Only 25% said students were “very likely” to use major news organizations, and books fared even worse. In focus groups, those teachers reported an increasingly blurred line between “formal” and “informal” writing styles.

What kind of experience do you have? Generation Z may have a hole on its résumé: Summer jobs are getting quite rare for teenagers. The 16-to-19-year-old employment rate was only 31% in the summer of 2014, down more than 10 percentage points from 2004, according to federal data interpreted by Pew. Some applicants have replaced that work with internships and community service.

Where do you see yourself in 40 years? About 77% of Generation Z respondents think they will have to work harder than past generations, according to Robert Half. They expect to work for four companies, on average, and only 17% think they will retire by 60.