With more senior citizens staying in the workforce longer, it's not unusual for some companies to have as many as five generations of workers on their payrolls. This has changed the way supervisors and workers themselves must think and act while on the job. It also has become prudent for interviewers to incorporate questions into the interview process that will help them assess the candidates' views toward working in multi-generational teams. Savvy interviewers will not ask questions directly related to your age, but they can and should ask questions related to the job that will assure them that you are the best fit for the position, regardless of your stage in life.
Traditionalists (1925-1945) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, although shaped by different life events, typically have very traditional outlooks. Throughout their careers, their personal identities have been closely linked to what they do for a living. At this stage in life, however, they see work more as a means to accomplish personal goals than a means unto itself. During interviews, you might be asked how you deal with change, what new technologies and software programs you have mastered, and how you have gone about learning new skills to keep up with an ever-changing working world. You might also be asked how you would approach working for a much younger boss, how you feel about working on teams made up of different age groups, and how you might go about imparting your knowledge and expertise to younger team members.
Generation X (1965-1980)
Generation X is the "latchkey" generation because many of them grew up in an era when both parents began to work outside the home. As a result, many workers in this age group are used to being self-reliant and resourceful. At the same time, they may feel their own career growth has been stifled due to the large numbers of Baby Boomers in higher level management roles. For job candidates in this age group, expect to be asked about your ability to be creative within the confines of prescribed policies and procedures, and how you have creatively solved problems in the past. You might also be asked your attitude toward working in an environment where you may be leading or working with teams of individuals of multiple generations.
Generation Y (1981-1995) and Generation Z (1996 - Present)
Generation Y and Generation Z are the technology generations. They have grown up in an age of instant feedback. Most probably don't remember a world where cell phones, the Internet and mobile data technology didn't play a large role. Workers in this age group are used to retrieving information in a matter of seconds and might get frustrated that it takes so long in some organizations to get the information they need. Likewise, they often expect to rise quickly in an organization and will seek opportunities outside the organization if it doesn't happen fast enough for them. During the interview, expect to be asked how you might react when things don't progress as quickly as you would like, and how you might seek solutions that will help expedite a resolution. You might also be asked what you need from an employer to stay motivated, how you might respond to co-workers whose life experiences and motivations are vastly different from your own, and what you might do to absorb the expertise of older workers and share your knowledge of the latest technologies.
No matter how old you are, one thing you must always demonstrate during the interview is how you can add value to the company. Let the hiring manager know how you can transfer and absorb knowledge that will make both you and the organization stronger. Highlight your abilities to adapt to change, work well in a team environment, and get along with colleagues from different age groups and personal backgrounds.
Barbara Falkenrath holds a master's degree in human relations and an undergraduate degree in English. Falkenrath has earned the SHRM - SCP, SPHR and GPHR certifications. She has over 15 years of human resources leadership experience in global organizations and consults as a subject matter expert on human resources issues.