Millennials and Zs have many skills. Interviewing may not be one of them. Social media prioritizes digital connections, but the human ones – made through in-person communication, eye contact, and body language – are in short supply with the up and coming generation of employees.
The impact on recruiting is apparent: candidates who look great on paper may not fare well in their interviews because their person-to-person communication skills are shaky. As Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat replace real-time encounters with virtual ones, scores of candidates have become more comfortable connecting online than face to face. Skills that become second nature after years of more formal, in-person interactions are falling by the wayside.
Due to sheer lack of practice, many young interviewers aren’t familiar with how to effectively use proper body language or verbal cues in formal settings like interviews or meetings. The standard – and sometimes the entire – meaning of these cues have been modified by the digital culture they’re immersed in. Young people may feel that it’s okay to slouch, lean back or sprawl in a chair where good posture and a slight forward lean would indicate strong interest in a conversation. They might consider eye contact to be uncomfortable or rude. Their answers to interview questions may be punctuated with slang and techie jargon, or with speech fillers such as “um, er, like, and whatever.” Or they may talk only about themselves and their accomplishments (assuming that to be the protocol in an interview) rather than having any kind of exchange.
These types of conversational misses apply to written communication as well. Text messaging, direct messaging, and comment sections have become the preferred methods of exchange – and these are riddled with slang, shorthand, excessive punctuation, and emojis. Just imagine the implications for business emails! That is, if emails are checked at all. Many young people are extremely responsive to methods of communication they use in their day-to-day lives (like text messages), but aren’t in the habit of checking business-standard forms of communication like voicemails or emails and so may miss important messages.
We are well aware that these challenges may not apply to every young candidate. As recruiters, we have worked with many high-powered, sharp-as-a-whip, highly eloquent and professional people of all ages. But we have seen too many instances of truly talented young professionals missing out on job opportunities because they made the mistake of thinking that a social media attitude passes for a business one.
Our recruiters work diligently to make sure that our candidates know the expectations of a job interview and position ahead of time. We work closely with hiring managers to understand the company culture and hard and soft skills of any given position. We then pass this information on to the candidates so they’re fully informed of what these expectations are and how to meet them. We also give our candidates honest feedback about their résumé content and presentation skills and provide tips to help them interview with confidence.
Nothing, however, can replace candidate preparation and practice. Check out our interviewing tips on the Candidate’s Corner page. If you’re a candidate, research the industry and the company you’re interviewing with. Get feedback on your resume. Practice your interviews skills. Get a second pair of eyes on your emails if corresponding with a hiring manager or HR representative. All of this will go a long way to let your personality and skills shine through in an interview that will hopefully land you your next dream job.