Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Generational Stereotyping Is Ruining Your Hiring Process

We reached out to Karlyn Borysenko from Zen Workplace to get some advice on why generational stereotyping is ruining your hiring process and how you can overcome your biases when interviewing candidates.  Here’s the full transcript of Karyln’s video response:

I have to tell you, generational stereotypes are one of my all time biggest pet peeves. I hear about them almost every day of the week and I constantly have to remind people that you cannot tell much of anything about someone, based on the 20-year timespan in which they were born. Yes, it’s absolutely 100 percent true that someone that grew up in the 60’s is going to have very different life experience than someone who grew up in the 90’s. And, there are going to be some similarities that you can find with people who were born in the same generation.

However, the differences far outweigh their similarities.

Focus On Work Style

Every single one of them is going to bring a different life experience, a different perspective, a different work style with them to the office every day and that work style is really what you needs sussing in the interview. That’s what your target is — that’s what you should be focused on. Look, every previous generation has had a negative perception of the generation that came after it.  That’s just the rules of the road. It was true of our parents, of our grandparents and so on, and so forth.  

Generational stereotypes negatively impact job seekers and they also negatively impact the employers that are doing the hiring. They negatively impact job seekers because look, I have coached a lot of millennials, because millennials are the biggest ones that this is a problem with at the moment. I’ve coached a lot of millennials who almost get self-defeatist before they even walk into the interview. And they think, ‘Oh, they are going to judge me based on my age, and they’re not going to see what I bring to the table and all of the experience. I think I would be a great fit for this team, but they are just going to look at how old I am.’

So, it negatively affects job seekers in that sense. They’re not set up to show you what their best work is.  

On the employer side, it negatively impacts you because you don’t see their best work. You could have these absolute rock stars, people that could come in and contribute so much to your organization, not showing you their best. And so you don’t hire them, you might hire someone else that comes in and gives a really, really good interview and maybe they’re of a different generation that you’re more looking for.  They come in and they give a really great interview and you give them the job and then they show up and they’re a mediocre employee at best. Why? Because you weren’t looking at work style. You were basing it based on those initial impressions.

Acknowledge Your Generational Biases

So, how can recruiters get past that and make the best hires for their company? You have to get past whatever internal biases you have and the first step to getting past those internal biases is to acknowledge that those biases exist.

And here’s what I want you to do. After you get done watching the video, pull out a piece of paper and write down all of the biases that you have about whatever generation you’re interviewing. It could be Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, it could be Boomer, write down all of your biases. Write down the good things and the bad things. No one’s going to see this list but you, so you can be totally honest and truthful when you’re coming up with it. Don’t even think about, just go stream of consciousness and make your list.

And then step back and detach, and take a look at your list and really consider it. That’s how you become consciously aware of the bias that you bring to the table.

And then when you’ve done that, I want you to rip that list up because it’s not true. So, just rip it up and acknowledge that’s not true and that you’re starting fresh with each candidate involved. And the next thing you want to do is really craft your interview and your interaction with your prospective candidates to focus in on what their work style is.

Focus on the cultural fit for the organization, focus in on the task they’re going to perform on the job, focus on how they think about problems, how they interact with others. Those things they have to bring to the table in order to be successful in that sort of position.  Make a list of those attributes.

List The Ideal Workplace Attributes

If I could have my ideal candidate come in for an interview in this job, what would that person look like? What would they bring to the table? What kind of hours are they willing to work? How much are they willing to dedicate to the organization? What types of skill set do they have? How do they relate to others? How do they talk to other people? How can they build alignment and buy in for what they want? How can they build relationships throughout the organization? Focus in on the qualities that you need that person to have and make your list.

And then keep that list, you don’t want to rip that list up. That list is the important one, right?

Focus On What Matters For Success

But that’s the way, focusing in on those things, that you’ll be able to get over your own biases for your generational stereotypes and focus in on the things that matter. Because how old they are, most of the time, it doesn’t mean a thing. Focus in on the day to day and what they need to be successful in their job, and that’s your key to the kingdom.

We encourage you to connect with Karlyn on LinkedIn.

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.