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16 Interview Questions to Ask Gen Z During a Structured Interview

16 Questions to Ask Gen Z During a Structured Interview

Sixty-one million people. An incredible 61 million Gen Zers were estimated to reside in the U.S. in 2016 according to research by BridgeWorks. That number is larger than Generation X and is two-thirds the size of the baby boomer generation. 

For talent acquisition professionals, that number is inspiring. The oldest of this generation, born in 1996 poured into the working-world in the last few years. Many companies have begun researching to understand the expectations and nuances of Gen Z as they prepare for this unique group of talent to hit the workforce full-force. 

Of course, this data is critical in discovering how to recruit Gen Zers, but successfully harnessing this talent still comes down to the interview process. Structured interviews allow talent acquisition professionals to assess qualified candidates in a fixed-format setting. As a result, every candidate shares the same interview experience and every hiring team member can easily compare candidate answers to the same questions.

This is especially critical when a new generation hits the workforce during low unemployment. Talent acquisition professionals aren’t just meeting with members of a new generation. Each new hire holds more importance as companies actively compete to attract and retain top talent. 

That’s why we reached out to professionals who are already interviewing Gen Z candidates. They share their strategies and top structured interview questions to assess Gen Z. Use these questions to effectively screen and hire top Gen Z talent:

 1. If you were working as a cashier at McDonald’s, what would be your biggest challenge?

Illia TermenoIn my experience, Gen Zers are not usually willing to do “boring” work and are not used to connecting with older generations. Their answers will shed light on their readiness to perform routine tasks, their ease of getting along with people of different age groups, and overall motivation.

Illia Termeno, Director of Extrabrains Marketing Agency 

2. Do you have a friend or family member who seems as though they have the best job on earth?

Tasia Duske

The oldest talent in Gen Z are about 22 and are just entering the workforce. They often don’t have prior work experience to draw on. This question helps us determine if the job they are applying for lines up in some way with the job they admire or aspire to claim.

A mere 19 percent of 5 to 17-year-olds in 2018 worked during the previous year, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center trends report. That’s compared to 30 percent of millennials in the same age range in 2002. This generation doesn’t just have youthful inexperience. They’re less experienced than those in previous generations.

Tasia Duske, CEO at Museum Hack

3. What do you know about the needs, goals, and challenges of our organization?

Rafe Gomez,This response will demonstrate whether the Gen Z applicant has done their homework about the company where they’d like to be employed, and also if they are eager and passionate about being a part of the organization. 

Rafe Gomez, Co-Owner of VC Inc. Marketing 

4. What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?

Roger Maftean

Gen Z is competitive. This tests their competitive spirit and desire to grow professionally. You want to make sure this candidate is a good representative of their generation. Sure, they might not have great emotional intelligence, according to Dr. Steven Stein in his book The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success. However, maybe the position requires more of a competitive spirit, like sales, where they can shine. 

The major interview red flag here would be them saying they move on because of personal reasons like a disgruntled co-worker. You’re looking for the candidate to discuss their growth to see if it aligns with your company’s open role. 

Jeff Fromm and Angie Read, authors of Marketing to Gen Z: The Rules for Reaching This Vast–and Very Different–Generation of Influencers describe Gen Z as competitive, determined, and hard-working.

Roger Maftean, Content Strategist at ResumeLab 

5. How comfortable are you with a traditional office setup?

Gargi RajanEven though a company might have a lot of options for flexibility, it’s imperative to ensure the comfort and individual level of flexibility for switching between flexible hours and traditional ones. 

You need to understand if Gen Zers are willing to swap terrific work-life balance with extra hours of work if required and if they’re able to offer hard work, discipline, and perseverance whenever it’s asked from them.  

Gargi Rajan, Head HR of Mercer | Mettl

6. Recall the last time when you had to work on a project in college that wasn’t interesting. How did it make you feel?

Illia Termeno

Gen Zers often see themselves as mini-CEOs. This question allows talent acquisition pros to assess their readiness to work on tasks that are not super exciting. You will see if the candidate is eager to motivate themselves by the reason and necessity of the boring task. 

The vast majority of Gen Z respondents (76 percent) in a recent Monster report believe they are the owners of their careers and will drive their own professional advancement. Another 49 percent want to have their own business.

Illia Termeno, Director of Extrabrains Marketing Agency 

7. How do you find your motivation and inspiration in a long-drawn project?

Gargi RajanGen Z candidates are undeniably going to be the future leaders of your organization. The age in which Gen Z is growing, makes them increasingly bent toward instant gratification and super quick results, which in a real-life scenario, is far from reality. 

This question brings their consonance with reality to the forefront and lets you understand their comfort level with projects that require the individual investment of time and energy. Furthermore, it shows if they would be able to work for a long time with a team requiring patience and collaboration for long periods of time.  

Gargi Rajan, Head HR of Mercer | Mettl

8. Do you work well on a team?

Steve Pritchard

This is a great question to ask Generation Z candidates to see if they would rather get their head down and work to further themselves individually or work well with the rest of your staff to succeed. Social media and society increasingly promote individual success over working together. This will help you find out if your candidate has essential teamworking skills, rather than being glued to their phone, laptop, or console. 

Fifty-eight percent of Gen Z employees prefer to work as part of team vs. working independently, according to Dell’s 2018 report, Gen Z: The future has arrived.

Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Ben Sherman 

9. What part will this position fulfill in your short- and long-term career goals?

Gargi RajanSince Gen Zers are just starting into their career, they could lack dedication toward the position they are interviewing for. They might even have some other career plans, no plans at all, or are just interested in testing the waters. As an interviewer, you can use a structured interview process to understand how a role at your company fits within the Gen Z candidate’s future. 

Gargi Rajan, Head HR of Mercer | Mettl

10. What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

Steve PritchardMany of our priorities are the same in life. From baby boomers to millennials and even Gen Z, people in every generation will have similar priorities, which is why this question helps you get to the heart of why the candidate is interested in working for you. All of us are looking to learn new skills and find out what we do and don’t like. Asking this question often shows how open and ambitious the next generation is.

Just because you’re focused on “structure” doesn’t mean the information you receive will be uniform. Structured interview processes must be designed to highlight the priorities and ambitions of each candidate. Gen Zers revealed a few of their workplace wants in Dell’s report, Gen Z: The future has arrived: 

  • 91 percent say the technology offered by an employer would be a factor in choosing among similar job offers
  • 45 percent want work that has meaning and purpose beyond just getting paid
  • 38 percent want to work for a socially or environmentally responsible organization

Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Ben Sherman 

11. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your supervisor. How did you resolve it?

Roger MafteanThis is a classic question when it comes to testing the emotional intelligence of a candidate. Despite having more of a collaborative nature, Dr. Steven Stein suggests Gen Zers have lower emotional intelligence than other generations. 

This means they may not be able to easily identify and manage their emotions or perceive the emotions of others. You’re assessing to see whether the person had a problem interacting with their managers. The major red flag there is if the candidate criticized the manager instead of self-assessing. If the blame is passed on, you know the candidate lacks accountability. 

Roger Maftean, Content Strategist at ResumeLab 

12. Describe a problem you used to have that you solved by using technology.

Tasia Duske

It’s likely that the majority of Gen Z will have some sort of digital footprint by their early twenties, using tech comes as second nature in a way no other generation has been able to do. We like to ask this question to see ways the candidate is leveraging this unique generational trend to improve their lives as opposed to just taking tech for granted. As our company relies largely on technology, we want to make sure we are attracting top tech talent. 

The majority of Gen Z respondents (80 percent) in Dell’s Gen Z: The future has arrived report want to work with cutting edge technology in their future careers.

Tasia Duske, CEO at Museum Hack

13. Another employee isn’t meeting your expectations. They are performing below average. How do you handle it?

Tom GerencerThis is a way to test a person’s leadership qualities and transparency. You want to see if a candidate can be honest and understands how important it is to give constructive feedback. Gen Z candidates can be fiercely independent. 

The idea here is to see how mature the candidate is when delivering tough feedback. It’s about showing how important it is. It’s a red flag if the person goes behind the back of the lacking employee and tells others how this person isn’t pulling their weight. 

Tom Gerencer, Career Expert at ResumeLab 

14. In what ways have you worked toward gaining professional experience?

Steve PritchardAs some of the youngest candidates, chances are Generation Z will have little traditional professional experience compared to older candidates, but likely possess other qualities that really stand out. Anyone who has volunteered, interned or worked in any working role stand out as being the most ambitious. This shows they’re not afraid to get involved, work hard, and can deal with failure as well as success.

Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Ben Sherman 

15. What do you expect to learn from this job?

Illia TermenoSome Gen Zers may believe that since they graduated, they have the latest knowledge and it’s time to share it with others rather than continue learning on the job. You will see if the candidate is process- or people-oriented, and if they have aspirations of self-development and career growth within your organization.

This youthful generation has been coined as independent by experts Jeff Fromm and Angie Read. However, that independence shouldn’t be looked at as arrogance or an unwillingness to learn. In fact, Dell’s, Gen Z: The future has arrived report found 50 percent want the ability to learn new skills and have new experiences. 

Illia Termeno, Director of Extrabrains Marketing Agency 

16. Are you open to this job being a long term opportunity?

Tasia DuskeGen Zers remember their parents’ stress and worry during the Great Recession and are therefore more security-oriented than millennials. Asking this question cues to the interviewee that we are open to them staying with us for the long run.

Tasia Duske, CEO at Museum Hack

For more job interview tricks and tips check out Spark Hire’s eBook, The Expert Guide To Conducting The Most Effective Job Interviews.

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.