5 Assumptions Your Interviewer May Have About Millennials

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You can’t go a day without reading a headline about millennials. From their dislike of bar soap to their tendency to shy away from home and car ownership, the implication is often negative. In the news and in conversation, millennials are treated as if their characteristics and traits are wildly different from previous generations. This carries through to the office, where employers make many (negative) assumptions about millennial employees.

There are a whopping 75.4 million people making up the millennial generation (everyone born between 1981 and 1997). With such a wide range of ages and large numbers, it’s no surprise that reality can differ greatly from trend stories and personal presumption. When it comes to work, studies report millennials have similar goals to employees of any generation. They’re eager to do well, make good money, and advance in their career.

That said: If you are a millennial job seeker, you can’t exactly submit study results along with your resume to prove that you’ll be loyal and diligent, hardworking and able to put down your phone and observe common office manners. So what can you do? Below, find a list of common assumptions employers and interviewers may have about millennials, as well as how to overcome these assumptions.

5 Assumptions Your Interviewer May Have About Millennials 

1. Assumption: Millennials Are Lazy

In 2013, Time Magazine posted a cover story entitled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” outlining how millennials are narcissistic and lazy. This sweeping, glib assessment may be untrue, but it lingers in employers’ minds, and it’s a belief that can stand in the way of employment.

How to overcome this assumption: The opposite of laziness is hard work. During interviews, emphasize your willingness to do work until the project is complete. You can mention late nights, early mornings, and your doggedness at completing a task. Practice answering the interview question “Tell me about your work style” and emphasizing your work ethic during the conversation. 

2. Assumption: Millennials Are Entitled

Not only do employers often characterize millennials as being lazy, but they also often feel the generation is entitled. Saturday Night Live even parodied this stereotype in a skit.)  Millennials, many older generation workers believe, are unwilling to pay their dues, doing tedious, entry-level grunt work. It’s the old “back in my day, I had to walk uphill in the snow — both ways!” Regardless of accuracy, many people believe millennials act as though they’re due raises ad promotions and are arrogant in their on-the-job expectations.


How to overcome this assumption: Be especially cautious in interviews about answering the question of where you see yourself in five years. Be reasonable in your answer — it’s good to be ambitious, but if you’re applying for an entry-level position, expecting to reach VP level might sound grandiose to interviewers.

3. Assumption: Millennials Aren’t Invested in Companies

The root of this assumption is that millennials lack loyalty and job hop frequently. There could be many reasons for this: job hopping can be a function of age (it’s often easier to advance in salary and employment level by switching jobs) or a result of the Great Recession, which resulted in layoffs and stagnant wages, forcing employees to seek alternative jobs.

How to overcome this assumption: You can’t change your existing resume, and it’s never, ever a good idea to lie about your job history. There are, however, ways to format your resume to reduce the appearance of job-hopping. As well, answer questions about why you departed positions carefully. It’s OK to have left a company because there was no opportunity for growth; if that’s your answer to every position you’ve left, however, it's possible your expectations are out of whack.

4. Assumption: Millennials Lack Soft Skills

There’s a broad perception that millennials may have hard skills, but lack soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Don’t mistake the word “soft” for meaning these skills being unimportant — soft skills are invaluable for an effective, efficient workplace.

How to overcome this assumption: There’s an easy way to demonstrate that you have strong communication skills and attention to detail during the job application process. Submit a flawless application. Review your resume and cover letter carefully, so all documents are typo-free. (Follow these proofreading tips when reviewing your application.) Answer questions clearly. Here's a list of soft skills to include in your cover letter and resume

5. Assumption: Millennials Lack Basic Manners

There are news stories about millennials bringing parents along to interviews and faking a death in the family — and then posting on social media about the ruse. These stories probably are over-shared on Facebook because they're so outrageous, not because these behaviors are so common amongst millennials. Still, many people believe millennials lack basic manners and proprietary. Older workers feel that millennials are incapable of putting down their phone during meetings, greeting people appropriately, dressing to suit the occasion, or making eye contact.

How to overcome this assumption: Think about your own behavior on the job and during interviews. Are any of these areas problematic for you? It’s important to maintain your individuality at work, but it’s also important to observe basic manners — particularly during interviews. Learn the top 10 etiquette tips for interviews, as well as how to dress for interview success