Anecdotes, Stereotypes, and Hiring Cojones

cojonesLast week I had the pleasure of participating as a “mock interviewer” (Lord….how many times have I done this in my HR career?) for a batch of fresh-faced interns in the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s InternBR program.

The goals of the program are, through a series of workshops and training sessions, to enable participants to (1) develop professional communication and leadership skills, and (2) engage in the Baton Rouge community through service and social events.

Let me tell you…this was week seven of the eight week program and these kids (yup…they’re kids to me) were first-rate!

During the course of several hours (we had lunch! and social time!) each intern went through a very brief “mock” interview with a local business or HR leader. We, the interviewers, received resumes earlier in the week and had the chance to run the process however we saw fit for the 3 interns we were assigned. They were expected to give feedback to each other as well so all four of us (my 3 interns and me) sat in a room together and dove into the artificial chaos and madness of the job interview,

In my room I ran a panel –peppering each of the interns with questions in turn. (I thought it was fantastic of course – I was like the host of my very own HR game show!). While I switched up some queries, one question I asked of all three candidates was “Describe your ideal job?” I like that question; in my estimation it helps me understand motivational factors and provides a jump off stage that leads to a conversation about organizational expectations and culture.

All three of them – a Mass Communication/PR student, an Accountant (B.S. in Accounting and an MBA), and a Computer Science student (software developer) – said pretty much the same thing (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“My ideal job is flexible so I can spend time with my family. I want a job that provides me the opportunity to work from home. I want to work for an organization where I am respected and valued.” 


Anything wrong with that answer? I didn’t think so. I quite liked it.

But, as I told the group, while “I” like it (and explained to them why I ask it – as pointed out above) not every hiring manager or recruiter they meet with will view their response positively.

Total crap of course…but also the reality.

An answer such as theirs is what keeps middle-aged folks clutching their pearls and bemoaning the state of the current workforce. It’s this sort of answer that causes endless debate amongst the dinosaurs on the HR Talk Bulletin Boards and at my local SHRM meetings as they kvetch and moan – “these kid’s today don’t understand about paying their dues” and “it’s not all about them.”

As sick as we are talking about generational differences (KMN) it never seems to end; we had a heated discussion about this at #truNOLA the other week. (REALLY HEATED!) And just yesterday I attended an event discussing talent and recruiting in the Baton Rouge community and a roomful of recruiters and talent leaders tossed about clichés and generalizations about you-know-which-generation left, right and center.

So yeah…this is an anecdotal tale based on my sitting down with three individuals. Nary a statistic in sight. But anecdotes lead to stereotypes, don’t they?

Guess what though? Once upon a time when I was a single mother with a young daughter I wanted the same thing as these graduates in 2016. I, quite frankly, needed the same thing. I had to find a job that allowed me to leave by 5:15 PM so I could get to the day care center before it closed at 6 PM. I needed a job that provided flexibility on snow days. I needed the opportunity to work from home when my daughter was sick because I had no other resources or options. Also note – we worked from home in those pre-PC days; I took stacks and stacks of paper home to compile reports or sort through resumes and call candidates, via my landline-home-phone, in order to conduct phone screens or schedule interviews.

I wanted meaning and a higher purpose as I grew my HR career; I chose to work for a non-profit agency (with incredibly low pay) because not only did I believe in the mission but it also provided a warm and nurturing work environment.

I’m far from being a fresh-faced grad but I’ve searched for all of those things… and I bet you have too.

We just didn’t have the courage to ask for them.


2 thoughts on “Anecdotes, Stereotypes, and Hiring Cojones

  1. It’s funny that a group of seasoned professionals would talk about “millennial/these kids” stereotypes while Millennials may be talking about stereotypes of their generation. But, like you said, it’s not really a stereotype about the generation as much as it is about their experience level. Also, what a super fun HR gameshow 🙂

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