Today, when we meet with a hiring manager, they could be a member of one of four generations, Traditionalist, Boomer, Generation X or Generation Y. And each of these generations has different views of the workplace, different working styles, different communication preferences, and most likely they have different generalized perceptions about the other generational cohorts and their capabilities.
Why does the generational cohort that the hiring manager belongs to make a difference?
Generational cohorts are people born roughly at the same time, who as a consequence tend to have rather similar attitudes and expectations. They are often brought up with the same child rearing practices. These shared practices are important since they provide clues about how these generations will behave as they move into positions of decision making and have increasing access to resources in the workplace. Being aware of a cohort’s general characteristics can help job seekers identify preferences of the hiring manager and, possibly, help them to adjust their job hunting process and interview content to better suit the hiring manager. Hiring managers are not only looking for skills and capabilities, they are seeking ‘fit’ – the person who will fit into their team, their departments, their company culture.
Give consideration to incorporating knowledge of the hiring manager’s cohort membership into your job hunting plans by taking the following actions.
- Research the hiring manager as you would research the company.
Use your networking skills to research the hiring manager. Obvious first steps are to locate them on LinkedIn and Facebook as this will give you their professional profile. Think about this as you network with your contacts.
Contact friends and family, former colleagues, current associates, members of the associations to which you belong (Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade, HAPPEN) to find out as much as you can about the interviewers and hiring managers. If you know the generational cohort to which they belong, this will help you to assess their areas of interest, how they view the workplace and, quite possibly, their working, communication and interviewing styles.
Boomers hold approximately 40% of the management and senior level positions in our organizations – private, public, not for profit, service, and government – all types of organizations. As members of this cohort, perceptions about them include their competitive nature and results-orientation and the view that they measure their worth by the type of position they hold in the workplace. Boomers live to work, they never seem to stop working and expect others to put in the same effort and number of hours. They are the creators of 24/7. Since the majority of Boomers are still in the workforce and will be for some time, they may be the hiring manager. They will be interested in those candidates who understand the value of setting goals, achieving and measuring results.
In some cases, however, the hiring manager (and interviewing team) will be Generation X and/or Y. Twenty-five or thirty plus years of experience may not mean much if the hiring managers have less than ten years’ of experience themselves.
Although many Boomers tend to ‘lump’ Generation X and Y together when they talk about younger generations in the workplace, the two cohorts are quite different.
Generation X grew up independent (both parents working, high divorce rates = latch key kids) and are adaptable and resilient. They are interested in outcomes more so than bottom-line results and they believe work should be fun. They use social networking and blogging sites, smartphones and tablets as their primary vehicles for information gathering and sharing. They want a balanced lifestyle since they are the cohort with the young children at home.
Generation Y lives in a global, virtual world communicating with others in short bursts. They value fun activities, social interaction via technology, and they are the largest users of television, social media and, smartphone/tablet devices. To them, BYOD (bringing your own device), to work makes complete sense if one wants to stay connected all the time. Their pack orientation is evident in their continued use of social media to grow their network and Wikipedia to get their information. And their loyalty is to the community. They seek to work for organizations with a clear purpose and demonstrated commitment to the local community.
- Your CV should be in the style they will identify with and want to read.
I have been told by Boomers that hiring managers from the Generation Y cohort do not demonstrate respect for the years of experience or the high level of expertise achieved by Boomers. Complaints about Generation Y hiring managers include; being late for the interview, not spending time reviewing the candidate’s CV before conducting the interview, not being prepared for the interview, and not having the life experience to understand what the Boomer’s experience translates into in practical terms.
When drafting or redrafting your resume, think about your audience. Consider their style and interests, particularly how these cohorts prefer to communicate. A comprehensive resume which details your contributions and achievements over two to
three decades may be too much for them to read, let alone absorb.
Consider reaching out to your network to view Generation X and Y resumes. What style do they use and can you adjust your resume to this style? Perhaps a Professional Profile or Personal/Professional Brand resume will be more interesting and provide the ‘Reader’s Digest’ view necessary to attract their interest. Your interview style may need to be adjusted as well. Consider leading the interview in conversational style helping the interviewer to interview you and get the information they need to make an informed decision.
Remember, as a Boomer, your work history began before they were born. You may have experience with companies that no longer exist, in positions with titles they do not recognize, producing results that do not interest them. Focus on the past few years and your passion ensuring both relate to them.
- Watch your social media comments.
There can be a considerable amount of frustration in job seekers, particularly given the economic climate and the current trend for employers to offer contract and part-time work over full-time, fully compensation positions. Add to this the perceptions of generational cohorts about the other cohorts and the frustration level increases. But this frustration should not be shared through social media. Nothing is private on social media including the Groups on LinkedIn. Much has been said about potential candidates being dismissed from consideration because they have posted personal photos or comments considered inappropriate by the hiring manager. Making negative comments about an entire cohort is also not appropriate and may be viewed by a future hiring manager who is a member of this cohort.
As with every other relationship that matters to you, initially you had to find common ground on which to build the foundation. Consider spending time and effort getting to know and understand the preferences and styles of the generational cohorts. As we all know, this will not guarantee you the job but it may be the extra information you need to differentiate your experience and improve your profile with the next hiring manager.
Donna Stevenson is owner of Boomer Match to Business (BM2B), a service that matches business clients requiring specific expertise to boomers holding this expertise. This matching service is for short term project assignments and business coaching opportunities. Donna is a business advisor writing and speaking on the four generations in the workplace and how to leverage their similarities and differences for improved performance. She can be reached through www.bm2b.ca.