Interviewing Advice for Millennials

Blake Bartlett, Partner by

Note: This article was originally published on Medium. You can follow me there at medium.com/@blakebartlett.

From one Millennial to another — what NOT to say in an interview

By definition, I am a millennial. Technically anyone born between 1982-2004 is a Millennial. That’s a very broad span of years, and even though I fall at the beginning of the period, sometimes I feel at home in this generational cohort, and other times I don’t. Occasionally I even find myself saying, “Kids these days…”

I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates in the last few years, and recently I’ve been interviewing a lot of younger Millennials. These are guys and gals who were born between 1989-1991. They’re just finishing their first job out of school and are looking to make the next step. If you fall in that category (or if you’re younger and applying for your very first job), then I have some advice for you when it comes to interviewing and thinking about your broader career aspirations.

Interviewing Advice for Millennials

Tip #1: Remember, It’s Not All About You

The point of a job is not exclusively what you get out of it. What do I mean? I like asking the question, “Why are you interested in this position?” or “Why our firm?” And I usually get an answer like, “I think I can learn a lot from this position,” or “I want to start a company someday and I think this will help me,” or “I want to go to business school, and I think a role in venture capital will give me a great perspective on entrepreneurship going into b-school.”

These things may be true, and they may be honest, but they sound very self-serving. It comes across like you’re only interested in the job because you think it can help you do something else. You’ve reduced the company and the opportunity to your personal stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe the primary purpose of a job is bringing value to a company. Everything else — the experience, the learnings, how it helps you achieve your career goals, etc. — that’s all secondary. What you get from a position should be a product of what you put into it. You don’t have enriching experiences by seeking to have enriching experiences. That’s a circular reference. You learn and grow by doing — by taking on projects, experimenting, failing, collaborating with colleagues, figuring out a solution, and measuring results.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a very important and valuable thing to have personal goals and career aspirations. I’m not diminishing that. It just shouldn’t be the explicit, primary reason you pursue a job opportunity.

Tip #2: Be Realistic About Your Commitment

I’m also not looking to hire lifers. It would be delusional to think that anyone today is likely to stay at the same job their whole career…myself included (I’ve worked at two other firms prior to joining OpenView). So I don’t want candidates to swing too far to the other end of the spectrum, either, telling me the only thing they’ve ever wanted to do is work at OpenView for the rest of their lives. That would be equally as frustrating.

3 Key Components of a Good Interview

So let’s bring this all together. What does a good answer to the “Why are you interested?” question look like? I think it has a few components:

  1. Show that you’ve done your research: Demonstrate that you know what the company does, how it’s different than its competitors, etc. — and provide some examples of that in action.
  2. Have a point of view: It’s not enough to just do the research and know the information, you need to have a point of view on why it matters (to customers, to the market, to you, etc.). I call this a personal thesis.
  3. Connect the dots: What do you bring to the table that can help us better achieve everything outlined above? It can be your skills, experiences, or even your point of view and thought process.

I believe in Millennials. I think this big, broad, and diverse generation is going to do great things. But remember that before you do something great, you must do something. By working hard, taking on more responsibility, pushing your abilities, experimenting and failing, collaborating with others, and ultimately adding value, you will have the rich experiences that help you achieve the big, bad personal and career goals that define our generation.

What do you think? Are you a Millennial with a different perspective? Or are you an employer that has interviewed and hired Millennials?