This Interview Question Could Change Your Career

by Phil Stott | October 23, 2015

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There's a good post over on Quartz today that's all about millennial career dissatisfaction. While the whole thing is worth a read—regardless of whether you're a millennial yourself or an old who's all but given up on trying to figure the kids out and is just looking forward to the sweet release of death/retirement so you won't have to read any more think-pieces about how to inspire them anymore—one point in particular stood out to me from a career perspective.

I'll get to that point in a second, but briefly: the central thesis of the article is that there's a sub-category of millennials identified as GYPSYs (Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies). While the piece uses a whole lot of words to lay out what that means, it basically boils down to the following: many millennials have been raised to believe that they're special and that anything is possible in their lives. As a result, a mere career—the sort of solid, unspectacular jobs their parents had and did for 30-40 years, where hard work leads to gradual progress and a degree of success over the long term—isn't really enough for GYPSYs. Nope: they also expect their jobs to be fulfilling, and for success to come quickly, on account of their inflated sense of their own ability and specialness.

This, understandably, leads to not a small degree of dissatisfaction when said GYPSYs collide with the real world.

None of that is particularly interesting or original on its own—it's all been covered before, both here and in any number of articles elsewhere over the past few years that have attempted to diagnose just what's wrong with kids today (which, let's face it, at least make a change from all the articles trying to convince them that they can all be the next Mark Zuckerberg).

Where it does get interesting, though—at least if you're interested in the future of the American workplace—is when we start to consider the question of how this wave of dissatisfied employees will affect the companies they work for in the coming years. After all, a disgruntled employee tends to be one that doesn't stick around or perform particularly well, right? If you think you've got the skills and ability to be running your company, how likely are you to stick around in a lower-level position to build a reputation for showing up and being both competent and reliable—the sort of approach that previous generations have found to be the surest path to career success.

Keeping that point in mind, we arrive (finally) at the career takeaway promised above.

If we accept that companies probably don't want to hire people who think they're way too good for the positions being advertised, then it makes sense that they'd want to find ways to screen for them during the hiring process. As such, a source in the article recommends hiring managers ask the following question:

"Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?"

The rationale: "[I]f the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the 'why,' there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief."

For any GYPSYs reading, if you've made it this far, here's your takeaway: Don't wait until you get to an interview to think about that question. Start now. And don't just treat it like any other interview question; I'm not advocating coming up with a boilerplate answer for the second part that you can just trot out so you can get hired. Really: take your time; think about what the question means. And if you really can't come up with a genuine answer for the second part, then revisit part one. Your long-term happiness and career success could genuinely depend on it.

Related:
3 Things Millennials Know About Career Success That You Don't

Attention Millennials: The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Career 

Filed Under: Consulting | Education | Interviewing | Job Search | Workplace Issues

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