The internet is filled with advice for hopeful job seekers, from what they can expect to be asked in interviews to what companies are looking for and how to tailor themselves to those expectations. But it takes two to tango, and the best employer-employee matches happen when candidates find companies that fulfill what they’re looking for, too.
This is especially evident in the competitive tech startup landscape, where companies draw talent by differentiating their cultures from the norm. So what are talented millennial candidates looking for when they scout out opportunities? We asked young job seekers at the innovative tech recruiting fair NYC Uncubed. Here are some of the questions they told us they ask of companies:
How diverse are you?
As buzzy a word as ‘diversity’ is, candidates recognize how important it is for their work environment. Nishank Shinde, a soon-to-be software engineer graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, says joining a team with different backgrounds and diverse ways of thinking is exciting to him. He’s seen it have a huge impact on whether projects are successful.
Ash, a front-end developer, said globally diverse work environments are important to him, citing the Apple’s global workforce as one of their major strength.
What impact are you making?
Many of the candidates we spoke to say impact matters when finding the ideal company. The unquestioning mentality of following orders is beginning to change because millennials want to know the “why.”
“I want to be a part of a company that solves a real issue,” Ash told us. After working at a big consulting firm for a few years post-college, he left to look for work with a tangible impact.
Jon, who just finished a web developer course at General Assembly, echoed the sentiment: “I just like solving problems.”
Lewis, who worked long hours in finance for a couple of years before moving on, said he wants to work for a company where his work has meaning. He looks for that now, when scoping out new opportunities.
Do you have a sense of community?
The days of pretending to like your colleagues are numbered, if it’s up to this new wave of workers. Robin, a front end developer, told us his dream company is one where he feels “wanted, welcomed, comfortable and a part of a community.”
Linda, an experienced sales professional pivoting into startups and digital media, says she pays attention to who companies choose as representatives at job fairs and how they reflect the company’s culture.
Are you flexible?
In many industries, 9-5 isn’t just a well-worn term—it’s an expectation. Being absent from your desk during these crucial hours might be an immediate red flag for your boss. This is evolving quickly in the tech world.
Nishanke told us that after working in a flexible environment for a previous company, he’s come to expect future companies will offer the same. Rather than focusing on the hours employees are in their chairs, the focus should be on the work they get done.
Will I be able to grow and learn?
The “entitled millennial” is already a pervasive stereotype among managers and later generations. But the way many job candidates see it, if they’re going to spend their time making their companies better, they want the same investment in return.
Nishank shared that one thing he always makes sure to ask companies is what kind of advancement opportunities they offer. Linda corroborated: “I want a place where I get to learn, and I can be promoted from within.” Companies looking to attract great talent should be able to convey clear paths of advancement.
Will you encourage me to build my network?
One of our biggest career assets is our personal and professional network. Yet many companies see out-of-office meetings and socializing as a waste of time.
Many candidates said their dream company would encourage them to meet with new people and network. This should be a no brainer for companies, because the more robust your employees’ networks, the more valuable they’ll be in the work they do for you.
Do you have an open and understanding workplace?
“This is more important than salary,” Ash explained. An environment of honesty and compassion goes a long way in keeping employees happy. Plenty of companies “would hire me for the skills I have,” he said, “but if I burn out it’s not worth it.”
Lewis told us he’ll often ask a recruiter what their opinion of the culture is, and “what they’re excited about in their job,” to get a sense of this. The trick for companies isn’t just to have effective spokespeople, but to actually build a culture of transparency, flexibility and understanding.
Let us know what you would ask your dream company in the comments!
Learn more about NYC Uncubed and their daily tech recruiting email here.
Under ‘will you encourage me to grow my network’, second paragraph first sentance.
“Many |Companies| said their dream company would encourage them to meet with new people and network.”
Thanks for the note, Tyler, it’s been fixed!
As a millennial, I will be asking potential employers exactly none of these questions. Call me old-fashioned but “What compensation/benefits will be offered?” and “Will I fit into the company culture” are more interesting and relevant questions than “How diverse are you?”
Seems like every day a new article pops up about what my generation wants out of a company and career, and I hope no one is taking them seriously. You don’t speak for me.
As the owner and founder of a successful digital marketing company, I would suggest you avoid many of these questions.
While we encourage growth, collaboration, and respect…
1. A company’s impact can be researched. Take the time to do a bit of research prior to the interview. That would impress me.
2. Am I flexible? Hmmm…This question will make me think that you will not be committed to the team when needed.
3. Encourage you to build your network? That’s your job, not mine.
4. Do you have an open and understanding workplace? This is a fair question, however again best answered by our team members, not your interviewer.
INSTEAD…. try asking these:
1. How can I help your organization to meet the company’s goals?
2. How has this position evolved since it was created?
3. What is the top priority for the person in this position over the next three months?
4. What would I have to do to succeed in this position?
5. How does the team collaborate?
6. Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
Remember it’s you that is looking for an opportunity. I’ve spent years building this company and would like to hire team members that respect that and want to grow. Spend more time educating me about why I should consider you, a person that could potentially help OR hurt our company and it’s culture, instead of asking me where the latte machine is located.
Great insight, Randy. I valued your response more than the article itself.