Wednesday 22 November 2017

Can you pass the snowflake test or are you a 'whiny, entitled millennial'?

A US firm has introduced a quiz that promises to weed out flaky and entitled millennial job applicants, but it leaves our reporter cold
Whinge factor: In the tv show Girls, Lena Dunham plays aspiring writer Hannah who struggles to find work after her parents tell her they will no longer support her
Whinge factor: In the tv show Girls, Lena Dunham plays aspiring writer Hannah who struggles to find work after her parents tell her they will no longer support her

Meadhbh McGrath

You've heard this one before. Millennials are lazy, entitled, self-absorbed brats, simultaneously Snapchatting and bellowing "bigot!" at all and sundry as they run for cover in the nearest safe space. Did I miss anything?

Who wants one of those on the payroll? Well, lucky for you, a marketing firm based in Connecticut has formulated a special survey to weed out "whiny, entitled" snowflakes doomed to melt at the first sign of trouble.

Kyle Reyes, CEO of Silent Partner Marketing, explained: "A snowflake is somebody who is going to whine and complain and come to the table with nothing but an entitled attitude and an inability to back their perspective."

He believes that, with this 30-strong questionnaire, he can filter out these snivelling snowflakes and identify prospective hires with a "strong work ethic" and excellent spelling and grammar. Never mind the fact that Reyes' company website boasts the phrase "massively sexy" as some sort of linguistic jewel in the crown - not to mention steaming clichés about "pushing the envelope" and "standing out from the crowd".

Enough of that. Time to get down to the quiz, which Reyes posted online so all of us can have a go. "Looks like summer is coming, snowflakes!" the CEO wrote on his blog, like some cackling Marvel villain.

After some initial questions about whether employees are entitled to benefits and sick days - slyly placed to unmask us snowflakes as the work-shy slackers that we are - the test starts dropping those sweet millennial buzzwords: "safe spaces", "trigger warnings", "privilege", making sure all the bases are covered.

When all your homes are rentals, all your jobs are on temporary contract, where do you put down the foundations of adulthood? [Pic: scene from Broad City]
When all your homes are rentals, all your jobs are on temporary contract, where do you put down the foundations of adulthood? [Pic: scene from Broad City]

As any card-carrying snowflake will tell you, a "safe space" isn't a defined place.

We don't expect the utility closet to be cleared out to make way for all our hurt feelings when we need to shelter from the big bad boss. At a basic level, it implies a workplace culture that does not tolerate violence, harassment or hate speech against marginalised groups.

It's standard HR diversity and inclusion policy, but it's a term that has become ludicrously loaded in recent years. But I suppose if I want to make it through to the interview stage, I'm meant to say 'of course safe spaces don't belong in a work environment - Mr CEO doesn't have time to change my proverbial nappies'!

(That being said, I imagine if I did make it to interview, the panel would chuckle mildly at me before patting me on the head, calling me "sweetheart" and showing me to the door.)

In any case, Reyes insists there are no right or wrong answers. He also says 60pc of applicants dropped out after hearing about the test, which is in his eyes, a clear sign that it's working like gangbusters.

Anyway, next up: when was the last time you cried and why? Well, last night when my Instagram post only got two likes, never mind the floods when I heard about the birth of Chiam's baby (that's Cheryl Cole and Liam Payne's newborn, olds). You may be surprised to hear that Reyes doesn't have a problem with weepy employees - it shows that people "have heart". Result.

You arrive at an event for work and there's a major celebrity you've always wanted to meet. What happens next? Abandon ship and embark in pursuit of selfies.

What's the best way to communicate with clients? Snapchat. Next question.

What are your thoughts on the current college environment as it pertains to a future workforce? What, I'll have to get through the day without a lecturer to hold my hand and tell me I'm a star?

The debate over whether recent graduates are less resilient due to a coddled university culture has raged on for years. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Centre found that young people today "have the unhappy distinction of being the first generation in modern history to have a lower standard of living than their parents' generation had at the same stage of the life cycle".

We may be more widely educated than any previous generation, but millennials are lagging behind "on virtually all key indicators of economic well-being - including employment, income, wealth, debt and poverty".

Despite this, Reyes, and the thousands across the US and Europe cheering on his "refreshing", youth-bashing quiz seem to think of us as a load of goo-goo-gah-gah idiots who can't interact with the world without going through a smartphone camera or app first.

The quiz has, unsurprisingly, resonated with people - to such an extent that Reyes claims other companies have reached out to him about introducing similar tests.

Robert MacGiolla Phadraig of Sigmar Recruitment points out that some of the questions, such as "what does faith mean to you?" wouldn't be permitted in an Irish job interview; it's illegal to discriminate based on the grounds of religion, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality or disability.

"Every couple of years, a new cohort of talent is pigeonholed," Robert explains. "Right now, it's millennials, but we've all been there when we were younger."

As for declining millennial resilience, he adds: "Resilience is a combination of individual mindset and a lot to do with the environment, and what responsibilities the employer takes. There's less focus on sustainable performance and more on sprints: employers expect employees to complete these continuous sprints. The message is always more, more, more, but if we want the best, we need to take a mature and sustainable approach to resilience."

The 'snowflake test' may not be the best approach. But it easily appeals to middle-class, middle-aged people who believe the world was a better place in an idealised past that no longer exists.

Those same people who gleefully make fun of "PC culture" and shriek "political correctness gone mad!" on hearing about the introduction of gender-neutral bathrooms so transgender children won't be scared to pee at school. Those who make jabs about the young generation getting medals just for trying, and for believing work shouldn't have to be a grisly hellscape eating up 80 hours a week.

Maybe I'm making a relatively shallow test sound more insidious than it truly is. At the end of the day, Reyes has found a successful way to create publicity for himself and his 21-person company - even if it leaves me and my fellow snowflakes cold.

The 'snowflake test': the key questions

1. When was the last time you cried and why?

2. What are your thoughts on the current college environment as it pertains to a future workforce?

3. What are your feelings about safe spaces in challenging work environments?

4. Should "trigger warnings" be issued before we release content for clients or the company that might be considered "controversial"?

5. How do you handle it when your ideas are shot down?

6. What does the First Amendment right to "freedom of speech" mean to you?

7. What does faith mean to you?

8. Who is your role model and why?

9. What does "privilege" mean to you?

10. What's more important: book smarts or street smarts? Why?

Irish Independent

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