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Hiring Millennials: How to Attract the Right Candidates

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With many baby boomers and a small percentage of generation X entering retirement, millennials are now the largest demographic in the labor force. Hiring millennials can no longer be put off, and companies that don't shift to accommodate their needs will find themselves facing high turnover rates and difficulty filling positions.

In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know to keep your company properly staffed. We'll start with looking at the unique situation millennials face entering the workforce, then we'll abolish some of the myths surrounding this unique generation. Finally, we'll share best practices to attract--and keep--millennial employees, whether you engage recruiting services or handle recruiting in-house.

How Did Hiring Millennials Get To Be So Difficult?

The millennial generation covers anyone born in the early 1980s and in the approximately 20 years after. Exact dates differ based on who you ask, but a good guideline is the last two decades or so before the year 2000. Some experts extend this generation to 2004. Others say the early 1980s were part of a micro-generation.

The exact years aren't all that important; what does matter is how these adults and young adults now entering the workforce and dominating it envision their careers. When millennials first entered the workforce, older generations tried to mold them into the corporate cultures they'd known, but it didn't work.

Millennials just left their jobs. They started new companies. The 30-year tenure followed by a retirement party and a gold watch was no longer enough for millennials.

Millennials will hop from job to job in order to advance their careers, if they don't believe in a company, or if they feel their work-life balance is off kilter. This turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion every year.

Creating workplaces where millennials want to stay isn't just about pleasing millennials. It's not just about keeping companies well-staffed. It's a potential economic crisis waiting to happen.

Why Millennials Want Different Things Than Previous Generations

Pinpointing the cause of the difference in millennial thinking isn't so easy. Contributing factors include:

  • Social media
  • Higher education
  • Means of self-identification and self-actualization

Social media has created a culture of personal transparency. Millennials expect to be judged on their actions, what they say, and what they do for a career. The pressure to have a meaningful impact on the world is very real.

Millennials are also highly educated. With the promise of a college degree being a good job, millennials are graduating with high expectations for even entry-level work.

Finally, millennials identify themselves by their work. Because of this, they want their work to be meaningful, to have a positive impact on society. 77% of millennials consider a brand's purpose as a top factor when job hunting.

It's not that older generations don't have these concerns or care about these ideas, but millennials place them in a position of top priority.

Millennial Myths And Best Practices For Hiring

An early misunderstanding of the millennial mindset led to a number of myths about millennial workers. Belief in these myths does little to improve millennial turnover. In fact, supporting these myths only increases job hopping and the sense for this generation that millennials can't find jobs.

Myth 1: Millennials Are Lazy

Arriving late to work, asking to leave in the middle of the day to tend to personal matters, and an unwillingness to complete certain projects earned the first millennials entering the workforce the label of lazy.

Millennials are no more lazy or hardworking than previous generations. The problem stems from unmet expectations in both directions.

Employers expect employees to conform to company culture and millennials expect company cultures to conform to their mindset. Griping about this difference of opinions isn't going to solve any problems, but there are ways companies can inspire millennials to show just how hard they can and will work:

  • Dump the 9 to 5
  • Provide purpose
  • Offer more culture perks
  • Revamp your job ads

The problem with the 9 to 5, for millennials, is that it interferes with their sense of work-life balance. This balance is crucial to millennials. This is unlikely to change, and it's enough to inspire them to polish up their resume and look for greener pastures.

Instead, allowing millennials a more flexible schedule can inspire them to give your company their best. For example, determining weekly workload by goals rather the number of hours worked is one way to meet this demand. And make no mistake--work-life balance is a non-negotiable demand for millennial workers.

Providing purpose is another way to encourage millennials to stick around. Rather than risking them declining assignments or projects that don't align with their values, give them purpose.

Millennials want their work to have purpose for the company and for society as a whole. This is often an easier fix than many older employers think--it's often a matter of adjusting messaging, not process. If you're looking for a place to start, be transparent and cut back on bureaucracy.

For millennials, the bottom line is not enough of a purpose.

Silicon Valley is a shining example in the eyes of many millennials, because the companies there are often created by their own generation and so they attract their generation. One of the reasons is perks, such as:

  • Free food
  • Nap rooms
  • Pet-friendly policies

Perks like these may not be possible in every industry for health and safety reasons, but if you focus on creating a company culture focused on people and not the bottom line, you might just be pleasantly surprised by how your bottom line improves as a benefit of putting your people first.

Becoming one of the best companies for millennials starts with recruiting. Throughout your hiring process, you want your messaging consistent with millennial's needs. This starts with the job ad.

Requirements and job descriptions are important, but millennials also want to know about company culture. They want to know your mission statement. They want to know everything you can say about the job to help them decide if the fit is mutual--this includes salary and benefits.

Myth 2: Millennials Don't Want To Grow With Companies

This couldn't be farther from the truth. Millennials don't enjoy job hopping. It's stressful and costly.

They'd much rather find a company they can stay with--but they expect their employers to offer them growth and recognize their potential. Unfortunately, a lack of growth environments caused the job-hopping millennials have become known for. But, it's not too late to change that and retain millennial employees.

  • Training resources
  • Frequent feedback

Millennials understand that when they enter the workforce, there's often a learning curve. But when they get there, learning often stops. Millennials are educated to become lifelong learners, and expect their companies to meet that need.

Offer training opportunities so millennial employees can grow with your company, and they'll be more likely to stay.

Millennials are also accustomed to receiving qualitative feedback frequently. Rather than a quantitative annual review, providing millennials with quarterly discussions centered around employee and company goals can offer millennials the feedback they need to grow.

Myth 3: Millennials Demand Higher Salaries Than They Deserve

We're not saying millennials aren't looking for higher salaries than earlier generations demanded upon first entering the workforce. They do expect higher salaries, but there are good reasons for this expectation:

  • College costs more
  • The cost of living is higher
  • More millennials are entering the workforce with more education

Since baby boomers attended college, tuition hikes have increased the cost of higher education by 150%. Millennials are entering the workforce with crippling student loans. They expect their employment to help cover the cost. Part of this is because many millennials entered college with the promise that it would lead to a career that would allow them to afford basic needs like shelter and food.

But the fact is, cost of living has also increased. Millennials face higher housing costs and higher costs to keep food on the table. The proverbial bacon has gotten more expensive; millennials expect companies to match that cost.

Many millennials are also going right from undergraduate school to graduate school. It's not that baby boomers and generation x-ers aren't obtaining graduate degrees. But, they often return to graduate school after having been in the workforce for some time.

It's not only that millennials are coming into the labor force with student debt for more than one degree. They also expect their compensation to reflect the skills and knowledge they've gained.

What can companies do? Millennials are attracted to companies which offer compensation:

  • Aligned with millennials' education
  • Aligned with millennials' potential

The latter may be a harder pill to swallow, the for millennials and jobs, the former is a top priority when on the hunt.


If it seems like employers must do most of the stretching to cross this gap of unmet expectations, that may indeed be the case. However, the fact remains that millennials represent the largest portion of the workforce, and to offer the best jobs for millennials, companies will have to adjust to meet their needs.

This doesn't mean companies need to completely revamp the way they operate, but when it comes to hiring millennials--and retaining them--flexibility in at least one of these areas can help. We have partnered with many great universities to attract top talent to your organization. If you have additional questions about attracting the right millennial candidates, contact us.

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