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Tips on Hiring Millennials

By Corina Sibley |

If you’re like me you’ve probably had an experience at work with a Millennial, or Gen Y, employee that confirmed in your mind the stereotypes we often hear about this generation.  (Millennials are the next generation after Gen X and are generally born between 1983 and 2000.)

There have been many instances in my career to date that highlighted this for me, the most memorable being an individual who found out what his role paid in the US parent company and demanded the same salary in Canadian dollars (at a time when the exchange rate was at $0.67 Cdn to the US $1).

I remember explaining about different labour markets and that his role was also performed at our company in India, so why didn’t we as a company pay all the roles at the Indian wage rate?  He didn’t get it.  Unfortunately, based on this and similar experiences I firmly have the “entitlement” stereotype set in my mind when it comes to this generation.  But is that fair? Probably not.

For one thing, despite my experience above, recent research has determined that Gen Ys are more motivated to stay with employers if they feel fulfilled in their jobs rather than by their pay levels.1  Gen Ys are often called the “wired” generation, having grown up with technology their entire lives.  They are comfortable with instantaneous feedback and communication via social media.  They are the generation whose parents have been termed “helicopter parents”, for constantly hovering over their progeny and making the path smooth for them on their journey through life.  These and other factors gave birth to a generation that has characteristics such as:

  • Connectional Intelligence (CxQ) which Ladan Nikravan, Associate Editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine defines as “ the ability to build and realize value from networks of relationships, to harness units of knowledge and reuse them to innovate, to convene communities, to marshal a variety of resources for breakthrough results.”2
  • The need for continuous feedback from their managers coupled with a lack of skill in handling constructive criticism.
  • A strong sense of social justice; they want to work for companies that are not just motivated by profit, but the triple bottom line:  people, planet, profit.

Don’t Act on Stereotypes

So what does all of the above have to do with hiring Gen Ys?  Nothing.  ‘Wait a minute’, you say.  ‘I thought this article was about Tips for Hiring Millennials?’  It is.  But the upshot is you should treat every candidate, regardless of age, as someone who has a choice whether to join your company or not and treat them accordingly.  It’s very dangerous to start making assumptions about people’s skills, abilities and attitudes based on their age.  Remember that every human being is different and acting on stereotypes is never a good idea.  A lot of the stereotypes we have about Gen Ys is often a function of their youth and lack of life experience.  It’s up to us as business owners and leaders to help guide and shape them.

The Biggest Millennial Interviewing Mistake

One of the biggest interviewing mistakes Millennials make is coming to the interview in inappropriate attire, according to an Adecco study as reported by the Huffington Post.3  But really, in the big scheme of things, should attire be a make-it-or-break it criterion when top talent is so tough to find?  The same study found that hiring managers were three times as likely to hire a mature worker, defined as age 50 or above, as they were to hire a Millennial.  When you look at the reasons why, stereotypes abound.  In my experience, the reason behind this statistic is that hiring managers are more likely to be mature themselves or at least Gen X and above and probably more comfortable hiring someone more like them (the “just like me” effect).

How to Defeat the “Just Like Me” Effect

A solid hiring process is invaluable in ensuring hiring errors such as the “just like me effect” are not permeating our hiring decisions.  As hiring managers, we should first have a clear idea of what are the critical criteria for success for the role for which we are hiring and base our decisions on these objective criteria.  Our interview questions should then be a method for collecting enough data to be able to determine how the candidates score against those criteria. 

Having a solid hiring process will enable you to hire successfully based on objectivity and the best person for the job, not the person most like you.  It will prevent you from basing your actions on stereotypes and better enable you to tap into the broader labour market, regardless of a candidate’s age.

In many cases, it’s up to us as hiring managers to change our behaviours, attitudes and assumptions about the next generation, rather than bemoaning the fact they are not like us.  With skills such as “Connectional Intelligence” Gen Ys have a lot to offer our companies to keep us relevant in the future.  Considering Millennials will make up approximately 50% of the US workforce by 2020 and 75% of the global workforce by 20304, they are the leaders of the future.  If we want any part in shaping that future, we need to start mentoring and guiding this generation, including ensuring we are open-minded and objective in our hiring practices.


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