Candidate Engagement

Hacking Millennials: Understanding The Generation Of Hard-To-Please Wild Children


Ah, Millennials.

That particular group born after 1984, that so confounds senior management and attracts the ire of nose-to-the-grindstone Gen X and Baby Boomers.

You know the story well. Millennials have been labeled entitled, lazy, selfish and narcissistic. They demand jobs that they love, want to make an impact and want to work in a place with purpose. According to Laszlo Bock, former Chief of Human Resources at Google, “the only thing that’s different about the Millennial generation is that it is actually asking for things that everybody else wants.”

As that group begins to hit their 30s and hold more senior positions, it makes sense to not only understand them but also their desires.

Simon Sinek is an ethnographer, adjunct professor with the RAND Corporation and the author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

In a recent interview on Inside Quest, Sinek outlined the Four Key Pieces to understanding a Millennial mindset.

  1. They were parented differentlymillennials_icon2x-14
    Too many Millennials grew up subject to failed parenting strategies that have not equipped them for failure or struggle. After school, they are thrust into the real world, and they find out that they are not special, that you get nothing for coming in last and you can’t just have something because you want it.
    In an instant, their entire self-image is shattered, and so you have an entire generation that’s growing up with lower self-esteem than the previous generation, through no fault of their own.
  2. millennials_icon2x-15They are addicted to approval and technology
    “You have an entire generation that has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine through social media and cell phones as they are going through the high stress of adolescence. Why is this important?
    What we are seeing is as they grow older is that too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships (and) they don’t have the coping mechanism to deal with stress. So when significant stress starts to show up in their lives they are not turning to a person, they are turning to a device and to social media.”
  3. They are impatient millennials_icon2x-16
    “Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification. Everything you want you can have instantaneously – except job satisfaction and strength of relationships because there isn’t an app for that. I keep meeting these wonderful, idealistic, hardworking, smart kids in their entry level job and despite having only been in the job for 8 months, they want to quit, saying, “I am not making an impact.”
    What this young generation needs to learn is patience. The overall journey is long and difficult, and if you don’t ask for help and learn that skill set, you will fall off the mountain.”
  4. millennials_icon2x-17They interact with their environment differently
    “We are putting them in corporate environments that aren’t helping them build their confidence, or learn the skill of cooperation, that aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of the digital world and finding more balance. It isn’t helping them overcome the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joy and fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time.
    The worst part about this is they think that it’s them. I am here to tell them it’s not them, it’s the corporations, the corporate environment, it’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do.”

According to Glassdoor, 46% of Millennials left their last job due to lack of career growth.

So what should you be asking millennial candidates to truly see firstly, if they are a good fit and secondly, what is it that they really want for themselves?

Intake meetings traditionally focus on aligning the expectations between recruiter and hiring manager – for what makes a great candidate, where you should look, and how much compensation you can offer. But as the “sell” becomes a more prominent part of the recruitment process, it’s crucial you re-frame your intake conversations to not only cover the basics, but the deeper motivations that make a top Millennial drop what they’re doing, and join your team.

Understanding their motivations will make an enormous difference to how to appeal to them. Why would your Millennial candidate choose this role? Why this team? Why your company over the competition? What value would the candidate add? You need to understand these motivating factors from the outset so you can put them front and center in your outreach. Less title, more project. Less organizational structure, more organizational impact.

BONUS: Download our free checklist to structure, focus and align your intake meetings.

We have found that examining these 4 questions will uncover this information – as well as building rapport and connection during the interview process.

1. When speaking to candidates for this role, what are the primary selling points you would highlight? These are key to appealing to a Millenial’s motivations on a day to day basis. Be as specific as possible – examples sell! (e.g. making a difference in the world, traveling to meet users across the globe, monthly learning and development opportunities.)

2. What is the opportunity here? What would they get access to at our company, or on this team, that they wouldn’t elsewhere? Again, specifics help here, as you can use these to capture attention in your outreach messages. Remember, Millennials want it all, now.

3. Ideally, what direct value would they bring into the organization? Why will they make a difference? This will enable you to communicate impact to candidates – how are they going to change the company for the better?

4. How will you gauge success in this role? Include specifics here about timelines and milestones that should be met, or what success will look like at one month, six months, etc. Helping Millennials understand what both the mountain and the summit look like can help with expectations and motivation.

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  • There are a lot of things that have been clarified by this articles about millenials like me. Things about myself that I should not worry about and things that I have just discovered exist in this generation that was just pointed out by the author because it was not obvious before.