Simply Saying “We Don’t Hire Millennials,” Is Foolish - Interview With Robert Wendover
9 min read
October 1, 2015
Last updated: November 24, 2020
Robert W. Wendover
is an award-winning author
who has been researching and writing about workforce trends for more than 30 years.
What are the most common recruiting and hiring mistakes that companies make in your experience?
Which trends have the most effect on recruiting and are they making hiring new talent easier or more difficult in your opinion?
- Not having a clear definition of what you need and prioritizing that list is the number one mistake. Job descriptions take time to develop, but they are invaluable in developing the screening process and serving as a benchmark when judgments need to be made.
- This is followed by too much dependence on interviews and store-bought assessments. Ask applicants to perform tasks. Put them through nuanced role-plays. Check their writing. Ask them to make presentations. All of this takes lots of time. But every hire is a decision worth tens of thousands of dollars. Most employers force fit selection into the rest of their schedules rather than giving it the time and attention it deserves. Then they’re surprised and frustrated when things don’t work out.
- Lack of clear communication with applicants. Young workers, for instance, assume that they will have a lot more immediate flexibility and influence than is reality. Work is work. Many in the emerging generations have not learned to accept that. This can foster an impatient, almost adversarial, relationship with the employer almost immediately. That said, successful employers have learned that “paying your dues” is no longer relevant. They need to provide opportunities for growth and challenge on the job. Older generations got restless too. But they accepted their place out of a sense of duty and obligation. These themes are an anathema to young workers. There’s always going to be some tension. Learn to manage it.
- Targeting the wrong people. It is a natural tendency to recruit the applicants with the top grades, best experience, and top talent. These are also the applicants that are the most restless, demanding, and marketable to others. If you want people to stay, hire those with adequate skills and a desire for stability. If you want a powerhouse person in the position, expect that person to grow out of the position quickly, increasing your turnover. I see this mismatch constantly.
RW: If I had to pick three trends that will influence recruiting and hiring, they would be a lack of skilled applicants, the influence of mobile technology, and the coming tension between employment and contract work.
There are many generational stereotypes nowadays (i.e. never hire gen this for that’). Do you believe any of them have basis in reality?
- At present, we are forcing many young people into higher education of one form or another, but without direction in many cases. A good portion of them never finish and end up in positions for which they are poorly matched. This, coupled with the lack of interest in less-than-glamorous industries is resulting in a significant deficit of qualified applicants for a number of essential positions. Short of implementing a national industrial policy, which is politically unlikely, employers in many fields will resort to training new employees in house rather than relying on colleges and technical schools to provide them with the applicants they need.
- With so-called “digital natives” representing an ever-larger percentage of the workforce, communication on mobile platforms will become essential. This is not just talk and text, but all things data, from resumes and applications to research, graphic design, engineering projects and so on. Recruiters will need to be adept at communicating with prospective applicants who only communicate through social media. Employers will adapt to these trends while struggling to manage the transition from everyone in one location to employees working where they happen to be.
- Up to this point in the US, there has been a clear demarcation between employment and contractor status. With the emergence of the sharing economy (uber, lyft, etc.) employers are struggling to find the balance between obeying regulators and dealing with the desires of workers who want to reject the traditional salary and wage relationship. Over time, much of this may settle itself as workers understand that self-employment lacks security and presents other challenges. In the meantime, this promises to be a constant part of recruitment and hiring discussions and planning.
RW: Unfortunately, there is way too much written about generational differences that’s more supposition than fact. The outrageous examples get the most press and people extrapolate from there. That said, there is some truth to each of the attributes discussed about the individual age groups. Employers need to keep all this in perspective but maintain a focus on hiring the best match for the job. Simply saying “We don’t hire Millennials,” is foolish for instance. Everyone who applies however should be provided with a clear understanding of job expectations and career opportunities. Older generations approach work differently than youngers do. Discussing these differences on the job is critical to an effectively functioning workplace. Every generation brings certain attributes to the table. Assuming that older means out of touch with technology is just as wrong, for example, as assuming that all young workers are wizards at all things digital.
Which tools beyond the usual suspects like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter do you see as essential to HR professionals?
RW: This is a matter of active outreach and targeting. The firm can’t simply exist on these sites and others. Many large firms employ full-time recruiters specifically for the task of connecting with potential candidates on-line. It means connecting with lots of people to see who they know and then who those people know. Patience and perseverance are the keys. It’s also about the firm projecting the right image. Corporate social responsibility, for instance, is a priority for the Millennial workforce right now. Most employers don’t have the resources to employ full-time on-line recruiters, but there’s nothing wrong with incentivizing outgoing employees that match your target applicant groups to reach out to their peers as long as they are meeting their other job expectations.
A lot of companies are moving toward distributed workforce. Do you have any advice specifically for companies who work with remote workers?
RW: With the growth of the service economy, commuting times increasing, technology allowing for distance work, and the resistance of many to work in a traditional office setting, a distributed workforce is an inevitability for many firms.
There are two keys here:
- Setting clear expectations and enforcing them.
- Allowing people to work remotely only if they are matched for that kind of responsibility.
This makes hiring the right people all that more important. Once again, skills are not as important as work attributes. I can teach you the skills you need. It takes a lot more to training on those characteristics that make remote workers effective. I don’t care how much you know. I want to know how you work.
Thank you for the interview.