11 Millennials' Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them

May 8, 2019

“Millennials,” “Generation Y,” “Generation WE,” “The Boomerang Generation,” “The Peter Pan Generation” — we go by many names and were born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Born in 1990, I fall right smack in the middle of this generation, and there is no denying that we are the subject of a heated debate: Are we a blessing or a curse?

A lot of people seem to think that we are, well, a pain. The week I graduated from college, Time Magazine released an article titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” which called us lazy, entitled, self-obsessed narcissists. Ouch! On the other hand, we’ve been called open-minded, liberal, self-expressive, upbeat, and overtly passionate about equality. Naturally, I’d prefer to believe this description over the former (how Millennial of me). But the truth is, both arguments hold some grounds for belief. The reality must fall somewhere in between.

The interest in and the controversy surrounding my generation resulted in a packed audience and lengthy Q&A at LinkedIn Talent Connect’s session: “Millennials: How to Attract, Hire, & Retain Today’s Workforce.” Led by Sondra Dryer, Barry Sylvia, and Melissa Hooven, the talk covered the dos and don’ts of working with Millennials, as well as our overall characteristics and desires.

I walked away from the session with a clear understanding of how recruiting Millennials is different and the key points every recruiter should emphasize when talking to this generation. To help out those of you that weren’t there, I put together the following list of key takeaways from the session — with a few of my own observations thrown in.

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Related: Millennials Aren’t Sure They'll Fit In at Your Company—Here Are 5 Ways to Show Them They Will

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Millennials are…

Multitaskers

  • Millennials are multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities at once. This also means that we are easily distracted and find social media and texting hard to resist.
  • What this means for you: Barry Sylvia recommends keeping Millennials on track by being upfront about your expectations and establishing both daily and weekly goals. If your Millennial employees have deadlines to meet, you’ll be less likely to find them playing on their phones at the office. During the recruiting process, be sure to tell them that the job will have variety and that every day will be different.

Connected

  • Millennials know everything there is to know about social media because we are living it. We are constantly perusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — it’s how we share and get information.
  • What this means for you: If your company isn’t employing social media effectively, Millennials will think you’re irrelevant (sorry, it also turns out subtlety isn’t our strength). Keep your social media outlets active at all times. This doesn’t mean constantly posting jobs or product updates — try to start conversations that will engage your audience. Talk about topics that relate to your company or will interest your followers. Melissa Hooven suggests allowing your Millennial employees to help you with your social media strategy. After all, they are the experts.

Tech-Savvy

  • There’s no doubt that the majority of Millennials are more tech-savvy than other generations, although Generation Z may soon surpass us (yikes!).
  • What this means for you: Make sure that your company and team stay up to date technologically. Also, ensure that your company and career sites are mobile-optimized so that you can easily be found online from any device at any time. And make the application process fast and easy by allowing people to apply for positions with content from LinkedIn or other sources. You can learn more about mobile recruiting strategies in LinkedIn’s Mobile Recruiting Playbook.

Curious

  • It’s true: Millennials are proven to be the most curious generation in the workforce today. And since research shows this soft skill plays a vital role in a company’s success — leading to fewer bad decisions, more innovation, and stronger team performance — it’s worth paying attention to during the hiring process.
  • What this means for you: To hire and retain curious people, showcase the learning opportunities available at your company. If you offer training programs, educational benefits, or subsidized access to online courses like LinkedIn Learning, be sure these are reflected in your employer branding efforts. (Hint: Gen Z is also heavily invested in continuous learning, so these perks won’t go out of style anytime soon.) And to test for curiosity, try asking candidates, “Tell me something you’ve taught yourself in the past six months.” Curious people are always actively pursuing new skills, so they shouldn’t have to think hard before answering.

Millennials want…

Instant Gratification & Recognition

  • Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track. Yes, it sounds a little needy…and it is. But many Millennials grew up with constant praise from their Baby Boomer parents. It’s what they know.
  • What this means for you: During the recruiting process, tell Millenial candidates about how important the position is and that they will be making a valuable contribution to the company. Once hired, recognize their accomplishments publicly. While working at PwC, Sondra Dryer did this by implementing a milestone rewards program. This type of recognition encourages Millennials to work hard and increases their job satisfaction.

Work-Life Balance & Flexibility

  • Millennials aren’t as willing as former generations to sacrifice their personal life in order to advance their careers. They like to “work hard, play hard” and want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance. They also expect a more flexible work environment than previous generations and want to work for a company that supports various causes.

  • What this means for you: Communicate that your company values work-life balance. Tell them about sponsored events outside the workplace, benefits, charity and volunteer work you support, and any fitness or health-related programs that you provide for your employees. You can also let them know that as long as they are meeting deadlines and goals and attending meetings, their time-in/time-out is up to them. If possible, give them the option to work from home on occasion.

Collaboration

  • Millennials are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues.
  • What this means for you: During the recruiting process, let them know that there will be plenty of opportunities for collaboration and team projects. You can also design your office space to allow for teamwork and easy idea sharing (think open cubicles, white boards, and drop-in rooms that can be used for group meetings).

Authenticity

  • Millennials gravitate toward companies that adopt a relatable, straightforward communication style. They’ve been exposed to so much advertising throughout their lives that they’re sick of corporate jargon and meaningless buzzwords. They just want you to keep it real.
  • What this means for you: Cut the jargon! Banish corporate speak from your job descriptions and employer brand content and focus on speaking like, well, a normal person. You don’t need to try and adopt “Millennial speak” — honestly, it’s probably better to avoid it at all costs, because content that feels inauthentic is worse than content that’s dry and dated. Just use simple, succinct language that anyone can relate to and you’ll spark up real conversations in no time at all.

Transparency

  • Millennials want to feel like they have an open and honest relationship with their manager and co-workers and that there won’t be any nasty surprises when they join a company. Once they’ve signed on, they want assurance that their opinion is valued and both give and receive a good deal of feedback.
  • What this means for you: Make certain that there is unrevised information about your company available online and let them know about any downsides that the position they are applying for may have. They will appreciate your honesty, knowing that no job is perfect. Furthermore, tell them what their performance review process will be like. Once they are hired, provide them with the ongoing feedback that they desire.

Career Advancement

  • Millennials want to know that they will have the opportunity to advance and develop their careers within the company they choose to join.
  • What this means for you: During the recruiting process, tell them about opportunities that they will have to move-up in the ranks. If possible, Barry Sylvia suggests implementing a program whereby Millennial talent can rotate through different divisions of the organization in order to find the best fit. This kind of lateral move can significantly boost retention and help employees find a place where they will thrive.

Diversity

  • Millennials (and Gen Z, for that matter) care deeply about diversity — and they’re suspicious of companies that only seem to pay lip service to the issue without really doing anything about it.
  • What this means for you: Emphasize your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion across all your employer branding channels. But don’t be afraid to admit where you’re falling short. Acknowledging that you’ve still got work to do and showing that you’re taking positive steps helps build trust with Millennial candidates — showing that you take the issue as seriously as they do.

Every generation presents its own challenges and, clearly, Millennials are no different. But we’re really not so bad! The more you know about us, the better off your company will be.

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