With an increasing number of baby boomers exiting the workforce and entering retirement one generation is poised to take their place – the millennials. Over the past 10 years there has been significant buzz in the recruitment community about hiring this demographic of individuals. Particularly in federal contracting or government offices, the need to attract and retain young talent has been on the radar screen of human resources managers for years.
In the face of increased competition for candidates with skills in cybersecurity, linguistics or geospatial analysis, many of the best fits will come from the millennial generation (those born between 1979 and 2000). If you need to replace an aging or retiring workforce with new talent, you’re probably going to be hiring a millennial.
From the horse’s mouth (I happen to be a millennial myself), it’s not tough. Hiring a millennial comes down to one thing: flexibility. The millennial generation has been criticized for its overinflated self-esteem and exalted for its outside-the-box thinking. Both of these characteristics are somewhat accurate and demand a certain level of flexibility among hiring managers and employers.
Don’t be surprised if a millennial asks about the ability to set alternate work schedules or telework. A traditional nine to five position may not be the ideal for a millennial, but they’re not beyond reason. For government positions that won’t allow a 10-6 work-day consider offering an alternate work schedule where the employee works nine-hour days and gets every other Friday off (popular for a variety of age demographics in the federal workforce).
Expect millennials to care about salary, but not as much as you might think. Millennials will often trade salary for flexibility, or even cool tools. And don’t be surprised if they ask to BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – into the workplace. Comparing two offers a millennial might be inclined to accept the one that offers an iPad and a flexible schedule over the one that offers a higher salary.
Purpose and giving back also matter, so highlight company community service programs or volunteer opportunities. Expect to talk to a millennial about the purpose of your company, your values and mission statement. Also demonstrate how they’ll be able to grow, personally and professionally. From physical fitness programs and gym memberships to mentorships and continuing learning, these things matter to millennials.
Millennials like the idea of exclusivity and access. That doesn’t mean you need to offer them a sit-down with the president of your company but if you’re particularly interested in a candidate let them sit down with a person doing similar work. If you’re hiring in a competitive and highly technical industry such as cybersecurity get one of your company’s engineers on board to work with you on the courting and hiring process. Having an individual who speaks their professional language will go a long way toward attracting candidates in competitive industries.
Millennials job hop. Most don’t have a long-term or lifetime attitude toward a company. Even the intelligence community is embracing this and offering on and off-ramp programs for young people moving into and out of government positions. Don’t be scared away by a candidate who has made several moves in the past years. But do ask them the purpose for each move to help determine if they’re the right fit for your company.
They like Facebook. And You Tube, and every other social networking site out there. (But so do their boomer parents these days). And they’re used to having access to social media almost continuously. They also use social media in a professional context, so if you have internal collaborative learning tools or social applications, mention those in the hiring process. They keep their smartphones with them at all times and will expect to be accessing them regularly (but if they try that during the interview, forget it).
Be prepared for a slightly more demanding interviewee, who possibly puts you on the spot about the company or position. But don’t feel like you need to put up with an arrogant or impolite candidate. Basic social rules still apply. And once again speaking as a millennial myself, don’t buy into the belief that the best hire – especially for technical positions – will be a millennial. Every good recruiter knows it’s about the person – not the age or personal data. Find the right match of skills, experience and personality. With more individuals retiring and more young hires and young vets looking for jobs, however, expect to be dealing much more with the millennial generation in the months and years ahead.