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Mastering the Mindset of the Millennial Candidate

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The other day I was privy to attend HR.com’s 2014 Talent Acquisition Excellence Forum and loved the many takeaways that were throughout the sessions. That being said, there were definitely some sessions that struck closer to home than others. A prime example was the Careerbuilder.com and Hewlett-Packard (HP) presentation: “Mastering the Mindset of the Millennial Candidate”.

In this fast past global economy, the workforce is quickly changing. By the year 2025, 75% of ALL workers in the United States will be millennials¹. A scary thought, isn’t it? Before we jump into the reason why it’s scary, or how to work with the millennial, we should define what a millennial really is.

According to popular thought, careerbuilder.com, and HP; a millennial is a person that is born in the early 80’s to the early 2000’s. They can also be called Generation Y, if millennial is not to your liking. Aside from being born with the emergence of the internet, 60% of Millennials are well educated, which is the largest percentage of any age group1! Gen Y’s parents nagging to “study hard” and “go to college” has really paid off.

Unfortunately, many found out after graduating college that the only thing waiting for them was debt and hard times. This can be seen in the $1.2 trillion student debt² incurred by millenials, one of the many pressures that has made this generation so cynical and cautious. So, how do we go about attracting the best of them, and how do we learn to get some of the brightest minds of the era to work at our companies?

Well, there are 4 best practices that you have to prepare for in order to capture the right millennial candidates and retain them within your company. As long as you are implementing these steps you will have a competitive millennial recruiting function!

First, we are going to look at the “Orientation” phase. As mentioned before, 2/3 of millennials are college educated or have gone to a vocational school. This means that they are typically bringing years of research experience to the table, and boy, will they research your company.

Careerbuilder found that 84% of millennials Google their job searches, and that 80% of them use job boards. If your company is not using SEO/SEM on the careers page, then most of the jobs that you are putting on there are not being found by candidates. This would lead to the jobs not being found, and then people won’t apply for them, will they? You post your jobs to attract candidates to your business! Make sure that they aren’t getting buried by ads with better keywords than you!

HP found out the hard way. Their hiring technology was back from before computers were even popular. People were even cracking jokes about using stone tablets and smoke signals at the table I was sitting at. The system that they were using was old, clunky and not user friendly. Their Facebook page had less than 1000 users on it (Note: this was just the HP Hiring FaceBook page). Yes, an enterprise technology company like HP was feeling the heat, and it was not helping them at all. They were losing all their best talent to their competitors and they were not making it easy for their new hires to be recruited!

After figuring out that they had a problem, HP went to work. They decided to start anew and to turn over every stone to get the right process started for them. They started by making job searches easier with a ton of SEO/SEM work. Meaning instead of having their jobs show up on the 7th/8th page, they started showing up on the top of the first page. The reasoning behind this was that the fact that any page beyond the first 3 pages in a Google search gather only ~38.5% traffic³. That means, prior to their SEO/SEM work, HP was only getting 38.5% of the traffic that they were looking for! That had to change, especially because of the amount of hiring that they were looking to do.

Following up the search process, “Orientation,” is the “Consideration” phase. This step in the millenial’s job search is really a continuation of the previous step. After finding a job that they are interested in, millennials will research the position AND the company. 82% of Gen Ys research the job, and 70% of them will reach out on social networks to find the inner workings of the company4.

Scared? You should be! This is when the millennial decides if they like the idea of working for the company or even applying. They are doing research on everything that the company is known for, as well as what it is like to work there. At HP they had to change things up in order to have word spread that it was a great place to work.

The first thing that HP did was create a segmented Careers Page for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram separate from their corporate accounts. The main reason for this was so that they could become unique unto themselves, and personalize the touches with candidates and prospects. It also allowed them to source their jobs in multiple places, more rapidly and had HP employees onboard with the process. This action spread the word on both their open jobs and what type of place HP was like to work at. This social interaction was key to getting to the next phase of the best practices for millennials.

The “Action” phase is third on the list of best practices. 60% of the millenials are researching potential employers just to evaluate the culture of those companies. What is it like to work there? What are the perks? Why should I choose to work here over their nearest competitor? Those are a few of the questions that they are asking as they search, but wouldn’t it be even be better to just show them the better culture at your company?

When 95% of applicants don’t ever hear back from the company that they are applying to5, doesn’t that already start the company’s reputation off on the wrong track? What if the applicant goes to a partner company or to a company that is looking to use yours as a vendor? What would you do if your business partners never got back to you? Make sure your actions advance and enhance the company culture, because that is what a millennial (…actually, don’t we all?) is really looking for.

Human Resource Hiring Managers at HP really took advantage of the social engagement to this aspect of their job marketing. Using the social networks, they would reach out to every applicant to let them know where they were in the hiring process. It was mainly in response to applicants that inquired about their status, and HP worked to make it a 48 hour turn around. So should there be any social engagement done by the applicant, HP would contact that applicant within 48 hours. This drove up the perception of the culture around the hiring process and people that were applying really appreciated the transparency in the hiring process.

Finally, the last best practice for millennials is the “Engagement” phase. Even though it might sound obvious, this is where a lot of companies drop the ball, and the reason why most millennials will have 10 or more jobs before turning 406! Companies need to make sure that they are engaging their Gen Y workers and allow them chances to grow. On top of that, what is the work culture like? Careerbuilder found that 62% of millennial workers would take a lower paying job if they found it to be enjoyable and a good cultural fit! That is a huge cost savings just by having a healthy work place!

Admittedly, HP is still struggling with this. They are trying to keep employees engaged by letting them grow and learn. They are also trying to create a travel program wherein an employee can work anywhere in the world (where there is an HP office, but try finding a place that doesn’t have one).  They are still working on this best practice, but knowing that they have a defined goal and a path to get there has them hopeful.

And that completes the 4 best practices to “Mastering the Mindset of the Millennial Candidate”. What did you think? With my background in International Business and Culture Adaptation, and being a millennial myself, I agreed with most of what the presenters were saying. Although there are times that we [millennials] are just going to have to tough it out, I see the way that we do things is very different to other generations. If there are any steps that you think were missed, or would like to comment on the phases, then leave a note below!


[1] careerbuilder.com

[2] forbes.com

[3] Searchenginewatch.com

[4] careerbuilder.com

[5] Accolo.com

[6] Accolo.com

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