Recruiting in the Time of the Millenials





a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000; a Generation Y-er.

“the industry brims with theories on what makes millennials tick”

For a more entertaining definition of “millennial,” check out what the Urban Dictionary has to say:

I have been in the recruiting industry since 2006 – which doesn’t seem like an incredibly long time by some standards, and by others it may as well be a hundred years. Our world has changed so much in the last ten years – the way we communicate, the way we deliver and receive information, how quickly information travels, and above all the rest – a new generation has emerged – the millennial.

Few things have rocked the recruiting world quite as much as trying to dissect and understand the millennial. For me personally, it’s been a long process, which has had me scratching my head on more than one occasion and has left me with unaccepted job offers and turn downs – even when I negotiated some very handsome salaries.

When I began my recruiting career, we were on the cusp of the social age, or maybe on the cusp of being fully immersed in the social age. In fact, I can distinctly remember contemplating whether I should create a LinkedIn profile or whether this created too many privacy concerns. Similarly, I was hesitant to join Facebook; I couldn’t fathom sharing so many personal details of my life. Needless to say, like most everyone else in the free world, I hopped on all social media platforms and now find myself checking Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram more than I would care to admit. Of course, LinkedIn is the blood that flows through a Recruiter’s veins, so I’m logged in 24/7. Unlike my experience, this increase in social media is all the millennial has ever known – this has been their world for as long as they can remember, and certainly as they became teenagers, college students, and now enter the workforce.

Why is this important in understanding how to recruit and manage the millennial? One of my first hand experiences came in the form of Juno’s first hire. We were just starting to gain momentum and felt that it was time for an employee – our recruiting load was heavy and we needed some sourcing help. Months prior I had reconnected (on Facebook) with a good friend’s daughter who I hadn’t seen in many years – since she was a kid, really. For context, she was now in her senior year of college and facing the unknown of life after college and a liberal arts degree. She noticed various status updates where I shared some crazy interview experiences or other statuses where I bragged about how many candidates I placed and found “dream jobs,” and she became a bit intrigued with the industry. She commented one day, “This job sounds hilarious and awesome – how do I become a recruiter?” To which I responded, “Move to Philadelphia and work for Juno.” With very little more than that, upon graduation, she and her fiancée packed a car and moved from North Carolina to Manayunk and she started at Juno immediately.

So, here’s the first lesson – we reconnected on Facebook, of all places. She knew enough about what I did to be intrigued, I knew enough about her to take a chance, and there we were…working together after all these years of not being in one another’s life at all! Tori is still with us today and has made a huge impact at Juno and continues to help grow the business year after year.

For as much as I might have taught Tori on the business world, client management, and attracting and recruiting talent – I know for sure, she has taught me way more. I had not worked with anyone within Tori’s age bracket for a number of years and the recent college graduate had changed drastically somewhere along the way…and I was oblivious. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from Tori and now the other cast of 20-somethings we have in the office:

  • They will text, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Link to you before they’ll ever call you. In fact, try to call them – you’ll just get a text back. They don’t talk to their moms on the phone, they don’t want to talk to you either. This was the hardest lesson, by far. When I started in recruiting, if we didn’t make 100 calls a day, there was hell to pay the next day. We had a call tracker on our phones and the reports were waiting for us when we got to our desk. If we didn’t hit our numbers, there was a big red question mark. This was 2006 folks, not 1985. Still today, I’ll sit in this quiet office and think, “What the hell are they doing…or NOT doing out there?” They are texting and e-mailing candidates and clients…following people on social media, stalking hiring managers online – and you know what? It’s working…
  • They don’t care about money as much as you’d think. When I started in recruiting I made 35% of what I billed…and when I made a big placement or two and saw that reflected in a check, I wanted more. I wanted to do it again, and again, and again. I was motivated; motivated to bill, bill, bill…to stay late, to work harder, to find the one candidate that no one else could find and make that placement. So, when we started working on commission plans for Juno, we were generous. We wanted to reward motivated employees financially. However, we quickly found that’s not the first thing that motivates them. Don’t get me wrong, financial freedom helps, but it’s not at the top of the list. This is not the “I want more” generation. This generation cares about the company’s core values, about the atmosphere, about work/life balance, about what their company/organization does to give back – they want to take breaks and play foosball or pinball, they want beer in the fridge, and they want to know they are valuable to the company. The old motivators are out the window and this generation does not want to turn a crank for the next 40 years until they receive their pension and then spend the rest of their life fishing. They want to make their mark and they want to make it now. They don’t want a big paycheck, they want a huge pat on the back and they want to know they are making a difference. They don’t want to hate where they go every day, this is not how they want to spend their awesome young years for the big pay off when they are 60. They watched their parents do that and it didn’t look all that attractive…
  • These millenials – they want to (wait for it…) LEARN. They don’t just want to do what you say just because you say it. They want to understand the “why,” the “how,” and the “what”…”what if we did it this way?” They actually want to be efficient. They want to be effective. They want to be productive. They don’t want to sit at their desk until the five o’clock bell rings just to be here, they want to get up and go to the gym and log back in from 9pm – midnight. They are not clock punchers.
  • They do work – and they work hard. They work from home, they work on vacation, and they are invested in companies that are invested in them. The “buy in” is more important than ever.
  • Millenials entered the workforce during The Great Recession and a quick Google search will tell you that student loan debt has reached an all-time high of $1 Trillion. They have had a rough introduction to the working world and I actually think they’ve handled it fairly graciously. I’m irritated when I read articles about the lazy millenial living in their parent’s basement – some of these kids have had limited choices, people…instead of ridiculing this generation – give ‘em a shot.

My advice? Like most everything in life – don’t believe everything you read. This group, these “millenials,” they are good. They are really, really good and when you figure out what makes them “tick”, they are the most diverse and loyal group of employees you’ll ever meet. They are socially responsible. They are tolerant of all types of people. They are motivated. We need to change the way we think and fast. We need to harness their energy for the greater good. Millenials are 1/3 of the workforce and growing by the day. I didn’t have a choice, I had to adapt, and guess what? SO.DO.YOU.


Mikal Harden