Three Things to Keep in Mind When Recruiting Recent Grads

The final semester for the over 1.5 million college seniors is coming to a close, and the frantic struggle to secure legitimate post-grad employment has begun. The class of 2014 enters a sluggish job market with a debt burden exceeding that of any previous generation. Combining the macro-economic situation with the stigma that Generation Y as a whole is too lazy, arrogant, entitled, and irresponsible to function in the “real world” paints a picture that is bleak at best. Although slightly biased – my outlook of the current situation is slightly more optimistic. The changes in culture, organization, and incentives are evolving and the newest entrants into the labor market face a landscape much different than their parents and grandparents. Here are a few things recruiters should keep in mind when recruiting recent grads:

We’re soft – be critical in the right way: From last place trophies to ego-shielding “nice try,” Millennials have been sheltered from the criticism and reality of real-life expectations that molded past generations. The uber-supportive upbringing of most recent grads has turned their self-esteem marshmallow soft, changing the methods for effective communication along the way. Criticism is essential when establishing and maintaining standards across an organization, and for Millennials, the inability to accept it poses an issue. The key to effective criticism is communication. Real-time, one-to-one feedback establishes a level of communication and fosters relationships that allow for critique without the resulting emotional damage also associated with being chosen last on the playground.

Benefits matter – make us understand them: The new crop of graduates enter the workforce more indebted and less financially responsible than any class before them. While the ability to reap the benefits of their parents’ insurance until the age of 26 enables recent grads to “kick” the understanding of the costs associated with staying healthy down the proverbial road for a few more years, the reality of being truly financially independent is a harsh one.  Retirement saving, tax benefits, and vacation days add significant value to any job offer and have lasting impact on long-term financial security – if we take advantage of them. Unfortunately, many recent grads lack the financial literacy to distinguish between Roth and traditional IRAs or growth and value investment funds, let alone the risks and benefits associated with each. Although society would undoubtedly benefit if every college graduate was forced to take “Real-Life Finance” before receiving a diploma, that is not the world we live in, and the responsibility to explain the why employees are lucky to have 401K match and dental coverage falls on the recruiter.  Offering sessions on different benefits packages, explaining how rare these benefits are in the workforce, and providing guidance on their selection reinforces an organization’s commitment to its employees and strengthens culture.

We’re casual – accept it: Whether you choose to blame Twitter, texting, Facebook (and its hoodie-wearing CEO), pop culture, parents, or any other contributing entity for the casualization of society, the reality is, it’s happening so we’d all best accept it. As sad as it is, many recent graduates think in terms of hashtags, and yoga pants and sweatshirts are making their way into office buildings across the county. Casual behavior of Millennials in the workplace clashes with traditional corporate culture expected by members of Generation X and Baby Boomers, and the need for constant communication and feedback from management doesn’t align well with the vertical organization of or many corporations. Not every Millennial wants to wear flip flops and work from a beanbag chair, but the evolution of “the office” highlights the variety of corporate cultures available to recent graduates – and this matters. Work-life balance and schedule flexibility are beginning to trump the desire for fat paychecks, prompting changes in scheduling for companies such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America to try and retain talent despite demanding hours. For flat organizations relying on team-based projects, cultural fit may be the most important factor in deciding where Millennials search for and ultimately find employment. Whatever the culture is at your client’s company, communicate it clearly. Understating the importance of professionalism to a generation that attended college classes in sweatpants will leave everyone disappointed.

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