How to Hire Millennials: The Generation That’s Not so Different by Mile Živković on Dec 26, 2018

Privileged, cocky, entitled, lazy, impatient – those are some of the many words used by older generations to describe millennials. This generation, born anywhere from the early 1980s to mid-1990s, seems to get a bad rap for many of their habits, especially how they behave and perform at work.

However, they make up the largest portion of the workforce at the moment, with 66 million of them, or 32% of all workers in the USA, for example. This means that finding, hiring and retaining millennial workers will be incredibly important in the decades to come.

So, how to actually hire millennials? Here are some actionable tips that you may find handy in hiring new employees from this generation.

What makes millennials different?

They’re poorer than older generations. You’ll see many jokes about millennials unable to afford a house because they spend their money on avocado toasts, but the reality is a bit darker. In developed countries, disposable incomes for this generations are lagging behind. So much so that young adults now earn 20% less than their counterparts 30 years ago. In the USA, people under 30 are now poorer than those who are retired.

A combination of expensive education, increasing housing costs and the rise of gig economy makes financial outcomes for millennials look pretty bleak.

They work harder than older generations. One of the most common beliefs for millennials is that they’re lazy and entitled and perform poorly at work. This is anything but the truth, as research has shown that they work harder than generations before them and use fewer vacation days.

They are less likely to stick around in one position (until they settle down). While we’re talking about stereotypes, one of the common ones is that millennials don’t stick to one job and instead hop on to the next job without attaching themselves to the employer. This is somewhat true, but it happens in the same measure as with older generations when they were their age. What’s more, once they settle down and form a family, this behavior is significantly cut down. They tend to get married and have children later in life compared to older generations because it’s more difficult to afford it.

They need good work-life balance. The reason why millennials demand more flexibility is that they were the first generation to start working with significant technological advancements in the workplace. They appreciate the ability to work remotely, have flexible working hours and be in control of how they work.

What do millennial employees value in a job?

Undoubtedly, the way millennials look at work is significantly different from older generations. This means that attracting them to your openings will require different approaches and tactics. These are the things that they value in a job.

business trying to get to priorities with millennials
Source: Deloitte

Salary. Paradoxically, millennials are known as a generation that isn’t primarily motivated by profit. However, in an uncertain economy, the burden of the cost of education and the increased housing prices globally, being paid well is a necessity for millennials.

This is not to say the millennials are attracted to well-paid jobs only. It means that as an employee grows with the company, picks up new skills and experience and becomes a more valuable asset, their salary should reflect it. No matter how great the company is, the moment someone starts feeling they’re being underpaid, their motivation is bound to go down.

Professional development. Much like older generations, millennials are willing to actively work on themselves to become a better employee and a more valuable asset to the company.

First, they need mentorship. In order to guide them to reach their full potential, ensure that the company has a solid mentorship program. Despite their bad rap for disagreeing a lot with their superiors, most millennials value constructive feedback.

Second, there needs to be an opportunity to grow. For many millennials, it’s not unusual to change positions, companies and even entire careers in their lifetime. The reasoning is simple – there’s so much opportunity to learn and grow today that you are only limited by your own willingness to move up the ladder.

For millennial employees, it’s very important to feel the chance to grow within a company. For some people, this means being able to lead a team, for others it means the possibility to venture beyond their expertise into a completely different position, e.g. a developer becoming a product lead.

This is one of the strongest elements in employee loyalty, which is known to be fairly weak with millennials. According to Deloitte’s most recent research, if the work environment is uncertain, 43% of millennials would leave the company within two years, while only 28% would stay beyond five years.

Finally, allot a budget for education. Millennials will expect their employers to finance their education and further improvement. This is why it’s not unusual for startups to offer a certain annual budget for conferences, courses, books and training to new hires as a way to attract them to apply.

Vacation time. There are a number of companies such as Dropbox, Zapier and GitHub with unlimited vacation policies. While most employers are put off by these policies because they think employees will spend more time vacationing than working, it’s far from the truth. In fact, Zapier states that most of their workers don’t take more than 4-5 weeks off annually.

It’s not the unlimited part that attracts millennials, it’s the idea of not having to worry about having enough days off if they’re necessary. As difficult as it is to implement, these policies are an invaluable asset to attract millennial workers.

How to adapt your hiring to the millennial generation

While you cannot immediately change your entire workplace to suit millennials, there are some changes you can implement to make it easier to hire them. Here are a few that you can start working on immediately.

Ditch the resume. We may be a little bit biased, but CVs are one of the most antiquated elements of the modern hiring process. After all, they’ve been used professionally since the 1950s, almost an entire 70 years with barely a change in concept.

millennials don't talking on interviews

Besides being outdated, the major fault of resumes is that they show an applicant’s experience and education, but not the ability to get the job done. You’ve probably heard stories of companies that hire candidates that are great on paper but turn out to be poor performers. On the other hand, there are great employees who couldn’t put together a CV to save their life.

Then there is the issue of education. In developed countries, the cost of education has become so high that many millennials can’t afford it, and a vast majority end up in crippling debt years after getting their diplomas. While education is important, it is by no means a guarantee that the candidate can get the job done competently.

By eliminating the resume from the equation (along with the requirements for education), you focus on what really matters – the candidate’s ability to do the work required in the position.

Provide fast and good quality feedback. Millennials are a generation used to order their groceries online, getting their rides in seconds from Uber or Lyft and picking up a movie in a selection of thousands from Netflix. In other words, it’s an instant generation, used to getting things done on demand and as quickly as possible.

This means that they will require rapid feedback as well. If they’re not the right person for the job because they lack the skills or simply don’t fit into your team, let them know as soon as possible. By prolonging the feedback loop, you risk poor feedback as a company, whether on social media or professional job sites as Glassdoor.

Be ready to innovate your processes. As mentioned, millennials are a tech-savvy generation, always looking for ways to improve their work and the processes within their company. If there’s an app for it – millennials will use it.

Become more adaptive. Great workers are getting harder to find – not because they don’t exist, but because someone’s already taken them. If you find an A-class performer, don’t be too strict on some of your work policies if they require changes. For example, consider changing rules on clothing – if an employee can dress in simple jeans and a T-shirt, don’t require suits to get to work.

Similarly, consider allowing remote work at least a part of the time, as it’s one of the major perks for millennials. According to Deloitte, more than half of them praise remote work as being better productivity, and the vast majority would love to see more remote job positions.

Be ready to accept criticism. The belief that millennials are a snowflake generation is largely unfounded. Similar to generation X and Baby Boomers, they’re open to being criticized, but they also will criticize the employer to improve the working conditions and processes at work. Be willing to accept criticism and consider the employees’ ideas and propositions.

Foster a great work culture. Although it’s really hard to build quickly and efficiently, culture is what makes companies such as Google or Facebook desirable employers. Companies should work on culture from day one to become more appealing to this generation.

Don’t try too hard. Last but not least, millennials have an appreciation for all things genuine. If the company is being dishonest in their work policies, business ethics or treatment of employees, millennials will see through it.


Far from being lazy and entitled, millennials are very similar to the generations before them. Once they’re given enough room to grow and paid a stable income (along with flexibility that comes with modern tech), millennials are an immense asset to the modern workplace.

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