Keys to Hiring Gen Y

In an ongoing series on “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Gen Y” by Bruce Tulgan, whY genY provides a Spark Notes-esque recap and reaction to each chapter. In Chapter 2: Get Them On Board Fast with the Right Messages, we see eight things Gen Y cares about, other than compensation, and seven best practices for hiring Gen Y.

Eight Non-Monetary Considerations for Gen Y on the Job

(*Tulgan’s ideas in bold and/or italic, my recap not.)

  1. Performance-based compensation: Want to know will be rewarded in proportion to value added to company. Yes. Or at least see how contribute to the bottom line, to evaluate our own performance.
  2. Flexible schedules – Gen Y cares about quality of life. They weren’t latchkey kids – their time was always maximized. Make sure you allow them to do the same with their job-life balance.
  3. Flexible locationIf it’s possible, make it happen. So many careers work via computer today, and just because Gen Y is “at home” doesn’t mean they’re not working (just Google Chat them, you’ll find out if they’re there). They make take a two hour lunch, but Gen Y has a work ethic unlike any past. Most will make up the time, and work harder during that time, because they know flex time is a privilege.
  4. Marketable skills – both formal and informal training. Don’t underestimate this one. As fields continue to change and grow, marketable skills are at a premium. A Gen Y worker writing grant proposals might not mind having to learn CAD to make scale drawings, because they want to go back to school to be an engineer. A teacher might not mind taking on after-school programs because they plan on starting a nonprofit to benefit high-risk kids.
  5. Access to decision makers – Don’t want to climb the ladder. I think Tulgan’s statement here is misleading. Yes, Gen Y wants an introduction and any perceived benefit of working for your company (they wouldn’t have chosen you if they didn’t think you had a great reputation), but they know you can’t have a good relationship overnight. Just help them start out with introductions, they’ll take it from there.
  6. Personal credit for results achieved – Not interested in the “greater good” in the sense it was used in the past – it’s because Gen Y knows companies aren’t looking out for them like before, not because Gen Y doesn’t care.
  7. Clear area of responsibility – Know they can control one area, use it as a proving ground.
  8. Chance for creative expression – Tulgan says want clear pic of parameters that will constrain creativity to imagine terrain in which have freedom to do things their own way. Seems to say want to know limits on creativity to set realistic expectations. Possibly also focusing on understanding that “clear area of responsibility” mentioned before.

Seven Best Practices for Hiring Gen Y

Be selective. Don’t hire if there are red flags, employee has to select you too and they can’t do that if you just say what they want to hear. Better to leave position unfilled than fill with wrong candidate.

I’ve said this so many times in so many ways: Hire employees that get it. Be honest. Respect their needs and the companies, commit to smarter hiring practices.

Make the process rigorous. If you take too long Gen Y will walk away.

This is an immediate generation.  Tulgan has great ideas on how to keep them interested if by necessity the process is lengthy.

Scare them away. Sell them to your doorstep, then give them the hard stuff.

Respect their ability to understand and be able to take the good with the bad. No job is a dream job, and every Gen Y realizes it’s a tradeoff.

Testing. It can work, but only if company is careful, knowledgeable about process and proper use.

I was asked to diagram a sentence on the whiteboard during an interview at an ad/p.r. firm (that paid only $18,000 to start out in 2006. Come on. Waitresses earn more.) That kind of approach is so out of touch with Gen Y, it’s silly. We weren’t taught hard grammar, and though our writing skills might be superb, it’s a select few who can actually do it on the spot. A better approach was a subsequent interview, that asked me to write a news release based on a few key facts.

Do a realistic job preview. Temporary trial periods, realistic interviews, job shadow or tag-along process.

Tulgan calls out internships that save choice, juicy assignments for entry level employees. He cites law firms whose first year associates want to know when the group baseball outing is, after working 60+ hours the first month on the job. Firms may think internships are just a way to attract entry level people later on by making it flashy and fun, but at the end of the day, you shoot yourself in the foot because those same employees or their friends will have an unrealistic view of what the job and company is. They won’t last long in an entry-level job, hurting everyone.

Probationary hires are a key for Gen Y, and one I wish employers would take more seriously. Yes, it’s costly to hire and have to re-hire if someone doesn’t work out, but you’ll have a better employee in the long run. It’s hard for both parties to accurately express things like aptitude for learning, ability to research and dive right in, in just one sitting. If you have the luxury of time, use it to everyone’s advantage. The employee can walk away if it’s not what they thought it was, and vice versa.

Close the Deal Fast. If you can’t bring them on immediately, maintain a high level of communication:

  • Continue convo with background material, sales collateral
  • Send actual assignments, let them sit in on calls, fill out forms, get basic materials, emergency sheets, etc
  • Have key people on team make introductions, how their job relates to the new hire’s, what teams share

Do Behavioral Job Interviews

  • Not enough hiring managers know how to interview.
  • So many are inappropriate, go through resume out loud, go too personal.

I’ve experienced so many interviews like this, and I almost never get the job when I can tell the interviewer is nervous, doesn’t allow me to talk about the things I know matter and flat out tries to put me on the defensive. If you just walk through my resume, you understand what I did, but not what skills I can put to work for you. If you ask me questions about specific skills and let me use my experiences as examples of problem solving and how my mind works, we’ll both benefit.

Though it’s ok to highlight key needs (certifications, level of education, years of experience) just as easy entry points to start the conversation, don’t dwell on my resume. Actually read it and get what you need to learn from it. I know when you haven’t read my resume —  and it makes your company look worse for it. Why would I invest in a company that doesn’t have time to read one page for a job that will affect the next few years of my life?

Tulgan has an outstanding list for anyone doing any hiring. I’ve hired Gen Yers myself, several interns and previewing other employees I’d be working with. This list would be a key primer – just substitute what skills the candidate needs to have, and you can use it for almost any field.


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