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Millennials Prove to Be Hard to Place Because of Expectations

Retiring baby boomers are being replaced in the job market by a group of young professionals notoriously difficult to employ. While millennials have a reputation for high expectations and a sense of entitlement, recruiters and employers may need to accept that there is a new normal in the talent pool.

While there are no precise dates when one generation starts and another ends, researchers usually define baby boomers as the post-World War II “baby boom” or those born from 1946 to 1964, ranging in age from 68 to 50 and estimated to number nearly 76 million people. Then followed Generation X, which spans from 1965 to 1984, or people ranging in age from 30 to 49. Researchers from Harvard University say there are nearly 82.1 million Generation Xers. Generation Y is made up of people who are 19 to 29, born from 1985 to 1995, while millennials are people born between 1996 and 1981, ranging in age from 18 to 33.

It is this last group, the millennials, who are emerging into the workforce and who have suffered through nearly seven years of hiring instability, and yet have a reputation for being the most demanding generation when it comes to job placement prospects. Instead of clamoring to the first job they can get, most millennials tend to be more selective in their job hunts.

According to Pew Research, a third of older millennials have a four-year college degree or higher, making them the best-educated group of young adults in American history. At the same time, millennials are also the first in the modern era to have high levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment along with lower levels of wealth and personal income than the two generations preceding them, Generation X and baby boomers, according to Pew Research.

Challeging Placements

With financial hardships, post-recession job prospects and low levels of wealth, millennials might be expected to exert all efforts to garner the highest-paying job they can get. Instead, studies suggest that millennials value things like company culture and flexibility over competitive salaries. This highly defined set of values may lend itself to the reputation of entitlement. The idea that “I don’t have to work just anywhere” is unique to this generation.

“I think it’s more of a challenge to place millennials,” said Sharon Dillon, senior branch manager at Pridestaff, a temporary placement agency in La Jolla. “It’s a different attitude that they have and a sense of entitlement that we see in this age group.”

While Boomers are retiring from competitive fields like software engineering, millennials are replacing them as candidates for highly-skilled positions. Millennials will make up 36 percent of the workforce by 2014 and 46 percent by 2020. With a high-tech talent shortage and legislation limiting offshore candidates, placement firms need to consider how to recruit top-tier talent from the millennial pool.

“Hiring is speeding up,” said Paul Smith, branch manager of the Oceanside office of Peak Technical Staffing USA, an Orange County-based firm that specializes in information technology placement. “If you’ve got great training and are a hot product right out of college, that’s a premier candidate group.”

When premier candidate groups are also known for being highly particular when it comes to their employers, recruiters and staffing agencies need to identify what millennials value in the workplace in order to recruit current talent for their client companies.

“I think [millennials] are looking for a more fun environment,” Pridestaff’s Dillon said. “When I grew up, no company had pingpong tables in the breakroom. But I think company culture is more important to them now.”

Turning the Tables

While table tennis in breakrooms may appeal to many 20-somethings, 26-year-old Northwest University graduate Katie Metzger has different requirements.

“The most important thing is finding a company that is willing to invest in me and develop my skills.” Metzger said. “I want to leave an organization with more skills than when I started. My focus is in social justice issues, so the mission of an organization is highly important, along with the way in which they execute their mission.”

According to Forbes magazine, millennials are more likely to look for meaning or impact in their work and are not satisfied merely with a paycheck. Helping them understand their role in a larger vision helps give them a sense of purpose and greater job satisfaction.

Nate Metzger, who earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology last year, said that in his opinion, the interviewer is on trial more than the interviewee.

“I’m the most important person in the interview, because I have to answer for myself and my ethics while I practice,” Metzger said. “I need a good employer in order to be an effective employee. A poor or stressed-out employer will likely affect my work. I work in community health for low pay, so I don’t need to take any other low standards just because I’m starting out. I take care of this by interviewing the interviewers about how they view their responsibility. It takes two to tango.”

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