Lazy. Entitled. Disloyal. Coddled. Arrogant. Sloppy.
Does this sound like the type of person you’d want to hire? Me neither.
Call them stereotypes or misperceptions, but if you’re curious about why members of Generation Y, or millennials, are often described using these terms, look no further than the job trail.
Oh no, here comes another cranky post from a baby boomer, bemoaning how our future leaders can only be described as slackers … and that’s on a good day.
Hold there. First, I am part of Generation X, the tweener generation between the baby boomers and millennials. I like to think that means I can relate to both sides, even if just a little. Second, I am not here to criticize, but to help.
Here’s a dose of reality: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015, millennials will overtake the majority representation of the workforce, and by 2030 this generation will make up 75 percent of the workforce.
So they ain’t going nowhere, people.
Now, back to the job trail topic. My non-scientific findings are as follows: We posted a couple of open opportunities a few weeks back, opportunities that probably lend themselves to millennial candidates. In the weeks since we posted, we’ve received more than 200 applications or inquiries. Not bad.
Of those, no more than 10 percent followed the very basic instructions listed in the description, which are essentially to submit a thoughtful cover letter, a resume, and salary requirements. No fancy riddles to solve. No request for portfolios or videos. No assessments or aptitude tests. I repeat: thoughtful cover letter, resume, and salary requirements. That’s not a lot to ask, right?
No more than 10 percent got it right.
Before I offer some guidance, let’s make two assumptions:
Without further ado, here are a few pieces of advice if you are a millennial and are looking for a job in the modern marketing world.
Follow the damn instructions
If you don’t follow instructions during the courtship process when your candidacy is in question, then why would an employer assume you can follow instructions once you’re hired?
Recall our scenario above. We asked for the following:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – include cover letter, salary requirements, resume and “Marketing Manager” in the subject line. Please read the entire job description and review our website and blog before submitting. The best candidates will find an appropriate way to capture our attention – don’t blast a resume or portfolio without showing that you did your research and understand what we’re looking for.
If I am a candidate, the first thing I do is take out a piece of paper, or perhaps pull out the smartphone and fire up my note-taking app, and write:
1. Cover letter
3. Salary requirements
To stay in the running, you have to submit all three. Many companies (like us) will throw you out immediately if you leave out any one of those items. It’s that simple.
This is check-the-box stuff, folks. And you haven’t even made it to the difficult parts.
Look back at that paragraph from our job posting. We said that the best candidates will “find an appropriate way to capture our attention.” The same cover letter you send with all your applications won’t do the job. Tell us why you want to work at our company, not just at any marketing company. Show us that you read some of our blog posts and have figured out what makes us unique, and why you think you would fit in. Do something interesting.
I don’t need a research report to tell me that millennials live on their smartphones. I know you text, you take photos, you post status updates, you chat … sometimes, you even make phone calls.
So how is it possible that when a hiring manager reaches out to schedule a phone screen or in-person interview that the message is not responded to within 24 hours?
There are only two answers.
The first: You’re dealing with a serious health, personal or family issue. Totally legit.
The second: You don’t really care about the job you applied for.
Stuff like “the message got stuck in my spam filter” is the modern-day version of “the dog ate my homework.” It’s an excuse. If you are really in pursuit of a new job, you are glued to your inbox and smartphone, and ready to pounce.
Say thank you
It’s really easy to say “thank you.” Go ahead and try it. Comes out pretty smooth, right?
If a hiring manager reaches out to ask for more information, provide that information, and then say “Thank you for your interest.”
If the human resources person emails to set a time for a phone screen, say, “Thank you for following up with me.”
If your interviewer is done grilling you, and you grilling her, say, “Thank you for your time,” and then write a thank you note.
It costs you nothing to say or write “thank you,” and yet it can mean everything if done with polish. And if you don’t say “thank you,” people notice.
Do your research
Research is a part of just about every white collar job in the world. At one point or another, whether it’s a formal or informal assignment, you will need to put on your investigator’s cap.
Skipping the prospective employer investigation is lazy. Look at the website. Check out the About Us page. Read the management team bios. Explore the products and services. Go to the company’s LinkedIn and Facebook page. Do something to get familiar with the company and the position.
Kiss some ass
Be careful here. For most, a little brownnosing is welcome, but making it the cornerstone of your candidacy can be a major turn off.
If you’re going to do this, though, be a polished ass kisser. I get a lot of comments like “I read your blog post about modern marketing skills. Very well done. Enlightening.”
That’s nice, but you could have pulled up our blog while sitting in the lobby waiting for your interview and issued that observation.
Take it one step further with something like this, “I read your blog post about modern marketing skills. Great read. I’ve never considered myself a data analyst, but after reading the post, I realized that I do a good bit of data analysis and interpretation. It was really helpful to see modern marketing broken down into different skillsets.”
With that, you’ve gone from “guy in the lobby who pulled up the blog and made a throwaway comment” to “guy who kissed some ass but at least he read the material.”
One of the positions we’re hiring for is a marketing manager role, and the chosen candidate will work in our Reston, Virginia, office.
If you’re from Denver and you applied for this job, explain yourself. Are you already moving to the Washington, D.C., area? Are you interested in the position only if telecommuting from Denver is an option?
If your background and all of your previous positions are sales roles, explain yourself. Were you once a marketer, and you’re looking to change course from sales to marketing? Are you hoping to find a hybrid sales/marketing role?
If you clearly don’t possess the required skills for the position, explain yourself. How will you overcome the lack of those skills? Are you taking steps (via training) to acquire them?
If you don’t explain, hiring managers will write your own story. You will become Denver guy, sales gal, and no-skills Nancy.
Pay attention to detail
There are so many ways to pay attention to detail. You really need to nail them all. Dress appropriately for the interview. Proofread everything before you send. Show up on time — better yet, show up early. Don’t take a phone interview in a noisy environment. Prepare thoughtful questions. Have references ready. Bring printed copies of your resume. Make eye contact. Speak clearly.
I happen to believe that millennials are not all that different from the rest of us. Sure, maybe they were raised differently and perhaps they aspire to reach different goals, but that doesn’t make them lazy, entitled, or arrogant. As the most educated generation in our history, I expect big things from Generation Y.
Sometimes, though, those big things start with getting all the little things right to land that perfect job.
(millennial slacker / shutterstock)