Why Passive Millennials Are Golden Candidates

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There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about how to attract millennial candidates to an organization. What do they want? How do companies give it to them? And why do so many of the older generations bristle at them?

We will get to all of these questions, but it’s worth pointing out that paying attention to the importance of the millennial workforce is closely tied to tapping into passive candidates.

Let’s start with millennials themselves: Abby Ellin at Psychology Today devotes her energies to exploring what exactly it is about this generation that elicits a unique “brand of vitriol.”

Sure, millennials don’t subscribe to traditional hierarchies, but this means they favor collaboration. Older generations sometimes perceive this as disrespect or not paying their dues, but to millennials it’s about finding a better solution together and more quickly.

Ellin is not alone in her sympathies for the generation. Aaron Levy, writing at Forbes, highlights the “millennial problem” as considered by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Members of these generations, Levy says, perceive their younger colleagues as lazy and entitled, but these fears are unfounded. Instead, he poses that millennials aren’t lazy. They just need to be challenged. They are not entitled. They just want to be heard and to work for a purpose.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Tom DiPrete, a sociology professor at Columbia University, gave his view on the generational definitions: “I think the boundaries end up getting drawn to some extent by the media, and the extent to which people accept them or not varies by the generation.” His point is that many of the imagined differences are perpetuated by the media to make them seem more salient.

Whether or not you agree with DiPrete, the lines have been drawn. The number of boomers left in the workforce is diminishing, while millennials are catching up to Gen Xers. In 2015, millennial workers numbered 53.5 million, or 34 percent of the workforce. By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of all workers.

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Passive Candidates Make Up A Big Population

Just following the numbers makes it clear that hiring practices and recruiting techniques require the utmost awareness of millennials’ needs. This is an important consideration when we come to the subject of passive candidates.

A report from Indeed.com states that 70 percent of workers are either actively looking at other job opportunities (while in employment), or open to new career opportunities. Another 58 percent say they browse job boards every other month.

Jibe’s Emily Smykal quips that these candidates aren’t really passive. Especially not millennials for whom switching jobs is normal practice. They might not be unemployed and actively looking, but they’ve got eyes and ears on better prospects.

Smykal is spot on. Consider that as many as 66 percent of millennials plan to leave their current jobs before 2020, citing lack of leadership development opportunities, rigid work hours, poor work/life balance, and no feeling of purpose in their work.

A large proportion of candidates may be looking to greener pastures, but not all of them will have the luxury of choice. The distinction between active and passive job seekers, Ted Bauer writes at the Context of Things, is the former is desperate for work while the latter can take time to be swayed.

This means passive candidates feel empowered in a way their active counterparts don’t. They are not in a rush and, while they have itchy feet for new ventures, aren’t doing anything drastic either.

This ties well into the idea succinctly put by Kyriaki Raouna at Career Addict: “The best time to start looking for a job is when you already have one.”

Listen

Talk to Millennials Where They Will Listen

For millennials, this is not about lacking loyalty, as perceived by Boomers and Gen Xers. It’s a whole different mindset concerning job longevity.

A LinkedIn survey from 2016 found 93 percent of millennials are open to new job opportunities, and 66 percent will talk to a recruiter. Not surprising when 30 percent don’t plan on sticking around at their current company for longer than a year.

So, how do you connect with passive millennials open to new opportunities but not actively looking for them?

Lisa Rabasca Roepe, writing at SHRM, says millennials, more than members of other generations, are less likely to know anything about your company and are more likely to find out about it on social media.

To exploit this knowledge, Rabasca Roepe suggests a social media strategy for dealing with passive millennial candidates:

  • Project your values and mission, and highlight employee achievements and organization-led volunteer opportunities
  • Keep track of your organization’s reputation on social media, and respond when necessary.
  • Leverage alumni networks, friends and families of employees to spread the word.
  • Build an attractive organizational narrative.
  • Be authentic, which means including current employees’ experiences and input.

Using social media to engage applicants is not a new idea. It is, however, becoming an increasingly viable channel of communication with passive candidates.

In an interview on LinkedIn’s Talent Blog, Sara Luther suggests that effective social media engagement depends on showcasing an organization’s people participating in activities and festivities unique to the company.

Tapping into the power of social media is something with which Cotential CEO Erica Dhawan agrees. She advises Fortune 500 executives to design recruiting strategies for candidates based on their studied behaviors. For the modern workforce filled as it is with millennials, social media plays a big role in attracting passive candidates.

Social media is popular for enticing passive candidates, but this means most recruiters or hiring managers will be hanging out on familiar platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. A busy hub is a hard place to stand out.

Dhawan suggests looking beyond the tried and tested for expertise-specific sites. She references StackOverflow for developers, Doximity for the medical fields, and Levo or The Muse for millennial women.

While social media is the preferred means of communication, it’s the message itself that is important as well as how it is packaged.

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Communicate the Things that Matter to Passive Millennial Candidates

It’s important to speak to the issues that passive candidates want. Chris Fields, at eSkills blog, says most of them want better pay rather than grander titles. They are attracted by good benefits, work/life balance, opportunities to advance, challenging work and roles more aligned to their skill sets.

These are the same things the millennial workforce wants. Although, as Darren Findley of Engage2Excel, and Tom Brennan write at Fox Business, millennial workers may need some encouragement along the way, too.

Citing a 2017 Trendicator report, the pair say that more than 80 percent of millennials think praise or recognition is very important in the pre-hire stage. This is compared with 55 percent of Gen X, 39 percent for boomers, and 31 percent for Gen Z (whose older members are just entering the workforce).

So, millennials want a rewarding pay package undoubtedly, and a little bit of praise thrown into the mix, but money and glory are not all they are after.  

This is what Maggie Overfelt at CNBC argues. She says that more than nine out of 10 millennials want a job based on salary and benefits, but for the right perks, they would take home 12 percent less pay.

The perks include long-term job security, flexible office hours, and a management structure built around mentorship and career options.

What Should Hiring Managers Do?

It’s a question that needs answering, according to Robyn Melhuish at Mashable. She writes that this is part of why there is such hype surrounding passive job seekers. There is a paucity of skills and experience among active job seekers.

This is a common concern in the job market, especially at the entry level. Jean Martin, executive director of CEB’s human resources practice, says there are plenty of millennials not getting any bites, but those who are have about three or four job offers at the same time.

It’s obvious that organizations want the best hires. They need experienced and skilled people in key roles. Fixating on passive candidates, however, may be limiting in the long run.

In an entertaining and informative read about overused terms in the recruitment industry — including generational distinctions — Kelly Blokdijk at Fast Company calls for a shift in perception when it comes to active job seekers.

These people are not “damaged goods.” They could have lost a job for a reason beyond their control, she argues. If candidates have the skills and experience, even without the current job, they should not be tossed aside just because passive recruitment is en vogue.

Whether or not you agree with Blokdijk, the statistics are in: Recruiters and hiring managers value passive candidates. By definition, numbers and behavior, those passive candidates are becoming more and more millennial. They are frequently looking for something new and can afford to be picky.

The good news for organizations looking to hire or recruiters in their employ is that millennials are amenable to being approached. They will listen with open ears. They just need to be courted in the process.  

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