SmartRecruiters Blog

3 Ways to Recruit (and Not Recruit) Gen Y

Generation Y is different. I think we all get that by now, as various articles in the media constantly remind us. But does anyone ever bother to explain WHY they are so different from previous generations when it comes to expectations in the workplace? Marketing slogans like “Live for the Moment” and “YOLO” capture this generation’s satisfaction-now-please attitude, beliefs and behaviors, both in lifestyle and at work.

For many in this generation, work is temporary and a way to express themselves – not a means to define them. Generation Y is all about lifestyle and instant gratification. They will job hop whenever necessary to meet their immediate wants, needs and goals.

Generation Y grew up in an era of technology. They have always known smart phones, satellite television, video games, mobile computers and the internet. Technological advancements in real-time media and communication drive their expectation for immediacy

Now, how does this impact the recruitment of Gen Y talent? For one, here are 3 traditional recruiting practices that Gen Y does not respond well to:

3 Ways to Recruit Employees

1. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now?

Gee, do you have any idea how that sounds to a generation that isn’t even sure about tomorrow? With an abundance of choices available to them in an ever-changing, highly volatile and fragile world, the future is as predictable as a lightning stroke. Asking this question to a generation that pretty much thinks ahead in iPhone releases rather than annual cycles is no longer helpful. The truth is, they will make up an answer to satisfy the recruiter just to pass the interview but trying to assess their ambition or goal-orientation this way, is as outdated as expecting linear resumes.

2. Automatic email replies (or better yet – no replies at all) during the application process.

For someone being used to VIP treatment throughout their life (think Trophy Kids, helicopter parents and all that stuff) suddenly being ignored or treated like a number is pretty much like being downgraded from First Class to the luggage compartment – instead of being addressed by name, sipping champagne and choosing your meal from a fancy menu, we stick a label on you, shove you in the cargo bay with the masses and simply ignore you if you don’t stand out. For Gen Y candidates an impersonal and indifferent application process is an indication of how they would be treated as employees. Considering the lack of respect and denial of their individual purpose, they can become actively disengaged before having even walked through your door.

3. Promoting an unrealistic employer brand.

Gen Yers are not looking for a job, they are looking for a mission. Driven by a high sense of purpose, their work – as an inseparable part of life – needs to suit Gen Y’s lifestyle, allow them to feel part of a tribe and align with their personal values. Branding IS key. However, do not try to sell your employer brand for something it is not. Just because you understand what Gen Y is drawn to, do not pretend to be a Gen Y magnet if reality proves otherwise. Social media is too transparent and too omnipresent for people not to find out that you’re trying to fake it and the damage done to your brand is disproportionally higher than the intended benefit!


So what IS working with Gen Y talent? Check out these 3 unconventional recruiting practices that cater to Generation Y:


1. Online recruiting events

In line with their natural communication preferences, technology-based virtual events allow Gen Y candidates to actively engage with potential employers, chat with future colleagues, explore workplace environments and get a feel for whether an organization is a potential fit for them.

2. Gamified attraction or humorous video campaigns ( i.e. My Marriott Hotel Game)

With human brains hardwired to enjoy games and video being THE trend media for young audiences, it is not surprising that gamification and video campaigns work extremely well to attract Gen Y talent. A study commissioned by Comedy Central reveals that, unlike previous generations, humor, not music, is Gen Y’s number one form of self-expression. Consider the use of fun, video clips and games when you advertise jobs and see your campaigns go viral!

3. Authentic, real-life insights into what it means to work for company XYZ

Nothing resonates as much with Gen Y as authenticity. Encourage your existing Gen Y employees to blog, tweet and talk about their experience on social media! Get them to share real images, stories, and personal experiences with their Gen Y peers. Speaking in social currency terms, this “Word of Mouth” promotion is worth so much more than glossy advertising!

Martina Mangelsdorf

Martina Mangelsdorf is the founder of GAIA Insights, a firm specialized in leadership development for Generation Y. She is also the creator of GOLD™ - Game Oriented Leadership Development - and has an extensive background in recruiting. Prior to running her own business based out of Switzerland, Martina worked for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, DuPont de Nemours and EMDS Group in Latin America, Spain, Belgium and the US.