Hiring entry level people & (gasp) Millennials

I know a number of 20-somethings who are looking for (mostly) entry-level jobs. They’re in the age group often called “Millennials”, which some like to categorize as a generation of slackers with no work ethic and no motivation. “They need frequent naps.“, says The Atlantic, while quoting a study that included people as old as 37. My first 40-something manager at EDS took a 20 minute nap at his desk every day – in 1983.

The same types of comments were once made about Gen X, whose work drives a sizable portion of U.S. economic production these days.

If you’re basing your opinion of the potential of a prospective hire based on a broad brush that The Atlantic or People Magazine uses to describe their generation, I won’t be surprised if one or more of your competitors hires carefully selected millennials and uses them to kick your tail in the marketplace.

I don’t mean to say that people north of 30, 40 or (eek!) 50 (that’s me!) are not productively contributing to the economic growth in the U.S. I’m simply making note that they aren’t alone.

We don’t hire entry-level people

One of the comments I heard most often from these job seekers (about a dozen of them) is that “no one” is willing to hire entry-level people. The interesting thing is that none of these folks have zero experience. Most of them are looking for work in the restaurant (not fast-food) business, at least for now. Some of them have management experience – and no, I don’t mean they were an “assistant manager”, today’s euphemism for “an overtime-exempt barely supervisory level person who works 70 to 100 hours a week yet gets paid for 40”.

I recently met some of these so-called Millennials at a brewery in Missoula because I wanted to hear about their experiences.

Here’s a short list:

  • People post jobs on Craigslist and never hire anyone. Old news.
  • People post jobs on Craigslist indicating they are “hiring now”. They interview for the openings, but during the interview, make it clear that they still aren’t sure if they are going to hire anyone – even weeks after they posted the job.
  • Interviewees are told they can’t be hired because the hiring manager doesn’t believe they can learn something new – even if that “something new” is something most adults could do coherently with fewer than 10 minutes of instruction.

One of the “unlearnable” skills was refilling the items on a salad bar. The allegedly “can’t do salad bar” person had several years of restaurant experience serving and doing prep work, but hadn’t worked in a place with a salad bar. Thus, the hiring manager stated they were unqualified and unable to learn that “skill”. End of discussion, with no opportunity to prove otherwise.

Strategies for entry level people & those who hire them

After hearing the job seeker’s laments, I gave them a few strategies for dealing with the situation, including making the employer an offer like this one:

I understand that you’re worried that I can’t do the job, so I’ll work the rest of the day for nothing, starting right now. If I don’t prove my worth, I’ll walk away and you owe me nothing. If I prove I can do it, you’ll hire me on the spot and include pay for today’s work in my first paycheck. Does that sound fair?

Employers: In my experience, testing works, but only if real work is used for the test.

In the last 15 years, all but two of the people I’ve hired lived in a different state. Only three were not tested in advance. Anyone tested was paid for their test work whether they were hired or not (easier to stay legal – and you can do this without a big hassle). Test them once or as much as it takes until you know what they’re made of. Don’t waste time and money giving them made up test work. Give them real work with a minimum of instruction as necessary. Make them show their stuff – especially their resourcefulness and willingness to figure it out.

If you view Millennials as slackers with no work ethic or motivation, and are unwilling to test to identify good people of all ages, it will be difficult competing with hiring managers willing to make this effort.