Are You Ready to Recruit the Post-Millennial Generation?

Some call them Post-Millennials, and some call them Generation Z, but whatever you call them, your company will be recruiting them in the near future.

A piece I saw in The Atlantic a couple weeks ago gave me a vision of what recruitment of these young people might look like. The piece, by Lauren Smiley, focuses on the “Post-Millennials” working at the Museum of Ice Cream, a pop-up museum that has sprung up in multiple cities, including San Francisco, where Smiley was able to observe the hiring process.

“…just as Wonka had his Oompa Loompas, the Museum of Ice Cream requires a service staff. Each Tuesday, the museum closes to the throngs for maintenance and so that a parade of Pink Army recruits can appear before a casting panel of staffers intent on gently sorting the ice cream die-hards from the pretenders,” Smiley writes.

The first question from the recruiters isn’t to see the applicants’ resumes, or even to ask if they have any previous work experience. It’s: “What’s your ice cream name?”

Granted, your company probably isn’t a pop-up Museum of Ice Cream, but these are the same young people who soon will be applying to your company for work. Do you envision them coping with the same long, boring application and interview process previous work generations have endured? I’m not sure I do.

There seems to be an expectation for constant entertainment among young people, even when applying for a job. Being asked for their “ice cream name” instead of their previous employment taps into that sense of expected fun. If your first question is about previous work experience or why the applicant is interested in working for you, there’s a good chance a Post-Millennial will tune you out. Your question isn’t interesting or entertaining enough. Raised with smartphones and nearly instant gratification, the idea of wading through a list of conventional questions about experience and skills, whether on paper, online, or even face-to-face, will feel like a chore. Worse yet, they may come away feeling your company is behind the times and out of touch—a place where they could imagine their grandparents having worked.

If I were preparing to recruit the next generation, I would find ways of turning the application and interview process into a game—one in which the first round could be played on applicants’ smartphones, with the final round played on site in your office.

The process could start with an online game in which all applicants compete against each other. You then would program into the system how many finalist “winners” you want to identify to invite into your office for the final round. The game could be as simple as coming up with a new product for your company to sell. The initial round, in which all interested applicants play together, could be to see who is able to come up with the best product the fastest, or able to choose from information provided the best criteria or description of a product that would work for your customers.

It’s a game that would require players to have knowledge of your company and industry, or to look up the information on the fly as they play. To make it work, you would have to arrange it so the initial round doesn’t take longer than around 20 minutes to play.

Once that first round is complete, and you’ve identified, say, 20 applicants, with the highest scores, they would be invited on site, where they would play another, slightly longer, more immersive game one at a time. They might be asked to use online tools and information to develop a marketing plan for the new product created by the first round of the game. Only those who attain a high enough score would be asked to meet face-to-face with a hiring manager, who would have a copy on his or her computer of the product and marketing plan the applicant developed in the course of playing the game. The hiring manager then could ask the applicant about his or her ideas, and see if the applicant has the skills and vision to take it even further when on the job.

In addition to keeping young people who demand entertainment and stimulation engaged, a game in lieu of a traditional application and interview process encourages greater objectivity and fairness in hiring. Simply inviting the 20 applicants with the highest scores makes it impossible for recruiters to demonstrate bias by weeding out applications with foreign- or minority-sounding names, or in any other way discriminating before ascertaining an applicant’s potential. The final round in the office also is based on merit, also dependent on score, so only the best of the best get to meet face-to-face with hiring managers.

How can you make your hiring process engaging for Post-Millennials? Have you thought about it yet? What are the challenges to creating an updated hiring process that would both interest young people and ensure high-performing employees?

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