7 Tips on Hiring Millennials

In order to establish that this post has a more substantive point than it would have in the guise of some old geezer venting his spleen, not that this couldn’t be happening also, let me just say at the outset that I have been deeply involved in the processes that lie behind what I am going to be talking about, and have been involved with them for many decades. I have been on boards and committees in the course of countless job interviews, I have written numerous letters of recommendation, I have given pastoral counsel to young professionals and entrepreneurs on many occasions, and have pretty much seen and heard a whole bunch of stuff. You’d be a geezer too. Enough about my end.

And with regard to what I will be saying about the Millennials themselves, let me begin by qualifying that also — and doing so with some rough numbers. In every generation, you will have fifteen percent who are motivated self-starters. They work hard, and are a credit to whoever raised them. If you ask them to shine a doorknob, they will do it until they can see their grandchildren in the reflection. At the other end, you have the perennially lethargic, straight out of the book of Proverbs. If it were raining oatmeal, they would have left their bowl at home. These are those who ought to be contemplating the ways of the ant more than they do.

The flavor of each generation is set by the soft seventy percent in the middle. This is the group most affected by general cultural expectations, by their education, by popular media, and so forth. They are susceptible to leadership, both good and bad. They can be pulled this way or that. When talking about the Millennials, as I am about to do, I am talking about their general cultural ethos, as established by the bums on their bums, and by the negatively affected middle. So let me tell you what I see — and to the self-starters among them, I say this. Not talking about you. I’d hire you in a minute.

As you might expect, a number of these traits are interconnected.

1. Millennials tend to expect more money than they should. They have been overpaid since their first babysitting job, and they are laboring in a highly-regulated economy — where the government specializes in hiding the real worth of labor from just about everyone. From minimum wage laws to regulated benefits packages, the freshly hired Millennial is encouraged to think that he is being paid — at a minimum — what he is worth, when he is actually being paid what he is worth, plus what staying out of trouble with the government is worth to his employer. A highly beneficial spiritual exercise would be to imagine what one’s paycheck would be in a genuinely free market. Do you really want a business where the employees’ self evaluation is created through a mixture of worth, conceit, and flattery? Or rather one created through a mixture of hard work and humility?

2. Millennials are more comfortable with dependency than previous generations were. This shows up in things like being willing to remain on their parents’ insurance well into their twenties, or in the increasing trend of not getting a drivers license (or a car), and mooching rides from friends, or from mom. What would have been a humiliation to previous generations is taken by this generation right in stride. This tendency is something that you, as a prospective employer, need to be prepared for. You are hiring someone who is likely going bring that trait into your business. Do you want a culture of dependency there?

3. Millennials are attracted to businesses that are employee-centered, as opposed to the older model of customer-centered. Now granting that this is a fallen world, and that “customer service” is a phrase that can be used to justify an appalling treatment of employees, this generation needs to be reminded that businesses exist to provide things for others. That’s sort of the point. So if your interviewee wants to get hired by a firm that is reminiscent of a twenty-something hot tub party, with the occasional customer getting treated like an irritating neighbor who wants to borrow something, then he has much larger problems than I can explain to him here. Do you want a business culture that looks down on customers, on sales, on actual business?

4. Related to the previous point, Millennials think in terms of jobs, not in terms of callings. This means that they come to an interview thinking about what value they can get, instead of thinking about what value they can bring. If they ask for a starting salary of so many clams, and you ask them if they will bring value to the company of a significantly larger number of clams than that, and that angle has never occurred to them before, or they think you are being kind of mercenary for mentioning it, you should think next! to yourself, although it would be rude to say it out loud. Do you want the point of your business to become the harvesting of money from the business? That has happened more than once.

5. Millennials want to have done many important things, but they don’t want actually to do them. They want to have written a novel, but don’t want to do it unless someone gives them an advance — apparently on the basis of their boyish, sly grin, and lots of blue sky. They are encouraged in this by a broader cultural assumption that self-identification counts for a great deal. Feeling “like a girl inside” is now a free pass to all the girls’ restrooms in the California public school system. So why can’t somebody feel like a marketing genius inside? Or a writer? It would be grand to have started a company, or invented a cure for cancer, or to have written a television script that led to the winning of three Emmies. And this is true. That would be very grand. Ah, to have done so! But do you want to have a company culture that treats daydreaming as ambition? Do you really want a business full of employees who say, “Well, you know, I am more of an idea person . . . ”

6. Millennials have been flattered ad nauseam about their street smarts, and as a result, they don’t have any. They believe that they can establish their credibility, not through accomplishment, but rather through criticism of those who do actually accomplish things. Their critical insights, and their right to offer them, rest upon a platform of assumptions about how tech-savvy they are, or web smart, or visually-oriented. It is true that this sensate generation is far more image-sensitive than previous generations were, but this simply means that they are, for the most part, far more image-susceptible. But in the meantime, the universal flattery that has surrounded them on this score means that they are not shy about setting up as a critic. Everywhere they have gone for the last decade, they have been asked to like things on Facebook, rate books on Amazon, rate movies as fast as they can gulp them down, and as a result they believe their critical opinion is valuable. Has it not been sought thousands of times? The real trouble comes if you hire them, and they then have to work alongside someone capable of real work and accomplishment. The guy leaning on the shovel will be ever-ready to give some pointers to the guy actually digging the hole. Do you really want a company where the default assumption about promotion is that a critical eye toward the real work of others is the key to success?

7. Millennials are risk averse. They are not benefits averse, for, when it comes down to it, who is? But they are notably risk averse. They want life to be cozy, and about the only thing that can really disrupt that coziness is when someone in their neighborhood — who was being not risk averse — shot the moon and made it. As a result, he is enjoying the benefits of his success, and thereby incurs the resentment and envy of those nearby. This is an enormous subject, which I hope to get to in the near future, but let it be said here that the warnings about wealth in Scripture have not gone away. They are all still there, big as life. But there is a corollary warning, one that needs to be pressed on this generation. I have seen far more serious sin in the proximity of wealth than I have among the wealthy themselves. And risk averse Millennials have a tendency to fall before the terrible sin of envy without any recognition that this is what they are doing.

Why do I mention these? All generations have their faults. That is true, but these are the faults we are committing right now. These are the faults we could do something about if we wanted.

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Robert
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Robert

I love number five. As someone who has written a novel and is in search of an agent, it certainly strikes a chord. Anyone know an agent interested in World War Two stories for teenagers?

Matt
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Matt

It usually annoys me when people throw out that “Get off my lawn” remark in comment threads.
But sometimes it’s just so applicable…

Tamara
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Great stuff!  Will you be writing a book on Christian business some day?!

Scott McHenry
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Scott McHenry

I hope that it is realized by some that us young people were specifically raised to exhibit these characteristics. Our parents sought after huge comfy houses in the suburbs, put computers and video games in our rooms, sent us to public school to get hours of indoctrination on self-esteem and tolerance, and attended youth groups devoid of Scripture instead focusing on hip Christian rock and “fun”.

Scott McHenry
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Scott McHenry

I propose more moms staying home to homeschool, more dads attending youth group with their children and so on.

rjbanford
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rjbanford

Certainly valid criticisms. For context, however: 1) They are the result of their parents’ generation 2) Their parents’ generation sees fit to require 2-year commitments (not even a legal thing to ask during the hiring process) while cutting benefits, giving low wages, increasing responsibilities, and not giving raises. Except to the CEO, of course, whose bonuses and pay raises alone is enough to fund *every other employee’s* raises. 3) The blog implies a dichotomy between the millennial way and the “old” way. As old as Doug is, he’s certainly not old enough to be part of the “old” way where… Read more »

JDM
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JDM

Millennials, and the generations that followed, are in a unique position in that they generally do know a lot more about today’s technology then their elders. It seems to me that this has led to a significant amount of conflict in the workplace. The chances are if you have been at your profession for 2o years+ you do not posses the computer skills of someone who is fresh out of college. I have witnessed this first hand. My father struggles operating Microsoft Word but runs a successful small business. It seems to me the older generations need to work out… Read more »

Arwen B
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Arwen B

Scott McHenry said “I hope that it is realized by some that us young people were specifically raised to exhibit these characteristics. ” Certainly we were, as a generation. Of course, we don’t appreciate that our parents spent their early adulthood living in trailers and tiny uncomfortable apartments, and that the comfortable home in the suburbs is their reward for a lifetime of work. … Of course, now that we know that we were raised to expect luxury for free, instead of luxury for a life of hard work, we must re-train ourselves into a different mindset and not use… Read more »

Stewart
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Stewart

I disagree with number 7.  Millennials are not risk averse.  I see them willing to take more risk. Remember, they have the safety of their mom and dad’s basement and pocket book to cover any losses they may incur.  Moral hazard.

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

I’m confused by some of these (though they aren’t idolatrous–which really is the point of my post: I can disagree with you.) [T]he increasing trend of not getting a drivers license (or a car), and mooching rides from friends, or from mom…You are hiring someone who is likely going bring that trait into your business. Do you want a culture of dependency there? So I don’t own a business, and there are almost always unfaithful ways to live in community, but why not call it a “willingness to carpool, to do harder things like walk and bike, rather than always… Read more »

soylentg
Member

Wow Pastor Wilson, you must be happy to find that you have so many Millennials in your audience, including at least two of which seem to readily admit that they are not among the 15% who you would hire in a minute (shown by their quickness to take offense).  I for one have a slightly different take on the situation.  As an old duffer myself, and small business owner to boot, I have long ago given up on having employees.  I simply cannot afford to lose money while going through the painful process of training them.  The silver lining is that… Read more »

Matt Robison
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On a related note, if you find yourself forced to work with true Millennials, here’s some (satirical) tips on how to navigate the minefield of their own self-importance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz0o9clVQu8

Nathan Brunaugh
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Nathan Brunaugh

Pastor Doug,
I was wondering if you had seen (or plan to) the new Walter Mitty Movie?  I have and it seems to speak to some of these issues from the perspective of a hopeless daydreamer having to reform his behavior and “grow-up”.  Also the “director of the transition” character exhibits much of what you list here.

Scott McHenry
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Scott McHenry

St. Lee, I am sorry that you have run into problems hiring due to the true issues of this article. My post was directed not at disproving the article I simply wanted to give some pointers as to how specifically those types of problems came about to hamper the younger generations. After graciously being saved and changed by Christ I looked back on my life and realized very quickly that a lot of bad habits I picked up were from 1)parents ignorance about the dangers of the internet at the time which was no fault of their own 2)parents leaving… Read more »

timbushong
Member

Matt–that video is just hilarious…

bethyada
Member

So Millennials are the Bohemian Intellectuals of yesteryear then?

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

Lee: I’m right on the edge of being a millenial, and am perhaps too old to fit the description. But that’s not particularly important. However, if asking questions is tantamount to taking offense, something’s very wrong.

soylentg
Member

Scott, I agree completely that the Millennials are the natural fruit of their parents fallen nature, just as many of us old guys are the fruit of our parents shortcomings.  Fact is we could play the blame game all the way back to Adam, but we know as Christians that we would have done no better than him and likely worse.  I did not become a Christian until after my children were adults.  I did an absolutely terrible job of parenting.  It is only by God’s grace that they became responsible, productive (and Christian) adults.                                                                                                                                                                           BTW,  from your previous comments I was not including you in the… Read more »

Jon
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Jon

I know from teaching in the public school system that the millennials really don’t have much insight into themselves and tend not to assume much responsiblility for their actions.  They are very entitled and egotistical, and their parents often share these traits.  (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

Marcus Glover
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Marcus Glover

Dr. Wilson,
While I appreciate your points in this blog post, I think it’s quite uncharitable toward millennials. I’m not disagreeing with any of the seven points you mentioned. But it is interesting to me that they’re all negative. Do you really not have anything positive to say about millennials? Judging from your post, one might draw the conclusion that you think millennials are horrible people.

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

Specifically, I asked questions not because I thought they were terrible points, but because I thought they were points worth questions. That they are worthy of questions is an honor for them.

Marcus Glover
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Marcus Glover

To clarify: I trust that your intention is not to convey outright disdain for millennials, or anyone else for that matter. But I do think the overall tone of this piece is needlessly negative and a bit condescending. What are millennials supposed to do with this? Is it right for “boomers” to publicly wag their fingers at younger generations for their failings? It seems particularly inappropriate within the Body of Christ. Again, your points are not untrue per se, but they probably would have been better stated with more compassion and behind closed doors.

Matt Colvin
Guest

The use of the physician’s “we” (“How are we feeling today?” when the doctor is not sick) in the last paragraph is especially offensive: as though other generations cannot “do something about” their faults?

Over the years, it has been pointed out to Pr. Wilson that insulting other people is not a ministry, but is usually a sin to be repented of. This is a fault you “could actually do something about”.

carole
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carole

Scott, I couldn’t agree with you more.  It is truly absurd  when parents complain that their children are spoiled and shame them for it…how did their children get that way?!  One of the biggest problems in the public schools is inflated grades..Bs are really Ds and B students go on to college when they have no business being there…colleges have to provide remedial classes and on and on and on.  But the truth is, it is not the kids’ fault. They thought they were doing B work. We as a culture need to stop this “self esteem” madness.  Parents seem… Read more »

Job
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Job

It would have been swell to grow up on a farm working alongside my father and brothers. That would have beaten the stuffing out of going to public school where I was punished for fighting back against bullies and not regurgitating leftist hogwash. But God dealt the hand he dealt. It is my generation’s privilege to have been raised by women who feared us.  We were constantly told that we were privileged, violent little savages and potential rapists/racists/homophobes. Is it any wonder most of us are (at least partially) ruined? Working hard to get trained in a skill that a… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

Perhaps a follow up piece: “7 tips on working for Boomers” that has nothing good to say about Boomers would be good balance. Perhaps I’ll write it, and put the final paragraph in the first person: Here are sins “we” can do something about. Here are the faults “we” are committing now.

JohnM
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JohnM

JDM – Even though your father “struggles operating Microsoft Word” just  like a lot of other people his age  he, like a lot of other people his age, nonetheless “runs a successful small business.” which is more than most of those  youngsters who “are more highly skilled in important areas”, have done. That partly explains their bad attitude. Now as one of those oldsters in your father’s boat, and yes to my disadvantage, I can see that fundamental computer skills by now are so ordinary and near universal among Millenials that they’re no big whoop, and will take you no farther than merely being able to read would… Read more »

JohnM
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JohnM

By “their bad attitude ” by the way I meant the oldster’s (my) bad attitude, and not the younger generations.

Arwen B
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Arwen B

@Job, It’s kind of analogous to being the only person of [race] in a church of majority [other race]. If you are the only one there who looks like you and you leave because of that, then the next one who looks like you will come into a church where he is the only one and feel just as isolated and hopeless. Someone has to stop and be the anchor. … Similarly, you cannot let your motivation for drifting aimlessly and doing the bare minimum to survive because “well, there’s no one else here who wants to work hard, so why should I?” Someone… Read more »

Andrew Kelly
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Andrew Kelly

A problem that I often see in millennials, myself sometimes included, is we assume that money comes before effort. We think “if someone would offer me enough money then I would get a job.” Once we have a job we think “if they would give me a raise then I would increase my productivity.” It is difficult for us to come to grips with the fact that we are called to put forth the effort first, even if we are only being paid minimum wage at Walmart, and then we will be shown opportunities for advancement. We want a high… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

Doug: He was referring to other living generations too.

Matthew N. Petersen
Guest
Matthew N. Petersen

And I’d like answers to my questions.

Matthew N. Petersen
Guest
Matthew N. Petersen

Thanks! I wasn’t trying to rush you, it just looked like I was getting ignored (or was likely to disappear up in the thread). Sorry it sounded different.

mekt75
Member

Some schools won’t allow their teachers to fail students

BJ
Guest
BJ

As an older millennial, I would love to write a similar blog about my elder generations. The problem with that would be that no matter how much I have interacted with them, it would still be gross stereotyping, or to put it more philosophically, the fallacies of faulty generalization and defective induction.  I don’t dispute pastor Wilson’s deep experience with millennials and his solid intuition, but even if you have had intimate interaction with 1000 of us, the fallacy still holds for the millions of us remaining. Perhaps I learned this in my liberally-biased public education or maybe I learned… Read more »

Brad Jones
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Brad Jones

Pastor Wilson, I am confused by the title of this blog post. I understand that the post is supposed to point out the problems that often occur with hiring Millenials. What I don’t understand is why this post was called “7 Tips on Hiring Millenials”, unless you are basically saying that no one should hire Millenials. I do appreciate your clarification about whom you are and whom you are not talking about in this post. One other thing I am wondering about is: Given the cultural climate and the reality that there are more people that fit into your list… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

What BJ said.  Fact is, “millenials” don’t exist, and there are no useful generalizations that can be drawn therefrom.  I fit number 5 quite well, but it’s because I’m a lazy bastard, not a “millenial” (being 31, I’m not even 100% sure that I am a “millenial”).  In other words, I belong to the group <lazy bastards>, not <millenials>.  Others in the list strike me as functions of certain subsets of any generation.  Which overeducated young people haven’t thought they were worth more money than they truly were?  Pontificating about “millenials” is as much fun as bashing “Baby Boomers” for… Read more »

Robert
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Robert

You foprgot the most important issue: Most millenials did not grow up with their father in the home.

Matt
Guest
Matt

As for employers, what they need to do is ditch the whole “resume” and “interview” process.  These are useless and these days are more often gamed than not.  Instead, hire the first people that apply that don’t have something obviously wrong with them on a temp contract basis, and hire your permanent employees out of that contractor pool.  Fact is, 90% of people in any organization only need to follow orders promptly, so the endless search for the “best fit” wastes more money on employing HR bureaucrats than it actually produces in long term benefits.

Jeff
Guest

Pastor Wilson, I’m not a millenial, but I think there’s a point about the generation that birthed the millenials bearing some responsibility for the flaws of millenials. Perhaps you’ll be willing to address that. Your points sort of depend on it, or so it seems to me at least. Thanks so much, JW

Reuben K.
Guest
Reuben K.

In response to point 1.) ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++This is going to be a bit tart, but I’m beginning to tire of pastors giving business advice to the laity. It’s not that you guys don’t have troves of insight and wisdom on the topic; you do. But it is very difficult for me, as an artist and teacher, to listen to you, as a pastor, tell me that I should contentedly accept the free-market-determined price for my labor. You seem rather immune to the free market: how much is a sermon worth on the hour? Meanwhile, I am at the mercy of the… Read more »

BJ
Guest
BJ

Reuben K., You got me thinking on this. Tartness aside, which I usually don’t like, but is necessary from time to time, I just wonder how to deal with the relationship between calling and market value. I speak multiple languages, so my slice of the market is small. The best way to apply my skills for the kingdom on earth is from the pulpit (I read the old Hebrew and Greek), and on the mission field (translating in the countries where those language I speak are spoken). However, from a market perspective, I could make far more money and have… Read more »

Job
Guest
Job

@Arwen B:  Uh… don’t know how one can feel hopeless in the company of brothers. Seems the Holy Spirit trumps race. As for the rest of your comment, I don’t much appreciate you putting words in my mouth. Who said anything about “doing the bare minimum to survive?” Not I, madam. Not I.

rjbanford
Guest
rjbanford

St Lee, I wouldn’t go about suggesting that anyone who takes offense is a millennial as described here. I admitted that the criticisms were valid, but Doug has spoken before about house cleaning starting at home, and he clearly is not doing that here. I don’t know what defines a millennial in your mind, but I don’t fit the description here. I’m assuming I was one of those you wanted to criticize hastily without just cause — I don’t see many others before your post that would seem to fit the “offense” bill. And really you’d do best to just… Read more »

Ben Bowman
Guest

Good point Doug. I don’t know where this incessant desire to get everyone to say everything all the time comes from. 

soylentg
Member

rj, clearly you think I am being judgmental.  Judge not, and you will not be judged.  If that were all the scripture we had on the matter, then I (and Pastor Wilson and many others) need to shut up.  As with almost everything in your Christian life there is a narrow road with a ditch on either side.  Often we tend to veer near to one ditch or the other.  Jesus said to get the log out of your own eye before attempting to remove the speck from your brother’s.  Does that mean that no man should ever point out sin until… Read more »

carole
Guest
carole

This may be too  incidental, but I am happy to see that young adults are staying home with their parents.  This was the cultural norm in Ireland and was here, I believe, for a long time.  Why should they pay rent to someone else?  It  helps financially for everyone and I certainly don’t think girls should leave home until they are getting married, do you Pastor Wilson?  Often getting an apartment is like moving into a dorm and you would not suggest that…so if, kids were in fact contributing financially, would you not encourage them to stay with parents or… Read more »

Stewart
Guest
Stewart

Business insider has an interesting comparison here.