How to Avoid the 3 Biggest Millennial Recruiting Mistakes

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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Microsoft’s amazing slang slip up when they attempted to connect to their young interns.

In short, Microsoft wanted to attract interns to a networking event by calling them bae (an acronym for “before anyone else,” generally reserved for your significant other), and promising them hella noms (good food, using slang that’s about ten years old), and getting lit on a Monday (because nothing suggests fun quite like being intoxicated at a networking event with work in the morning).

I’m not sure what they were thinking. But I am sure that my response to this has been a strange mixture of pity and revulsion. Pity because they tried, they really really tried, and that’s apparent throughout the message. Revulsion because they failed so wildly and so miserably.

This probably isn’t advice you’ll hear often but… don’t be like Microsoft.

Recruiting Millennials

It’s an easy mistake for recruiters to make. Clearly it happens to the best of us. We try to connect with the youth, or any group that we’re not inherently a part of already, we miss the mark and it’s not pretty. You lose credibility, you lose face, and you’re left tripping over an awkward apology.

My guess is that all this fuss is born from the fact that over 50% of hiring managers have a hard time hiring millennials. And, in an effort to attract those born in 1980 or later, they’ve veered too far into what they think millennials like.

This is a mistake. But an easily avoided one. You can update your recruiting software, you can change your language, but if you want to avoid embarrassing yourself, what really matters is changing your way of thinking about recruiting millennials.

Here are the mistakes you need to stop making.

1. Overusing slang

The most obvious advice is to not be Microsoft. By which I mean, don’t try to engage people by using slang or colloquialisms. This blunder is bad enough for its potential to go awry and bring such shame upon your proverbial house that you’re forced to make a public apology. (Ok I promise I’m done picking on Microsoft now. It’s just so darn funny!)

Even if you know how to use the language, it’s still probably not a good idea. Slang moves so quickly that even if the most hip and with it (the kids still say that, right?) 20-something wrote your e-mail, the slang used might be passé by the time it reaches its intended audience.


Even as the workplace becomes notoriously more casual (nerf guns and arcade games in the office, anyone?), all the advice in the world is telling millennials to be more professional. So when a business sends something that’s full of slang and casual language, it can be pretty jarring.

  • Instead of switching from slang to formal language and back again, keep it consistent.
  • Match your communication to your office culture. The old adage advises us to write as we speak. Do that one better and type how you’d speak in your office.

Does your workplace have more of a formal, buttoned up culture or a laid back techie culture? Whatever the answer, your job posting, applicant communications, and follow-up emails should reflect the culture of the office.

2. Ignoring what’s brought to the table

Somewhere, there is a boardroom. And in that boardroom sit a gaggle of marketers, hiring managers, and advertising executives. And they are all looking at one another, asking, “What is it the millennials like? Is it rock music?”


Recruiting Millennials

“Is it memes?”

And if you explained it to them you would be a very, very rich person. If you could get them to listen. Because, as it turns out, there’s been quite a lot of research done on what millennials want in a job, as well as good information about what they bring to the table as employees.

Millennials are more family-oriented than typically assumed, and want a position flexible enough that they can spend time with their family and friends. They also value a company’s good reputation over their personal salary. They want creativity and nurturing leadership, as well as room to grow.


Instead of wondering what can be done to attract the younger generation with your recruitment, just be honest about the position, the skills needed, and the workplace environment. Millennials like transparency.

If you’re still struggling to attract talent, you may need to think of new ways the same job could be done.

Appreciate generational differences as a form of diversity. After all, Boomers tended to value different things in the office, and you might be used to catering to them. But there are now 40 million millennials in the workplace and, barring a sudden zombie apocalypse, that number will only grow.

3. Trying to stick to the same hiring style

You can’t hire a millennial like you hired baby boomers. Yes, I know what I was just saying about keeping up the same level of professionalism. That advice hasn’t gone out the window. This time it’s less about what you say, and more about where you say it.

Nobody is posting in the newspaper classifieds and leaving it at that anymore. But if the only online presence you have is posting on your website and Monster, you’re hobbling yourself.


Far more effective is meeting them where they’re at.

And the moral of the story is…

Hiring younger people isn’t as much of a mystery as people make it out to be. Just avoid the gimmicks, embrace the tech, and it will all be fine. And remember, no matter what you do, it could always be worse.
Please give me your multi-generational hiring techniques and your bad slang hiring horror stories in the comments. I live for this.

Looking for Recruiting software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Recruiting software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.



Thanks for this great article. Hiring a millennial is undoubtedly one of the most elusive skills among modern day recruiters. As you have mentioned in the third point, one of the most common mistakes is not being adaptive and sticking to a traditional format of interviewing. The fact that there are so many factors to look into while hiring a worker these days and dealing with millennials is just one of the many challenges. For this reason, it is a safe bet to outsource the staffing and recruitment function to an expert agency that will end up saving your organization from the cost of a bad hire.

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