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Attract Millennial Developers with a Killer Message

Attract Millennial Developers with a Killer Message

Deliver a Killer Message – Attract Millennial Developers Using Their Language
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The goal of any recruiting campaign is simple: deliver the most compelling message to attract the largest applicant pool so that you can be very selective. You can run the most expensive and extensive recruiting campaign of all time, but if your message is not compelling and believable, you are wasting your time, energy, and money.

Your Brand May Not Be Enough to Attract the Best

Many large tech companies assume that they can rely on the power of their brand to attract top young talent. Yes, it’s true that branding is a big part of recruiting. Whether yours is a big brand or a smaller brand, if Millennials know who you are, trust your reputation, and know you have lots of resources, often that’s enough to at least get them in the door. But you should beware that your branding does not get them all the way in the door. Our research shows that some brands are so high-profile and “modern” (think Google & Apple) that Millennials flock to them—but they do so for the wrong reasons. Millennials are attracted by the glamorous perks, exciting work, and potential for fame and fortune that are attached to the brand, but their unrealistic expectations are often dashed. The reality of most jobs, whether they are for large brands or not, is a workplace in which employees are expected to do lots of work. For Millennials, this realization often leads to a disappointing and unsuccessful employment experience. That’s why it’s critical to build your brand as an employer, on its own terms, right alongside your brand in the marketplace. Just as your brand in the marketplace is built on the value that you offer to consumers, your brand as an employer must be built on the value that you offer to employees.

 Build Your Employment Brand in Millennial Language

Too many employers today are still offering the same long-term career opportunities, together with traditional, old-fashioned rewards they’ve been offering for decades: slow steps up the organization’s ladder, six-month reviews, annual raises, and other standard benefits. If that’s your message, then it should be no wonder why Millennials aren’t keen to work for you. If all you have to sell potential employees are one-size-fits-all career paths, and rewards that don’t vest until several years in the future, your recruiting message will not be compelling to Millennials. For this new young generation, traditional rewards are merely the threshold test: If you offer benefits that are comparable to other similar employers, then you are, in their view, providing just the minimum.

What’s confusing to many employers, however, is that Millennials appear very concerned about these traditional and long-term benefits. Why is that? Are Millennials simply curious? In part, yes. They are curious to know where they’ll be in the organization if they were to stay for five, ten, or fifteen years. But this is just-in-case information. Just in case they decide to stay at your organization, or get stuck in your system, they want to know how that is likely to play out. Another part of the equation is that Millennials may just be humoring you in the interview process. Millennials are savvy enough to know that hiring managers are concerned with young employee retention, and that they should try to express interest in staying for at least some reasonable period of time. So, what’s ‘reasonable’ for Millennials? They usually assume that whatever time frames you are using to discuss the job must seem reasonable to you, so they mirror that language.

A Millennial had this to say on the subject: “No company says on their Web site, ‘Come work for us for a little while, and let’s see how it goes.’ None of them say in the interviews, ‘Well if you work here for six months or a year, it would be fine.’ So it would be stupid for me to talk to them like that. I won’t say, ‘Well, I’m probably only going to stay here for a year until my boyfriend graduates, so hire me.’ I mean, who knows? If things are going great for me at the company and it works out for me in terms of my life, then sure, I might stay. So why shouldn’t I ask about the long term?”

When it comes to job opportunities, our research shows that Millennials look at both the long-term and short-term prospects. They are interested in figuring out whether you will fit into their life story, including the long-term. Since most employers speak longer term language, asking questions about long-term opportunities allows Millennials to compare employers more easily. But just because they don’t ask about the short-term doesn’t mean that isn’t what most concerns them. Often when Millennials ask questions about short-term benefits, employers have a hard time speaking that language. And sometimes Millennials fear that asking those questions will turn off potential employers and leave them without a job offer.

If you want to recruit Millennials in a way that separates you from other job offers, you have to talk about “right now”. You have to talk about what you have to offer your employees today, tomorrow, next week, this month, the first six months, and the first year. If you want your recruiting message to attract Millennials, then you need a to speak to their real concerns.

Of course, every applicant is unique and brings his or her own concerns to the table. They want different things from different jobs at different times. In our research, we’ve learned that what work means to Millennials at any given time changes depending on what’s going on in their lives.

The best case, for both the employee and the employer, is when Millennials are looking at a potential job as a chance to make an impact, whether that’s simply within your company or on a larger scale, while also improving themselves with your resources. These Millennials hope to learn, grow, and collect proof of their ability to add value while working for you. I call this a “self-building job”. As long as you keep supporting a Millennial’s desire to self-build, this will bring out their best work for the longest period of time.

The trick for hiring managers is to create a recruiting message that will attract these high-potential young employees who are seeking a self-building job. There are eight self-building factors Millennials consider for each employment opportunity:

1.   ‘Pay-for-performance’. Much more important than actual salary, Millennials want to know that their compensation, monetary and otherwise, is tied directly and completely to their own performance. If they work harder and better, they want to know they will be rewarded in direct proportion to the value they add to your organization.

2.   Scheduling flexibility. Millennials want to have some amount of control over their schedules, as long as they are meeting goals and performing at a high standard. The more control you can provide them, the better.

3.   Ability to ‘choose’ where they work. Again, as long as they are meeting performance standards, Millennials want to have some amount of control over where they work. This could be anything from providing flexibility to work from home or at a remote location, to giving them control over the layout of their individual workspace in the office.

4.   Competitive skills. Millennials are looking for formal and informal training opportunities at work, so that they can continue to build and improve upon their skills in the workplace. They want to know that when they decide to leave your organization, that they are no longer obsolete in the marketplace.

5.   Access to higher-ups. Millennials don’t want to wait until they climb the ladder to build relationships with important leaders, clients, vendors, or coworkers. They want some amount of access to these relationships, even just to start building them, right away.

6.   Credit for their own work. Millennials don’t want to work hard to make somebody else look good. They want to be able to put their own names on the results they produce.

7.   Clear responsibilities. Millennials want to know that they will have complete control of something, whether that something is large or small, so they can use that responsibility as an opportunity to prove themselves.

8.   Opportunities for creativity and expression. Millennials want to have a clear picture of the requirements and guidelines that will constrain their creativity, so that they can accurately imagine the canvas on which they can ‘show-off’ their abilities with total freedom.

But it’s important to remember: don’t try to “sell” any job to Millennials. Don’t promise things if you can’t offer them. If you sell Millennials a self-building job falsely, they will quickly turn it into “just another job,” until a better opportunity comes along. Instead, clarify what they can expect from you right at the beginning. And be sure to answer the questions that are most on their minds: “Exactly what will you expect me to do today, tomorrow, next week, this month, next month, and the month after that? And exactly what rewards do you have to offer me, financially and non-financially, in the shot-term?” Answer those questions in language that speaks to Millennials’ real concerns, right now. Tell it like it is.

This, in short, is what Millennials want. And they expect these things sooner rather than later. If you can offer Millennials the chance to improve themselves — in the immediate future — using the resources you provide, then you will have a killer message.


Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking. Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), and It’s Okay to be the Boss (Revised & Updated, 2014). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website