hiring managers, thinkAdecco recently released the results of their Mature Worker Survey, and despite what the name suggests, the respondents were actually hiring managers answering questions about their perceptions of mature and Millennial workers. There are some interesting results that give pause for thought. Key findings include:

  • Hiring managers are three times as likely to hire a mature worker (60 percent) as they are to hire a Millennial (20 percent).
  • Hiring managers think mature workers and Millennials possess different personality traits. For example, hiring managers are most likely to associate mature workers with being reliable (91 percent) and professional (88 percent) while they say Millennial workers are creative (74 percent) and strong networkers (73 percent).
  • When it comes to skills that need strengthening, hiring managers feel mature workers need more technological know-how (72 percent), while that is the skill that Millennials need to develop least (5 percent).
  • Millennials, on the other hand, need to improve their writing skills (46 percent), while far fewer mature workers need to do so (9 percent), according to hiring managers.

Now what I find especially interesting in all of this is that these findings are what hiring managers “think” not what is necessarily “so.” Just because they think mature workers and Millennials have different personalities doesn’t mean that it is true. People are infinitely complex and often unpredictable creatures. In hiring, it is a bit of a game of chance, trying to predict a successful hire based on quantifiable factors but there are no guarantees. Sometimes a gut feeling, one way or the other, can still be the best marker of success, but it is also critical to recognize where your biases and perceptions may be leading you astray lest you let a good worker get away.

We counsel clients to meet with candidates and not reject them solely on the basis of their resume. The printed word will never be able to convey a person’s work ethic or positive attitude. So too, I would counsel any hiring manager not to assume that a person has certain attributes or not simply because of their age. Recognize that drive or attitude or a willingness to learn is a better predictor of success and that people of all generational groups can be gifted or lacking in these areas. As the competition for top talent continues to heat up, you don’t want to be overlooking anyone based on perception as opposed to facts.

You also don’t want to miss out on a good worker who may need a little training. Many companies are hiring people with the right personality and attitude and training them rather than looking for a perfect match in skill sets. It’s a smart idea. You can’t always hire people who don’t already know exactly what you need them to do, some jobs are too critical and the right experience is essential, but when you can, it can lead to good things.

This week in Staffing Talk author Jason Bivins discusses the Adecco survey as well (Sloppy, & Inappropriate: Signs You’re Dealing With a Millennial). He focuses on the result that 75% of hiring managers said the #1 interview mistake made by Millennials was dressing inappropriately. Now I don’t doubt that this is true, it’s an opinion that seems to make sense, especially if you’re in our business and have likely had firsthand experience with the problem. However, it is a great example of a fixable problem; something a little training or advice can solve while salvaging what could be a great candidate otherwise. Remember a few years back when some members of Northwestern University’s national championship women’s lacrosse team wore flip flops to meet President Bush at the White House? Yes it was inappropriate attire for the meeting but it didn’t render them completely unfit or negate their accomplishment. Undoubtedly it is a mistake they won’t make twice.

The real point is to remember that no one thing defines a person and we should always be careful before we are too quick to judge and dismiss someone, particularly if we are working under a perception rather than factual based experience. Yes it is important to pay attention to intangibles like personality as well as skills and experience but make sure you are not unduly eliminating people. Consider all factors but don’t let snap judgments or generalized perceptions make decisions for you!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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