Generation Y Issues

As recruiters, we usually split companies into two types. Our clients and everyone else we recruit our potential candidates from. Sometimes those two merge just a tiny bit, but for the most part in our profession those two remain quite separate.

My company, Building Re-sources, recruits specifically for companies in the building and construction industry. This industry can be challenging from a client perspective as many of the firms are enormous, and many of them are intertwined in either a formal or informal business and/or partnership relationship. Plus, many of our clients are not exactly in the most glamorous of businesses. Ever try to recruit for a nuts-and-bolts manufacturer? It can be tough.

We’ve had to become very, very good at defining the companies we want as clients, and those we don’t. For us, that process has to go beyond the normal qualifiers most recruiting companies use when choosing clients. Many recruiting companies pick clients based on how high a fee they’ll pay, or how many job orders they have open. Some pick clients because they can deal directly with managers (rather than procurement), or because the client will pay a nice fat retainer.

Instead, if we want to truly be viewed as professional recruiters, we really should look at potential clients from a holistic perspective. What is the culture like? What value system does the company portray, not just in its mission statement, but in how it does business? Are employees connected to a sense of purpose within the organization? Does the company walk the walk, as well as talk the talk?

These business characteristics have become even more important as we rely more and more on recruiting candidates from Generation X and Generation Y. The younger workforce, Generation Y in particular, doesn’t necessarily make decisions based on benefit packages, salary, and career potential. In the past I’ve wasted a great deal of time trying to persuade candidates to interview at certain clients. Although these companies are generally considered the crème de la crème in terms of the corporate world, over and over I’ve listened to feedback after just one interview that it’s just not a “great place to work.”

As a result, at Building Re-sources we’ve developed a set of parameters we use to determine whether or not a company will make a good client. The definition of a “good client” is not just one that pays their bills on time or has lots of job orders. First and foremost, the company needs to be successful at hiring not just the senior folks, but those tricky Generation X and Generation Y workers as well. As the baby boomers retire, that’s where the bulk of my revenue is coming from. I need to under-stand these candidates, who want something very different from previous generations.

And what exactly is this new workforce looking for? For Generation Y, we’ve found great success in placing workers at building companies with an environmentally friendly mission. More than any other generation, Generation Y has to feel as though they are contributing to the greater good in both their personal and professional life. When I find a company that has a real story to tell in terms of social responsibility, I know I can get my younger candidates into interviews. If the company allows time for charitable work, or even better has a sabbatical program, I know I’ve got a strong contender.

Cultures with a “pay your dues” mentality may not be appealing to younger candidates. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a lot of those in the building industry, and I’m sure there are many in the business world at large. Younger workers were raised to believe they are special. They want to feel as though their comments and opinions are being heard right away. They won’t join a company where they feel their unique and special contributions are not welcomed from the start. Companies with internal mentoring programs, or specialized corporate universities, have much better hiring and retention rates than those that rely on traditional, old-fashioned training programs.

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Certain companies in our industry may not be aware of the current shift in the workplace toward a more balanced life, and they are slowly losing the ability to compete for the best and the brightest in the younger work-force. This can be particularly important if the company is trying to hire more women, as many building and construction companies are. We’re dealing with a workforce that often no longer wants to work 10-hour days and is not as interested in climbing the corporate ladder. For Generation Y workers in particular, balance is the most important aspect of their lives. A company that regularly expects 50- or 60-hour workweeks may not be able to compete against a company that has flexible schedules, or that offers a chance to work from home.

Another thing that happens when you consider clients from a holistic perspective is that you may find some you wouldn’t normally have considered. A good example is our client United Subcontractors, Inc. Granted, it’s the construction services industry, which is not exactly viewed as forward thinking or exciting. But within United Subcontractors there is a passion for the industry, a set of values that really contributes to employee development, and a commitment to professionalism that speaks to the younger generations. I know if I can get a candidate to that first interview, they’re hooked. There are many, many great companies out there where candidates leave interviews feeling excited and motivated to learn more about the opportunities.

One other note to leave you with. We all know that as recruiters, we live on referrals. The clients you send your candidates to directly affect your overall credibility in the marketplace, and ultimately your brand as a professional recruit-ing firm. When you choose clients based on intangible assets as well as traditional ones, you build your recruiter equity. Candidates feel that you really understand what they want. Take a step back and really look at your clients from a holistic perspective. What you find may surprise you. Use culture, value, and purpose as qualifiers, and in the long run, your results may surprise you even more.

Rikka Brandon is the president and founder of Building Resources, an international recruiting firm that focuses exclusively on recruiting for the building industry. For more info on Rikka and Building Resources, visit


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