Generation Alien: the disconnect between employers and young workers

by HRM30 Apr 2013

Obscure processes, lengthy hiring times and a total lack of feedback is frustrating and disillusioning young workers, making them less likely to seek and find employment.

A new report from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found the mismatch between employer expectations and youth understand of those expectations is contributing to high rates of youth unemployment.

The report, Employers are from Mars, young people are from Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch, found that what many employers consider standard practice is confusing for young applicants.

“Many employers state that they require 'experience', even for relatively junior roles, which then creates a vicious cycle for those young people who do not have access to work opportunities,” CIPD reported. “This also prevents businesses from taking advantage of a diverse talent pool and can result in paying above the odds for skills they could have honed internally.”

Young people were also de-motivated by a lack of feedback when applying for roles, while employers are overwhelmed by the “scattergun” applications from young people who have done nothing to research and tailor their applications to the specific role.

Few young workers have been coached in the hiring process, so they do not always know what is expected or required, and are therefore unprepared for interviews and other stages. The report recommended companies tailor their recruitment practices to make them more “youth friendly”.

Five ways to improve youth recruiting:

Role design
Consider designing a select number of roles to be filled by young people such as school-leavers or new graduates. What you lose in experience, you can make up in pay rate and enthusiasm.

List where young people are looking
Engage with local schools, apprenticeship programs and recruitment agencies, and make sure you’re using social media to engage with young people through the channels they prefer.

Selecting the best and brightest
Ensure your selection processes are youth-friendly and transparent so young people know what is expected from them. Simple application forms and specific criteria, that are adapted for each position, could help reduce confusion.

Interview and improve
Provide as much information as possible, including dress code and instructions for who to ask for at reception. Try a “strengths-based” interview, focusing on what the candidate is good at, rather than competency and what they have already done. For candidates rejected at this stage, offer them the opportunity for feedback on why they didn’t get the role, and ways they could improve their interviewing skills in the future.


  • by Kim 30/04/2013 8:39:05 PM

    I don't think this is any different from when I was a kid. There were way more people than there were jobs back then and the only way we could get experience was to do Volunteer work or offer to work for free for a period (which the Unions didn't like of course).

    I think the only difference is that the current generation of new entries into the market can't recall a time where it has ever been like this. They watched their older brothers and sisters start their careers with bargaining power and think that's normal. Having said that it probably is the new norm for what will be the rest of my working life and this is just a little "dry spot". Now the Super funds are starting to recover, the exodus of Baby Boomers will begin and things will return to what it was like in 2007.

    They will soon forget how difficult it was to enter the workforce as employers (particularly in Western Australia) return to pulse-checking and right to work as the primary selection tools...

  • by HR Observer 1/05/2013 8:45:32 AM

    It's not just younger workers! Older workers, too, are so over the complete lack of common courtesy shown by many recruiters and HR officers. And we're tired of being told that it's "too hard" when a company receives so many applications for a role that they simply can't be expected to respond to everyone. It's downright rude and absolutely unacceptable.

  • by Malcolm King 1/05/2013 8:28:12 PM

    If I was 20 and looking for a job today, I'd completely bypass the recruiter and use Linkedin to get to the employer/MD.

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