Recruiting Millennials: How to Find Purpose Hungry Millennials

Recruiting Millennials: How to Find Purpose Hungry Millennials

Recruiting millennials is all about helping them connect to your company's mission and purpose.

One of the most important elements of the Purpose Revolution is that meaningful work is fast becoming a critical element top talent look for when job hunting. Fast Company recently reported data that 50% of millennial workers would take a pay cut to find work that aligned with their values and 90% said it was important to them to “use their skills for good.” When we know and understand these statistics, we can use the information when recruiting millennials.

Survey Results Are In

Almost half the workforce (42%) now want to work for an organization that has a positive impact on the world, according to research carried out by Global Tolerance.  The survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK found 44% thought meaningful work that helped others was more important than a high salary and 36% would work harder if their company benefitted society.

The change, it would appear, is being driven by the so-called millennials. Of those born between 1981 and 1996, 62% want to work for a company that makes a positive impact, half prefer purposeful work to a high salary, and 53% would work harder if they were making a difference to others.

Recruiting millennials is all about understanding what they value and how that aligns with your company's mission and values.

Recruiting Millennials

Surveys are one thing, but those people who are on the ground recruiting millennials are telling me the same thing. Just last week I had an hour long conversation with Jean Sweeney, the Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M. She told me that potential recruits on university campuses not only come with questions about the company’s purpose efforts on issues like sustainability but that they have already done their homework on the company before the interviews. Top young talent are looking for companies that are driven by purpose and avoiding companies that are not doing good.

She told me that 3M’s efforts to address sustainability and create products that make a difference in people’s lives and societal challenges have made the company a real magnet for talent. The same story has been told to me by companies such as Seventh Generation, the environmentally friendly cleaning products company, that has won recruits old and young who want to use their talent for good. The leader of GE’s Ecomagination division told me the same thing. Top talent are now searching out the most purposeful companies to seek employment.

The bad news is that if your company is not known for being purpose driven especially on issues like sustainability and ethics, then top talent probably avoid you. In other words, you don’t even know that you are not on the list. A recent graduate of a top school told me she made a list of the top forty companies she wanted to target and a “do not apply” list for companies that seemed at odds with her values.


But if your company has a compelling purpose here are three ways to put it up front in recruiting millennials:

First, use the interview process as a way to show that purpose is front and center in your company. On applications and during interviews feature your values and purpose.  Acumen, the non-profit investment fund, has designed a recruitment process that enables it to identify potential employees who share the organization’s purpose. The organization doesn’t simply ask interested candidates to submit a résumé and cover letter; Acumen also asks candidates for responses to a series of short essay questions that relate to the position. For instance, “How would you describe your interest in ‘impact investing’ (which is what Acumen does) versus regular private equity or venture capital investing?” Anyone who doesn’t have a good answer for that probably would do better elsewhere. This tells potential recruits that this matters to us.

Second, while recruiting millennials feature your mission and purpose front and center then bring compelling evidence of how your company lives that mission. Recruits are very skeptical about company claims to be purpose driven and sustainable so they want proof. In fact, research suggests that living the mission is more important to employees than your having one. In other words, what they want is proof that your actions are where the talk is. So bring evidence and make it real and compelling. Show them how they will be involved in that good work because hands-on purpose is more important than something they won’t ever see day to day.

Finally, get millennials and later career recruits to tell the story for you. The most believable ambassadors for your company are the people who already work for you. So why not do a video featuring millennials and some mid or late career shifters who joined your company saying what the company’s purpose means to them. Make it real and authentic. Even better, encourage employees to post them on You Tube as first-person testimonials. When you do the videos remember the two things employees say tells them a company is purpose driven: Positive impact on customers (87%) and positive impact on society (84%) (Deloitte Culture of Purpose Study 2014).

Oh and if you can’t find current employees falling all over themselves to do the videos for you, you are probably already way behind in the Purpose Revolution.


Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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