Hiring millennials

From the listing to the interview, how operators can snag the best young talent.

Millennials treat work too casually. They are entitled. They are tethered to their smartphones. These are some of the stereotypes millennials are pegged with. Yet it’s these stereotypes—overgeneralizations or not—that are changing the face of the workforce. Millennials aren’t afraid to talk to anyone in an organization; they’re driven to achieve; they embrace tech to ease processes. And by 2025, millennials will make up three-fourths of the workforce, says Minneapolis researcher BridgeWorks. So how do restaurants get the right millennials on staff?

millenials circle

It starts with knowing that, for this age group in particular, the hiring process begins before the candidate ever sets foot in the door. Millennials are not just applying for a job at the eatery down the block. According to a study by CareerBuilder, these young job seekers may consult up to 15 resources to research opportunities and potential employers. Beyond a restaurant’s own website, they explore social media and employer-review sites such as So operators must be conscious of their own online image, says Donna Herbel, lead director of training and development for Memphis-based Perkins & Marie Callender’s. “There’s more transparency and openness due to tech,” she says.

Further, just as research shows millennial customers connect to a brand through its story, the same applies to job candidates. “To attract and retain millennials, employers have to have something bigger than themselves, have a cause,” says Gabe Hosler, director of training and operations services for Carlsbad, Calif.-based Mexican chain, Rubio’s. The sustainability message the brand touts to consumers has resonated with prospective staffers as well, he says.

With millennials casting a wider net, the bait tossed out is key. A generic listing won’t hook top candidates, says Eric Chester, author of “Employing Generation Why: Understanding, Managing, and Motivating Your New Workforce.” Think about your star staffers; peg traits that make them great. “If you had to file a missing person’s report, what would it say? That’s what it takes to succeed,” he says.

Millennials are unique job seekers in practical ways, as well. A full 83 percent of candidates applying for restaurant jobs, many of whom are millennials, do so online, reports Snagajob. Also notable: As many as 97 percent of online applicants don’t complete the application, Snagajob says, suggesting ease of use of online applications is critical. A mobile-friendly application is a must as well, as 56 percent of all applicants seek employment and apply for jobs on mobile devices.

Even interviews go differently with millennial applicants. Forget the classic employer-asks-prospect-answers format. “Millennials interview you as much you interview them,” says Herbel, adding that they place a premium on honesty. Be upfront about what the work and culture really is like, and “lay out not just a job, but a career path,” she says. CareerBuilder data shows most millennials still are searching for their dream jobs; only 23 percent are satisfied with their careers. The trick is to offer a future to keep them for longer—and here is where restaurants have a compelling story to tell. 

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