qualities to look for in millennials
Photo credit: Cea (Flickr)

One of the main concerns I’ve heard over the course of my (brief) time in the professional world, has come from upper management during the hiring process. And that’s the question of, “How do I know if this person fresh out of college is really going to pan out?”

It’s a fair question. The “different” mindset of Millennials and Gen Y-ers when it comes to work has been well documented. However, there are certain qualities to look for in these folks which, if you find them, should strengthen your confidence in him or her when it comes to hiring. Actually, these qualities bode well for any employee, but when you find them in someone with little to no experience, they are more meaningful.

Here are my top 7 qualities to look for in millennial employees:

1. Willingness to Teach Themselves

One of the beautiful qualities in our tech-loving, phone-obsessed young people is their ability to teach themselves how to do things; they just “Google it” or find a video on YouTube. Instead of requiring hand-holding, the young person who says, “I’ll figure it out myself” will save you quite a bit of time and maintenance.

2. Spark

Having “spark” is a rather vague quality to judge, but when you see it—you’ll know. It’s a combination of enthusiasm, energy, and intelligence that make for a fantastic employee — someone who is engaging and able to get things done.

3. Staying humble

The hubris of a young person can be a terrible downfall. If you can find a young employee who understands that book knowledge is really only partial preparation for the school of experience, (and they are open to new ideas) then you’ll have someone ripe for molding and mentoring.

4. Past Examples of Taking Initiative

While young professionals may not have years of experience under their belts, their resume will show how much initiative they’ve taken in the past—and sometimes in unique ways. Recently, I learned of a college grad who started an online business (and was successful). When it came to competing for a job with others who stood on equal ground with regard to skill and education, she was the one who was hired. That example of entrepreneurial spirit landed her the job.

5. Doing the Homework

If a young person comes into an interview and doesn’t know much about your business or organization, he/she obviously hasn’t done the homework—and isn’t too interested. Look for the ones who take the time to learn more about the job before stepping through the front door. They’ll be more interested and more likely to buy in to what you do.

6. Presentation

Yes, it’s true—you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But if a young professional shows up looking sloppy at an interview, it may be a reflection of how they’ll present themselves on daily basis. This may or may not jive with your expectations. Even as someone who sometimes dresses unconventionally myself, I wouldn’t take this one lightly. An interview is an interview.

7. Social Media Presence

Some business owners are against checking interviewee’s social media outlets, but I say—if they’re willing to put it out there, it’s fair game! Take a look at what content they post and their pictures—those are worth a thousand words each, right? You might find someone who looks like they are a great fit for your culture—or you might find some red flags.

Closing thoughts: Regardless of how you make your hiring decisions, just remember this: sometimes it’s worth the risk to give that younger person a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.

What do qualities to do you look for?

What have your experiences been with hiring young employees? Do you agree or disagree with these suggestions—and what would you add?

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