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Strategy & Planning Sep 18, 2014

Hire generation Y, Z, and whatever comes next

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The Boomerang Generation is not afraid to add value, as long as they can learn. They prize information and challenge over salary. They don’t just come in from 9 to 5, they work outside these hours, always connected, always online. They don’t need to be thought to get stuff done, they need to be coached to do the things with the most value. Look for them on Craigslist and other community-driven market places. Fancy recruiting websites are for people who treat the job market with old-fashioned marketing eyes. A resume is just an ad, it does not mean anything unless it’s engaging. The new generations post their resumes online in the form of profiles and the work they've accomplished. Or even better are video resumes like this one. They'll judge your company by the same, by what they can find online, not by what you post on

Monetary compensation is not the most important recognition for folks just out of college. Make sure they can afford the rent and the bus, give them incentives like training, event tickets, and free gadgets. Get a weekly AmazonFresh order to keep the fridge filled with their favorite snacks and beverages. Redbull, Cheez-It crackers, protein bars, fruit. Herbal tea in the afternoon to get the caffeine edge off.

For generation Y and Z, it’s all about job satisfaction. Summer interns and college graduates work extremely hard if you give them 3 things:

  • Allow them to learn something new every day, week, month, etc. Ask them (and yourself): Have you learned something new? Did you grow?
  • Empower them, let them own something. It doesn't have to be big. Be there for questions and support, remove obstacles, but don’t do the job for them.
  • Give them an opportunity to leave a legacy. Just like you, they want to do meaningful work. They want their work to count. They grew up with a lot of noise and can smell redundancy and clutter miles away.

Try the following test. Ask them: If you had to write a transition document for your successor, what would be in it? Do you have enough work that's worth transitioning? When you leave today, what would you write on the resume you've accomplished in the last week, month, year?

Why work for a startup?

When hiring college graduates (and college drop-outs, some of them are great!), you are competing with some big brand names like Google and But there is a lot to like for your prospects, as long as you are able to do the pitch. Here's why they should pick you over a big company when they come out of school. There are things that are very important to add to their academic resume:

  • Think creatively – With limited marketing budget, and thus no external help to call in, a startup is on their own, so its the ideal environment to learn to be creative in how to get stuff done.
  • Learning to fail – And to get back on your feet. There is no place better than a small company, where things are ok to break before they grow big. In most startups, it's encouraged to take risks and to learn, and your new hire will not be the only one that will learn from failure, so you can all learn together. A startup in itself is a trial and error project fighting against the odds to succeed. It's the perfect environment to learn to fail, pick yourself up and go at it again. Again and again.
  • Hack & hustle - Learn how to squeeze every bit of margin out of a service you need to use, getting deals on everything and finding loopholes to use stuff free or use it for things it was not intended to, but works great. There is nothing like a startup to learn all these skills.
  • Lead – In a start-up, it is pretty common that the intern rapidly becomes the expert in a certain field, and has an opportunity to lead the rest of the team.
  • Get stuff done – You quickly learn not to be afraid to press "start". On a new affiliate promotion, a new webpage, blog or feature. You learn to ask for forgiveness, not permission as nowhere else. And you learn to ship something every day, week or month. Make them all count.

Celebrate everything

With progress being measured one visitor at a time, the days of celebrating a “big contract” are over. Celebrate small things. Every excuse for a team lunch or happy hour is an opportunity to create a winning culture.

This summer, a new class of 20-Somethings graduated. They're hungry, eager to make a quick impact and are working overtime to overcome two obstacles: a transitioning job market and a label that holds a negative connotation — Millennial. They're also a bigger demographic than the Baby Boomers (and they know they need to work to take care of them with their tax dollars in the near future…). 

Some people are concerned about recent college graduates and 20-Somethings who are rumored to require constant attention, tend to whine, waste time on social media, are completely self-absorbed and lazier than older employees. It's an oversimplification and it's wrong. If you hire millennials and have a problem, it might not be their fault — it might be yours. Put rumors to rest and hire young people to get stuff done. Hire them by the droves. They're highly proficient, smart, driven, effective, social media savvy, and like to have fun. And they follow directions if you set the right ground rules.

The 2010 Pew Center Report on Millennials praises their confidence as compared to previous generations. They are optimistic about the future and are at the leading edge of the social media revolution.

This is what CeCe Bazar, who is herself at the midpoint of the Millennial generation, had to say. This is her opinion on why you should hire a millennial:

We grew up in an age of instant gratification. 

We know exactly what we want, we're used to getting it as soon as we want it, and we'll move quickly to achieve it. If incentivized properly, you'll be shocked at how fast you'll start seeing results. Want that deal closed tomorrow? Want that person on the phone today? Want that blog post done by noon? Your best chance is to give it to the 20-Something on your team, and you'll see the finished product in no time. Millennials have a sense of urgency that is fantastic and motivational. 

Tip: Set deadlines with millennials or they'll constantly tweak — if you need to get stuff done, limit the amount of time required to finish the project. I'll talk more about this in the future post about using "SCRUM" meetings to manage the team.

We are the ultimate stalkers. 

Give us a computer, some speedy wi-fi, a little bit of background information, and we'll most likely learn new things about your prospects and customers through digital self-education. There is no one we can’t find, no Google phrase we can’t crack. Information fuels us, and we're mighty good at finding exactly what we're looking for.

Tip: Encourage social media use instead of prohibiting it to ensure that you’re getting in front of more qualified prospects.

We feel like we have something to prove.

Any smart millennial has read the articles floating around on the internet. We know what more senior team members are saying about us and we're going to work hard to prove just the opposite. No other recent hire will ramp up faster than a millennial. Remember, information is the power to us, and we understand that from every interaction there is something we can learn. Therefore, rather than yessing you to death, we'll ask questions that get to the heart of the matter — and we don’t care how late we need to stay up to get the answer. (Our nights out don’t start until later anyway!)

Many companies have millions of examples of dedicated, hard-working, self-directed young overachievers who'll do the right things, work their butts off, and help scale the business. If you’re not one of them yet, here are things to look for in a solid hire from the Millennial generation:

  • Both personal and professional motivation
  • Track record of achievement
  • Positive attitude and a sense of humor

When interviewing young people I don't look to close at specific skill sets. Tools and methodologies change so fast that it's hard to keep track anyway. 

I try to test for 3 things:

  • Work ethic - To test this you can just ask questions about their previous jobs, but I've found that the best method is to ask them some specific tasks to prepare for the interview. I ask them for example to become hub-spot inbound certified or to write a value proposition pitch for our company. This should be a task that can be done in a few hours and is a great test to see if they are willing to invest in their future by working hard.
  • Ability to learn new things - I usually introduce some challenges early in the interview, and provide some hints at solutions. Then during the interview, I test if they are willing to explore ideas to solve the challenges, and how fast they are able to brainstorm with me through the problem-solving. I prevent asking pure IQ or mind game questions since problem-solving in startups is more a combination of individual smarts and the ability to brainstorm with others and participate in group creativity. Again, when I ask them to get hub-spot inbound certified before the interview this is also a great way to test their ability to learn something new fast.
  • Can-do attitude - Working in a startup is not for the faint of heart. Wetter it's finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable challenges with limited resources, or living with the insecurity of a startup's daily cash-flow challenges, a positive outlook to life is very helpful. It seems an obvious character treat that is desired, but I often see people join startups that are not ready to always look at the glass half full.


My final note is on the early development of young people when they join your team. Maybe you have heard of the term "A T-shape profile", discussed in this post from Moz founder Rand Fishkin. The development of a broad foundation skill set of every modern marketing marketer cannot be done better than in a small company, startup culture environment (I like to hand out $50 gift cards to team members who complete certifications like Google Analytics or HubSpot). And when you hire the right interns or young self-starter, they also have all the opportunity in the world to see what they are most passionate about and turn that into their deep expertise area. A see of opportunities for both employer and employees!

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