They're known as Generation Y or the Millennials. But a more appropriate name for Americans born between 1980-2000 might be Generation Underemployed.
The whole country faced a challenging job market filled with limited opportunities following the 2008 economic crisis. But while America rebounded from the recession (the unemployment rate is down to 5.4%) Millennials continue to face a bleak reality. The unemployment rate for Gen Y is closer to 10.5%, and 44% of young college grads who do have jobs are stuck in low-wage, low-skill positions.
The problem isn't just Millennials losing out on opportunities, though. Employers are missing out on fresh talent and perspective that's vital to any business long-term. They're failing to learn from and groom the next generation of innovators and leaders. Excellent candidates are being overlooked not because they lack ability, but because they have a blank resume.
It's time to look beyond the resume and start hiring these bright, young college graduates. Just as a blank resume doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of potential, a full resume packed with internships and relevant credentials doesn't guarantee success.
Here are five ways to start looking for promising young candidates who might not have relevant work experience yet:
1. Evaluate online presence
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, having used it at least since their awkward teenage years--if not earlier. It'd be hard to find a college student these days who hasn't been lectured about dangers of posting inappropriate material to their social media profiles, seeing as half of all employers check social media when hiring. (Of course mistakes do slip through the cracks, or there wouldn't be an app to scan and erase egregious posts.)
Besides looking for the obvious slip-ups--keg stand photos, prejudicial language, and illegal behavior--employers should check online to learn who the candidates really are and how they present themselves. Are they using social media via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and beyond to tell a story about themselves? Do they have a personal brand that comes through?
A social media background check can reveal a lot about a person quickly--what they like, who they are friends with--but most importantly, how they navigate the world. Are they positive and optimistic? Are they quick-witted and passionate? Do they know a great deal about certain topics or parts of the world?
Don't think of social media as a way to weed out candidates, though--this can have the unintended consequence of discriminating against applicants based on information you're not supposed to consider. Rather, use it as a tool to discover the diamonds in the rough with energy, enthusiasm, and exciting new ideas to share.
2. Look at involvement on and off campus
Nearly 80% of college students are working at least part-time during school for an average of 19 hours a week. However, these part-time jobs are rarely connected to students' academic or career goals. To look beyond lightly packed resumes or ones with irrelevant work experience, consider and appreciate where students are putting their time outside school.
Balancing the demands of classes with a job and extra-curricular activities requires organization, time management, and the ability to prioritize--skills that are difficult to capture on a resume. Engagement in student organizations, Greek life, and community involvement can show that students are capable of following through with long-standing commitments.
3. Conduct a better interview
Traditionally, an interviewer runs down a standard list with an interviewee--a resume review, some hypothetical questions, and then a chance to open the floor. To make the most out of any interview, learn what's not on the candidate's resume (see what's not on Creative Live CEO Chase Jarvis' resume).
Take the opportunity to ask what lights their fire, what pushes them to succeed, what has shaped and informed them to be who they are today. It's so straightforward and unexpected that it will force even the most well-prepared candidates to speak candidly about themselves. Remember that knowing how to handle tough situations doesn't just come from work experience.
4. Assign a project
One of the biggest problems with relying on a resume is that you can't see a candidate in action--in problem-solving mode. The simplest way to correct that is to assign a project, with a few rules and limitations, similar to one they're likely to encounter in the office.
You can assign the project before candidates come in for an interview to give them some time to prepare. Or, you can offer a shorter version of the project at an in-person interview to get a glimpse into how a candidate thinks. The idea is to allow a candidate's creativity and problem-solving skills shine. You might be surprised to find how differently candidates approach the same problem.
5. Hire for the long-term
As an employer, it's easy to hire for the short-term. There's a lot of work to do, and you just want a candidate who can get the job done. But it's important to put time into developing a hiring strategy that pays off in the long-term. You need a diversity of perspectives and experiences to prevent your business from becoming stagnant.
The future of your business depends on looking beyond the blank resume and hiring the eager young minds who are wiling to learn the ropes, and eventually, take the reins.