RECRUITMENT – Why the best graduates might refuse to work for you

18 October 2016

Environmental and ethical awareness is growing. If you want the pick of the crop of job applicants, your business needs to go with it.

Generation Y is also known as the Millennials. The demographic covers people who reached young adulthood around 2000. They are currently the folks somewhere between 21 and their mid-to-late 30s. If you want the brightest eyed and bushiest tailed people working for you, these are the ones you have to inspire.

In research from Colmar Brunton, nearly three quarters of respondents agreed with this statement: “It’s important to work for a company that’s socially and environmentally responsible.” The report added: “Globally, Gen Y is considered to be the most environmentally and socially concerned generation yet, and set to have a huge impact on the marketplace of tomorrow.”

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2014 contained similar insights.

“Millennials, who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, have large ambitions for business,” it said. “They see a big gap between the potential of business to address the challenges facing society and the actual impact it is having.” 

Deloitte found nearly two thirds of this group donates to charity. Over 40% of them volunteer or are a member of a community organisation. More than half have signed a petition. 

These people want sustainability and social responsibility to be integral to their lifestyle.

Brigitte Hicks is 23. She has a Bachelor of Commerce from Victoria University of Wellington. She attended the elite Saint Kentigern College. She was an honours student, a prefect, team captain of athletics and cycling squads, and sportswoman of the year. She has represented New Zealand in cross country, cycling and triathlons. She is just the sort of person likely to be of interest to graduate recruiters all over the country.

Brigitte is a marketing and campaigns specialist at Sustainable Business Network. Her route into the role is an example of how top candidates are actively seeking out ethical options. Brigitte joined SBN as an unpaid intern after networking her way there through all the sustainable businesses she could find.

“I think a lot of young people want to have purpose in their work these days,” she says. “I knew that at the end of uni’ I wanted to use my marketing skills to get the right messages across to people. I didn’t want to be marketing a product that really didn’t have any value. Our parents’ generation want you to get a job that pays well with a career very focused on the pay check. I want to be successful in a different way. I want to help restore the environment and do something really good.

Her experience since taking the job has reinforced her decision.

“I was at a conference for young people recently and the majority of the time people were just asking me how I got my job. They wanted to know who they should contact for something similar. They consider me one of the lucky ones in the dream job as their first job.” 

“A lot of people my age are very worried that they don’t know what their purpose is and their jobs aren’t helping them to find it. A lot of them give in and jump into a role that they don’t enjoy for a couple of years, but they see it as a means to an end.”

So even if you do recruit these people they may not be fully committed to your company. They might not stay on unless you have a positive mission to inspire them. 

Liz Medford is careers and employment manager at Victoria University of Wellington. She has witnessed a growing interest in this kind of work among the young people she deals with.

“Given the choice between an organisation actively practising CSR and an organisation that isn’t, it would be fair to say that many graduates would certainly prefer and choose the former,” she says. “We can report anecdotally that there is increasing interest amongst students to search out ‘ethical’ employers.

“Our seminars on topics related to CSR, sustainability and business ethics are always sought after and well attended. In response many of our major graduate recruiters make a point about addressing the issue of corporate responsibility during their recruitment presentations.” 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that these concerns will always trump other important considerations like career path, location, pay and conditions in every candidate. You still need to offer the right overall package. But the best candidates who have their pick of roles are likely to consider it. 

You don’t have to be an NGO or a social enterprise. You do have to be able to prove you are doing the right thing by society and the world at large. Everybody grows up wanting to be one of the good guys.

So how do you ensure the good your firm does helps drive recruitment? 

1. Make doing good the core of your business. Millennials are ace at research and have a keen nose for bullshit. Trying to greenwash them, fake it, or talk up efforts that are just window dressing is not going to work. If you want these candidates to come and stay with you, your business must take a truly positive stance in the world.

2. Display the goods on your career materials. Make sure whatever sustainable, ethical and social credentials you do have are on display on your web pages and other materials that candidates encounter. This should include a comprehensive statement on the company’s ethos and commitments. A short video is an ideal way to show this.  

3. Make sure your recruiters talk about this stuff. You are looking for candidates that will fit in. They are looking at whether they will fit in to the culture you are offering. If your recruiters haven’t met with the folks guiding your sustainability and CSR recently, book it in now.