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Different Breed: Finance Recruiters’ View of Millennials

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 7/6/2016
Recruiters get a bird’s-eye view of the interaction between millennials and finance hiring managers. At the frontline of hiring, they see what companies are asking for and what millennials bring to the table—and how the two match up. Increasingly, recruiting consultants advise clients to think differently about their traditional form of hiring.

Job-hopping culture

In the past, people generally believed long, stable tenures with organizations served as important indicators of job performance. “Millennials don’t necessarily think this way,” explained Phil Murphy, consultant for Spencer Stuart. “They are much more willing to take chances with their careers early on, experience different environments, and proactively acquire different skills across multiple organizations.”

Murphy added that millennials want to feel like they are constantly learning and progressing. “They expect the organization to lay out a clear career path,” he said. “In the absence of clarity, they’ll take things into their own hands.” This does not mean millennials are inappropriately aggressive. It just means that relative to prior generations, they are not satisfied staying put for long in the same role. In addition, “millennials are driven by different motivations and arguably seek a more explicit sense of purpose through their professional endeavors,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, millennials are not as concerned about the long-term implications of having several roles in a short span of time. From an executive search perspective, Spencer Stuart advises clients that frequent job changes do not necessarily mean someone did not fit in or was moved out. “It’s something that we have to validate, carefully reference, and clearly articulate to clients in our candidate reports,” he said.

From a hiring standpoint, “some companies still have a strict mentality about millennials being ‘jumpy,’” or moving more quickly from job to job,” said Nick Sacchinelli of recruitment consultancy Michael Page. To hire the best talent, companies need to overcome that mindset and focus on shorter-term projects, and how the candidate managed from start to finish and added value in the process. “It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to grow within the same organization, it is that they also want to experience professional and personal growth within their immediate projects,” he said.

This can make it harder to recruit millennials into finance roles, Murphy acknowledged. “In order to have meaningful impact in the finance organization, you need to truly understand the business and have strong relationships throughout the company,” he said. Relationships are built over time. So while more frequent job changes and rotations can enable accelerated skill development, it might also compromise one’s ability to develop deep relationships that become so critical for finance leaders to possess.

Leveraging adaptability

“What I’ve seen in the hiring process is that many times it boils down to a cultural fit,” said Sacchinelli. One thing to be said for millennials, “their adaptability rate is very high. They’re very well equipped.”

One of the experiences they bring to the table, particularly since 2008, is familiarity with working on a contract basis. Millennials are also more adaptable to new technologies, which differentiates them from previous generations. They are also very proficient with modeling capabilities, which gives them a leg up in finance. “It gives them a very different look at the operations,” Sacchinelli noted.

Unlike older workers who tend to specialize, millennials are more likely to multitask, be adequate in more subjects, and wear many hats. That’s not necessarily a drawback, according to Sacchinelli. As the business environment and technology change rapidly, there’s really not time (or need) to become a true expert in one thing. “Some of the most successful millennial candidates we’ve hired are those who are highly adaptable,” he said. “Right now, there’s a lot of transition in the marketplace. Before, the market was more static.”
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