A Modest Proposal – “Don’t Hire Generation Y”

Saying that we don’t want the youthful idealism and the technological skills characteristic of the current crop of potential new hires is obviously an attempt at humor. Right? RIGHT?!?!

“Here’s my message to you:  Don’t hire Generation Y.  Hire people in their late 20s when they’ve passed that stage.  Better still, hire baby boomers.  They make the best employees.  Nobody wants to hire them.  They’re looking for work.  They don’t go off and get pregnant.  They make pretty good employees because they have no egos.”

Neer Korn, Market Researcher
Heartbeat Trends
June 23, 2007

Now that I have your attention, let me shade in some context.  The comments above were the introduction to a Swiftian wake-up call to Australian and Kiwi employers about the inclusion of “Millennials” or the “iGeneration” to the workforce.  As with most good satire, Korn’s speech highlights stereotypical expectations and views while revealing our inner prejudices and assumptions.  Also, as with most good satire, the mainstream media kind of missed the point, and instead ran with “Don’t Hire Generation Y” as the above-fold headline.  Still, it’s worth a close examination as Korn succinctly peels back the core concerns potential employers hold when it comes to Generation Y.

“When They’ve Passed That Stage . . .”

Youthful exuberance practically goes hand-in-hand with the college diploma.  Every May, scores upon scores of excited, freshly-minted graduates go forth looking to change the world and make it a better place.  In fact, this has been happening pretty much since college graduation became the traditional rite of passage to employment.  Yet it seems that Generation Y is bearing this label with more stigma than generations past.  Have we so quickly forgotten our own dreams and goals, that we harbor resentment against those who have them firmly in view?

Also, why on earth would any employer want to hire a new employee for an entry-level position who brings no enthusiasm or sense of wonder to the job?  Passion is the fuel for the innovation engine.  Are we simply a workforce content with maintaining the status quo?  Because that’s the future we have ahead of us if we are unwilling to embrace those who are aware of and exploring each day’s new possibilities.

“They Don’t Go Off and Get Pregnant . . .”

Um . . . just a quick reminder – The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

But seriously, concerns like this reek of ageism and start to reveal the issue at the heart of many of these arguments:  do it to them before they wind up doing it to me.  Many in today’s workforce are feeling pushed out of positions – especially as changes in technology become an issue.  It seems as soon as we master one new piece of software, there are already two additional plug-ins we need to learn.  While this is a hurdle for many of us, for a generation that grew up waiting for the next release of Windows, it’s par for the course.  Many of us have seen colleagues who have been unable to keep up get stuck while someone younger and more computer-savvy move ahead.  Instead of accepting these changes or trying to learn, instead we turn and look for the nearest opportunity to strike back.

For years, parents have worked hard to make sure their children have had better opportunities than they did.  Now, this is the case.  Instead of pride, the parents are feeling resentful.

Check the Mirror, Not the Incoming Resumes

At the end of the day, it’s often our own sense of insecurity that we reflect back on these potential new employees.  It’s opportunity envy.  It’s the realization that they haven’t developed the same sense of cynicism we have.   We harbor our concerns about our job performance, our mark on the world, and what we have to look forward to – and we project aspects of those concerns onto the competition. 

It’s easier to say that Millennial are too self-confident to be quality employees than to admit we wish we had more self-confidence.  It’s easier to question their supposed “lack of loyalty” than to examine our own motivations for staying in a job or company for an extended period of time.

Instead of using our generational insecurities as a reason not to hire a Millennial, we need to look at how hiring them can help us get past those silly issues and start creating some real change in the credit union industry.




Aug. 13, 2007


  • It frustrates me to no end during the hiring process when I hear Managers proclaim that someone is too inexperienced or immature for entry-level positions. Rather than looking at the younger generation as an opportunity to push us to our fullest potential, we see them as a threat. I''m in the middle of Gen X and Gen Y - and most people don''t even realize it. Mainly because someone, somewhere decided to give me a chance in my career despite my obvious age. When will we stop looking at numbers and begin to look at ideas?
  • Most interesting. I''m willing to talk to anyone that is qualified or has a desire to learn. Thing is, the Gen X and Gen Y folks come in and first thing want to know when they can take a day off... some times in the first week... show up for the interview in tank tops and cut offs, and do the minimum necessary to get by, unless you incent them to do more. The baby boomers still have a work ethic and want to help the organization first, and then believe they will be helped as a result. Like I said, I''ll try anyone with a desire, but I sure like folks that actually want to work.
  • Interesting article. In the end, hiring decisions should be based on the value the individual brings to the organization. Age, like race, gender, religion and sexual preference should not come into play. Sure, I have encountered the self-absorbed 23 year-old who thinks you just don’t get it and resents being required to do the hard work of substantiating the merit in their ideas. But, I have also seen this laziness and arrogance in people over 50 and met many 20-somethings that exude an attitude, maturity and fresh perspective that absolutely can provide a vital component to the success of any team. I believe that creativity, passion, integrity and a strong work ethic are not based how many years one has lived, but rather are formed based on how much one has truly paid attention while alive.
    Chuck Van Court
  • People say that we are incentive driven like its a bad thing. There are two huge benefits here, we are easy to predict and easy to control. The thing to understand is that we are "goal" driven rather than "value" driven when it comes to the nature of the work. We work toward something rather than appreciating the inherent value of putting in a day of work. My biggest fear is the thought of an employer that has no incentives to offer.
  • Well-written and though-provoking article.
  • Woah, I was thinking the samething! I am a 23 year old, college educated in business and history. I have 7 years + experience in banking and a spanking resume... No luck with interviews for supervisor jobs because of my age... LAME. Wake up people, the future is here and eagerly waiting to take charge :)