Overcoming Generational Stereotypes in Recruiting: 7 Lessons Learned

When it comes to recruiting across multiple generations, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And with five generations in the workforce — Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z — companies must ensure that they do not interact with any age group based on stereotypes.

To dismantle generational stereotypes and help growing companies tailor their recruiting strategies, we’ve gathered insights from HR managers and Chief Human Resources Officers. From promoting equitable candidate opportunities to valuing diverse perspectives and experiences, here are seven lessons these leaders have learned to foster a more inclusive workplace.

  • Promote Equitable Candidate Opportunities
  • Harness Intergenerational Team Strengths
  • Assess Skills Beyond Stereotypes
  • Focus on Universal Employee Needs
  • Embrace Generational Diversity for Growth
  • Document Communication Preferences
  • Value Diverse Perspectives and Experiences

Promote Equitable Candidate Opportunities

Overcoming generational stereotypes is vital for cultivating inclusivity. Assumptions and bias should not influence our perception of a candidate’s qualifications or potential contributions. I strongly advocate for affording every candidate an equitable opportunity, allowing them to demonstrate or communicate how their skills and experiences align with the needs of the role.

By steering clear of assumptions tied to any demographic information, we can establish an objective hiring process that prioritizes merit. Ultimately, a recruiting strategy that revolves around creating an environment where meritocracy prevails elevates the quality of hires and contributes to a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Scott Johnson, HR Manager

Harness Intergenerational Team Strengths

Navigating generational stereotypes in mid-market recruiting has taught me the invaluable lesson of recognizing and leveraging diverse strengths across age groups. Overcoming preconceived notions about different generations involved fostering an environment where each team member’s unique skills and perspectives are acknowledged and celebrated.

By encouraging intergenerational collaboration, we’ve harnessed the power of collective experiences, knowledge, and innovative thinking. This approach not only enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of our teams, but also contributes to a more inclusive workplace culture. Emphasizing the value each individual brings, regardless of age, has fostered a sense of belonging and mutual respect.

In turn, this has positively impacted our recruitment strategies, attracting a diverse talent pool that reflects the varied perspectives needed to thrive in today’s dynamic business landscape. The lesson learned is clear — embracing generational diversity is not just an HR initiative; it’s a strategic imperative for building a resilient and inclusive workplace.

Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer, Management.org

Assess Skills Beyond Stereotypes

In recruiting for the construction and manufacturing sectors, we’ve seen generational stereotypes that can hinder the hiring process. Initially, there was a tendency to pigeonhole candidates: Younger workers were automatically associated with innovation and adaptability, while older workers were valued for their experience, but often underestimated in terms of their ability to adapt to new technologies.

The crucial lesson we learned was the importance of looking beyond these stereotypes to assess the actual skills and potential of each individual. This approach has led to the realization that younger workers can possess a deep appreciation for and skills in traditional methods, while many older workers have enthusiastically embraced new technologies, contributing significantly to innovation within their fields.

Implementing this insight into our recruitment practices has contributed to creating a more inclusive workplace in several ways. First, it has broadened our talent search, allowing us to discover and appreciate the unique mix of skills and perspectives that workers from different generations bring to the table. This diversity of thought and experience has fostered a more dynamic and innovative work environment.

Ana Alipat, Recruitment Team Lead, Dayjob Recruitment

Focus on Universal Employee Needs

Generational stereotypes can pull people apart and make them feel much different from each other when, in reality, they’re quite similar. When you look at why people left their previous roles, they’re the same for every generation of workers: inadequate pay, lack of development or advancement opportunities, and poor leadership.

So, we shouldn’t really treat generations differently during recruitment because we risk getting it wrong or pandering. Instead, we should look at those universal needs and learn individual preferences before making any assumptions.

Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer, Checkr

Embrace Generational Diversity for Growth

There is one interaction I had a few years ago with a hiring manager in a mid-market company that comes to mind. When we first started working with this client, they were very against hiring anyone from the Millennial generation into a mid-level management role we were helping them to fill. Their perception of Millennial talent was in keeping with the most common stereotypes you hear about this generation — that they lacked employer loyalty, were entitled with a low work ethic, and were difficult to work with and manage.

The thing was, based on what they were looking for from the position, a Millennial candidate, in general, actually seemed like an ideal fit. The company wanted to hire someone who was interested in growing a career with them and potentially advancing into a higher leadership role in the future. The majority of the candidates we sourced who had the right skills and experience, and were interested in both career advancement and a current role in middle management, were from the Millennial generation, so eliminating everyone in this age range would have greatly limited the talent available for the role.

In the end, we convinced the hiring manager to take a chance on at least interviewing a few of these Millennial candidates. Ironically, the point consultant on their search team was a Millennial themselves, which I do think helped to break down some of the hiring manager’s misconceptions about that generation of workers and what they contribute within an organization. Eventually, they came to see that hiring a younger worker was beneficial for their succession planning and company growth overall, and they did end up hiring one of the Millennial candidates we sourced for them.

We have worked with that same client to fill other roles since, and I think it’s safe to say their resistance to hiring younger talent has vanished. I think they realized that part of the reason they were having so much trouble finding people for their open roles was because of this resistance to an entire generation, and have embraced a shift toward more generational diversity in their team now that they have seen some younger workers in action and know the value they can bring to a workplace firsthand.

Rob Boyle, Marketing Operations Director, Airswift

Document Communication Preferences

Create open documentation that reveals a person’s preferred communication styles and tactics. Many older generations may prefer to communicate in person, while others prefer email, and younger generations often favor apps like Slack. Knowing someone’s communication style ahead of time can also alleviate stressors. If a person is frank and honest, that should be known.

While a receiver may not prefer being spoken to in that manner, that information should also be transparently available, so that frank communicators can adjust their style for that person. This has helped our growing team communicate more effectively with each other and has avoided issues.

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager, Ling App

Value Diverse Perspectives and Experiences

One significant lesson I’ve learned from facing and overcoming generational stereotypes within recruiting is the importance of valuing diverse perspectives and experiences, regardless of age.

Initially, there was a tendency to pigeonhole candidates into roles based on generational assumptions: Baby Boomers were often viewed as not being tech-savvy, Millennials were seen as needing constant praise, and Gen Z were labeled as too dependent on technology. These stereotypes not only limited our ability to see the true potential of candidates, but also hindered our team dynamics and innovation.

By actively challenging these stereotypes, I encouraged our recruitment and management teams to focus on the unique strengths and skills that individuals of all ages bring to the table. We implemented more comprehensive training programs designed to bridge knowledge gaps across all generations, fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of age, could learn from each other. This approach helped to break down barriers and promote a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.

Moreover, this shift in perspective led us to adopt a more skills-based approach to recruitment, focusing on the specific abilities and experiences required for the job rather than on the candidate’s age. This not only broadened our talent pool, but also helped us uncover hidden gems who were previously overlooked due to generational biases.

The result has been a more inclusive workplace that values diversity of thought and experience. Our teams are more dynamic, with a rich mix of generational perspectives that drive innovation and creativity. This experience taught me the power of looking beyond stereotypes to leverage the strengths that each individual brings to the team, creating a more cohesive and productive work environment.

Vit Koval, Co-founder, Globy

Further reading