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Recruiting Millennials

Learning to speak their language with video provides innovative opportunities in hiring

by Katy Ibsen, managing editor




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Skill Scout is a Chicago-based hiring firm that assists companies in modern-day recruitment practices. Founded in 2014, the company strives to help companies understand that they cannot be what they cannot see.

“Job descriptions don’t show what a job is like, said Elena Valentine, Skill Scout CEO and co-founder. “The hiring process is missing out on an important opportunity to help candidates consider careers that may not have considered before.” Valentine and her team quickly learned the power of video for hiring because it provided more intel for candidates, demystified requirements and offered more information on the opportunity.

“We saw it as our mission to use video and storytelling to help make more meaningful hiring connections between candidates and companies,” she said.

Since its founding, Skill Scout has partnered with more than 100 manufacturers to educate them on improving the hiring process, increasing retention and increasing the amount of quality talent that comes into the pipeline – all through the power of video storytelling.

PostPress asked Valentine more about her firm and its value to manufacturers seeking new, millennial team members.

Tell us about your operation and what Skill Scout offers to companies looking to expand their hiring practices.

Skill Scout is a media company that helps manufacturers tell their story on video as a way to attract and retain talent. In addition to full-scale media production services, we have a DIY video product offering that puts the storytelling in the company’s hands. We give them the plan and the video kit. They film. We edit and share back a compelling video that they can share across their platforms. Our main mission to empower manufacturing leaders to be chief human storytellers of their business and use video as part of their creative tool kit to do so.

Based on your research and work, why is there a shortage of millennials in the world of manufacturing?

Long and short of it: exposure and perception. We were the generation whose education system did away with shop class and vocational tracks. We were the ones with guidance counselors and parents pushing us to see college as the best and only route. Fact is, we didn’t have the same kind of exposure to this industry as others did. You cannot be what you cannot see. Only now are these programs making a comeback, thanks to society wising up to the crippling student loan debt and manufacturing’s strong hold on the global economy.

Ninety percent of millennials believe manufacturing is fundamental to America’s prosperity, yet we rank it dead last as a career choice. What we’ve come to know of manufacturing is outdated and negative. So much of the rhetoric either harkens to the Upton Sinclair days or the opposite extreme – robots taking over all of those jobs. We all know this isn’t true. For too long, manufacturing has allowed others to take control of the narrative. I’m relieved to see that’s quickly changing.

Why do you believe millennials are good hires for manufacturing?

Millennials aren’t just good hires for manufacturing. At this point, they are the hires for manufacturing, with Generation Z quickly to follow. Hiring good millennials is inevitable. In fact, the majority of companies reading this probably have a large contingent of millennials already working for them.

Manufacturing still has a place for this generation and beyond. It’s simply how we communicate the value and opportunities of this industry that we have to highlight more. This includes things like:

  • How might their roles fit in with the overall mission and vision of the company?
  • What growth opportunities exist? And, what kind of pathways does your company provide to help them get there?
  • How would you describe and showcase your culture?

Why do varying sectors within manufacturing need to think differently to hire millennials?

Some of this is about exposure. Depending on the sector you’re in, your products might be hidden and relatively unknown to your everyday consumer and candidate. Think of a small component that goes inside the engine of a car. While it’s an essential component, I’d be hard pressed to open my hood, point out that component and know that Company X made that.

For that reason, some sectors will be pushed more than others to communicate a story that shows how their work contributes to the whole – in this case, a car. However, this goes beyond just talking about the car, to answering an even more important question: What is the value of a car in someone’s life in the first place? A car helps someone get to work and take care of their family. A car connects loved ones from far away. That’s the story candidates – millennials and beyond – can understand and get behind.

What are some antiquated hiring practices you would encourage companies to eliminate?

  • Post and pray no longer works. Throw a sign on the lawn and expect people to walk inside and apply? (wink wink) With unemployment at an all-time low, gone are the days of “posting and praying.” Your recruiting strategy has to be proactive and less reactive.
  • Update those old boilerplate job descriptions. When was the last time your hiring managers looked at the job descriptions? Technologies have evolved, your products have evolved and so are the people you’re hiring for those jobs.
  • This is not a one-way interview conversation. What impression are you leaving your candidates during the interview process? Have you trained your managers in how to effectively run a Company X interview? If not, you should. You could very well be driving candidates away and not know it because of a negative impression during an interview.
  • Resume alone doesn’t get to understanding someone’s skills. I get that. Many manufacturers are looking for highly skilled and highly experienced individuals. An easy way we’ve tried to navigate that is through the resume. We can peruse where they’ve come from and how many years of experience they have. But – does that really show what they can actually do? The answer is no. One thing we’ve implemented at Skill Scout for our own hiring practices is the use of work samples. It’s giving someone a chance to try their hand at the job. Work samples are the best predictor of job performance, and they significantly reduce hiring bias. Perhaps it’s giving the candidates a blueprint and having them walk through how they would troubleshoot a machine. Or, if this is for a quality role, it’s giving them two products and having them inspect for errors.

What challenges have you run into when consulting manufacturing companies on hiring?

Like all things, change is hard. Despite that the current way of doing things is not working, it’s an outcome and a process that you’re comfortable with. It can be hard for manufacturing leaders to see that what worked for them coming into this industry is not the same today. What’s more, the level of technology and new approaches feels foreign and something that might be hard for someone to pick up on top of the multitude of responsibilities they have.

Yet the question I always ask them in these cases is, what will happen if you don’t change? It becomes a conversation less about whether they hire Skill Scout and more a question around a call for them to act on anything.

The other thing we come against more often than not is whether the company culture is set up for something like this. What we typically find is that these approaches bring candidates in, but does the company have what they need to keep them and develop them? What’s their pay structure like? Do they offer clear paths for promotion? What’s the work environment like: family or hostile? No one likes to admit that they have a negative working environment, but truth is, we’ve had a few companies halt video because the planning of it brought up some heavy issues regarding low morale and conflicts among leadership. Suffice it to say, an approach like Skill Scout’s doesn’t work unless that company has a culture to embrace it.

You promote video as the best means for reaching millennials, why?

Media is the literacy of the 21st century, and we are the YouTube generation. By 2020, video will be the largest driver of internet traffic. Video and visuals is how we learn, and there is science to prove it. We retain 65 percent of what we see and hear vs. 15 percent what we read. We watch videos to learn everything from how to fix our kitchen sink to learning math equations. Given the already overwhelming data that support video, it’s not surprising that this works to expose a new generation to the manufacturing industry.

How can companies that have never used video to hire move in that direction?

You can start small, by simply taking out the cameras in your pocket (aka your smartphone) and snapping photos/videos of your work and environment. Share them on your website. Craft social media posts with a caption of what viewers are seeing. Attach them to your job post to give the candidates a glimpse into the requirements. This is all free and something you can start doing tomorrow.

Beyond video, what advice do you have for hiring managers who want to attract millennials?

Call me biased, but it’s all in the story and how you communicate the opportunity candidates would have with your company. All your communications from your phone screen to your job ad should center around the candidate first, not the company. How will the opportunity at your company help this candidate grow in life and career? If you can answer that question authentically, and put in some resources to spreading that message, you can become an employer of choice in this industry.

For more information, visit www.skillscout.com.