About this book

Capture the best and brightest IT talent for your company.

In the competitive IT hiring market, the best candidates are often snapped up by big companies before they even graduate, so what can you do to attract them to work for you? The new generation of IT graduates have their own values and each industry has specific recruitment techniques, and the savvy hiring manager needs to know about both in order to attract the very best graduates.

In this practical guide, An Coppens gives hiring managers unique insights into the new generation of IT graduates and what helps them make their career decisions. Featuring examples of recruitment strategies that have worked for some of the great names in the IT industry such as Google and Microsoft, An translates their strategies into practical tips so you can implement them in your organisation’s recruitment process.

Publication date:
February 2014


Chapter 1. What Do IT Graduates Want?

Millennials are entering the workforce in their thousands. This is the generation of students that have seen their parents or relatives being made redundant, that have experienced the great recession through their immediate family and friends, and as a result, they have started to shape their values and behaviors based on our current society. They have also experienced wars and other wrongs being reported through social media such as Twitter, and they understand that life will change regularly, whether you are well prepared or not.


Who are the Millennials?

The Millennials are often also named the Google or Net generation because of their comfort with all things technological. They grew up using technology and they expect employers to provide them with the same tools used in their personal life to collaborate, create, brainstorm, and network. They are hyper-connected through all types of media—physically and socially. News is sourced online and then shared across a wide range of social media networks. They love to learn and they know that there will always be new things to learn because of our dependency on technology. When they learn, they want the content to be engaging and inspiring, with an element of fun thrown in for good measure.

In his book Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, Don Tapscott established a summary of the norms and characteristics critical to understanding the needs of this generation.

The Millennials can be defined as follows:

  • Want freedom in everything they do, from freedom of choice to freedom of expression

  • Love to customize and personalize their experiences

  • Are the "new" scrutinizers; they make up their mind swiftly and expect their opinions to count

  • Look for corporate integrity and openness when deciding what to buy and where to work

  • Want to find entertainment in their work, education, and social lives

  • Are focused on collaboration and relationship building

  • Have a need for speed—and not just in video games

  • Are innovators and are constantly looking for different ways to collaborate, entertain themselves, learn, and work

As an employer, accommodating or even just being cognizant of these traits is often a challenge. For a lot of organizations, it will mean that they need to rethink how work needs to be carried out, how teams work together, and how much is shared for the purpose of creativity and innovation.

In your organization:

  • Can employees access the Internet?

  • Can employees access social media?

  • Can employees interact through online collaboration tools?

Millennials believe this as essential for their productivity. If you don't make the tools available, you would need a good reason for why it isn't for their use during working hours.

If I think about some of the employment terms and conditions I have seen in organizations, there may well be a cry for a massive overhaul in the coming years in order to retain the best talent. I know companies that block Facebook and chat functions or even disable the whole Internet on workstations in order to keep workers focused on the job at hand, not to mention the very restrictive clauses often found in codes of conduct or employment contracts. Obviously, at some point in time these served a purpose or were added to avoid a particular situation, but they may now be the exact reason why the new generation of workers may turn down an otherwise good offer.

When it comes to the use of social media, I have seen clauses in contracts that prohibit its use, and employers have even looked for login details for employees' personal accounts on social media, which thankfully is now deemed unethical. With blogging and microblogging through Twitter as a favorite pastime for many graduates, once again companies are trying to control what is said and not said about the inside world of work. When openness and transparency prevails, very protective and restrictive clauses may cause the Millennials to refuse offers or move on when they sense their freedom of expression is completely controlled.



Top tip: Ensure your contracts of employment, code of conduct, and internal policies also appeal to the needs of Millennials.

Millennials at work

The Chartered Management Institute in the United Kingdom commissioned a global survey entitled "Generation Y: Unlocking the talent of young managers". Through their research, Generation Y emerges as ambitious, demanding and hyper-connected, and firm believers of the thought that they can change the world. Specifically, this generation wants to:

  • Work for an organization that does something they believe in

  • Be self-disciplined when it comes to their learning and personal development, with 68 percent saying they want to initiate most of their own learning and development

  • Work for organizations that are supportive, empowering, and inspiring

  • Blend their home-life and their work-life in a fashion that allows them to work when, how, and where they want

  • Develop new skills and good career prospects with their employer

This group of new workers is in a hurry for success. They have been using mobile phones, laptops, tablet devices, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn since their teens. Their way of finding answers is to Google search for an instant return. My own research confirms the findings of these two studies.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study of new college graduates found that after salary, the most important benefit in selecting a first role was training and development. When asked what kind of learning they preferred on the job, they chose as follows:

  • 98 percent strong coaches and mentors

  • 94 percent formal classroom-based training

  • 91 percent support for further academic training

  • 85 percent rotational assignments

  • 62 percent e-learning

While generalizing is always a little dangerous regardless of which generation we refer to, generalizing helps to better understand future candidates, and it also helps creating an environment that they most likely want to work in, which the companies featured on the "Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For" list have managed to achieve. Considering just one generation is slightly limiting our perspective and it doesn't necessarily give a full understanding of how similar or different we inevitably are. Presently, we have potentially three to four generations coming together in the workplace. It is important to understand all vantage points as well as differences, and you should create a strategy for the future with focus on the younger groups of workers, as they will be the driving force of any business going forward.

What is clear is that change has been with us for some time, and the speed of innovation, thanks to technology, has increased and seems to continually increase. The current generation of IT graduates grew up with diversity and very likely shared classrooms with multiple nationalities and cultures, which makes them comfortable in new cultures.



Top tip: Introduce mutual mentoring from older to younger generations and vice versa at work to help both sides understand each other's working habits and learn to accept diversity.

In a study carried out by Deloitte Consulting and the International Association of Business Communication (IABC), a comparison was made regarding communication styles and preferences for each generation. In the context of understanding how the different generations may interact in the work place, it is a good idea to have a look at a summary of some of these comparisons. In most cases, those of you in charge of recruitment will potentially be from a different generation, so it is important to consider that part of attracting and understanding future generations is understanding how they communicate and how that may differ from our own preferred style, thus allowing you to tweak your career-related materials accordingly.

Here are the large categories looked at for this study. While age is a factor, preference and attitude prevails, so you can identify which category of communicators you feel most confident with. Each generation is currently represented in the work place, so it is good to compare and contrast:

  • Traditionalists: People born before 1955

  • Baby boomers: People born between 1956 and 1965

  • Generation X: People born between 1966 and 1976

  • Millennials (also known as Generation Y): People born between 1977 and 1997

The following table shows the communication preferences for each generation as noted by Deloitte Consulting and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC):



Baby boomers

Generation X





Not so serious: irreverent

Eye-catching; fun


Detail; prose-style writing

Chunk it down but give me everything

Get to the point—what do I need to know

If and when I need it, I will find it online


Relevance to my security; historical perspective

Relevance to the bottom line and my rewards

Relevance to what matters to me

Relevance to now, today, and my role


Accepting and trusting of authority and hierarchy

Accept the "rules" as created by the Traditionalists

Openly question authority; often branded as cynics and skeptics

OK with authority that earns their respect


Print; conventional, mail; face-to-face dialog or by phone; some online information/interaction

Print; conventional mail; face-to-face dialog; online tools and resources

Online; some face-to-face meetings (if really needed); games; technological interaction

Online; wired; seamlessly connected through technology


Attainable within reasonable time frame

Available; handy

Immediate; when I need it

Five minutes ago


In digestible amounts

As needed



With recruiters often from different generations to the IT graduates they're looking to hire, it is good to be aware of some of the current generation's key drivers as well as their communication styles.



Top tip: Write job adverts and your career information in a language and format that is appealing to current IT students


What turns Millennials off?

In preparation for this book, I did my own research of current IT graduates and asked them what would attract them to a company as well as what would turn them away from a company. Unsurprisingly, the answers I received were in line with the traits listed in the larger research samples mentioned previously.

Although I specifically didn't mention salary, it was still the number one reason to accept a role above another. The next strongest factor was the opportunity to learn and grow on a personal level as well as gain deeper technical knowledge. The third decisive factor was a tie between having a strong work/life balance and having freedom from strict rules and schedules. Work environment and benefit packages in the style of Google and Facebook were mentioned a number of times, but didn't make it into the top three. Furthermore, graduates also commented on the fact that for a lot of organizations, a strong work/life balance was often more lip service than actual reality, and they definitely wanted normal hours so that life can go on outside of work.

The answers to the question "What would turn you away from a role?" were also quite revealing and congruent with previous research. Here are some of the top reasons graduates gave for turning down a role:

  • Over-restrictive tendencies

  • Low level of career development

  • Bad salary

  • Bad product

  • No flexibility and freedom on how the work is carried out

  • Being squeezed for every ounce of your energy and skills; overworked

  • No appreciation for work/life balance

  • Uninteresting role and work

IT graduates would rather have organizations keep their promise close to reality instead of promising the moon, sun, and stars when the reality comes well short. They are eager to learn and develop, and they may consider a balanced package over a high salary with 24/7 expectations. What also came out was the expectation of graduates to have experience while, by and large, that will not be the case, and this will only end up frustrating both ends of the equation.

My personal research only accepted answers from IT graduates, whereas some of the other studies mentioned took just age as the main selection category, and yet the results were strikingly similar.



If you are currently struggling to attract IT graduates of the present generation, I would strongly encourage you to invite a group of students into your organization to give you a frank verdict of what you should improve on in order to attract them in the first place and to keep them for the longer haul.



The intention of this chapter was to give you an insight into some of the key behaviors and deciders of the generation of graduates that are currently joining the workforce in high numbers globally.

In this chapter, we have learned:

  • What the key deciders are for the generation of graduates that are currently joining the workforce—what motivates them to join a company

  • Tips on how to adapt your internal practices to include this generation of workers

  • How the communication styles differ across generations and how you can harness these to attract the new generation of IT graduates

  • What turns graduates off

I hope that by sharing these ideas, I am also making you think about your company, the benefits you offer or could potentially consider in the future, and your internal policies.

In the next chapter, you will learn how to implement the attraction policies and procedures used by some of the industry's greats.

About the Author

  • An Coppens

    An Coppens is the Chief Game Changer at Gamification Nation Ltd, where the vision is to make business and learning more fun and engaging. She is an award winning business coach, learning & development professional, author and speaker. She has worked around Europe with large multinational organisations as well as with entrepreneurs on topics ranging from engagement, leadership to work life balance. She became a TV-expert on business coaching and work life balance for Irish television. With Gamification Nation, An offers consulting services and online learning programs to assist organisations with creating lasting experiences customers remember, by applying game psychology and game design techniques to non-game situations. She was recently ranked in the top 100 gamification consultants and innovators of 2013 with her Twitter alter ego @GamificationNat.

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Attracting IT Graduates to Your Business
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