You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.


Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Daniel Stephens, a vocational rehabilitation specialist with VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, checks into possible job positions for clients by talking with Ed Corbin, of TruCheck Meter Servcies at the Military Job Fair.

Millennials: The young and unreliable?

Work ethic appalls employers, who can’t find skilled help

Associated Press
Vacasa chief strategy officer Scott Breon asked applicants for a marketing position to design a sales flier advertising their skills.

Would you blow off a job interview or show up late for work and tell your boss, “Get over it?”

The attitude and actions of some 20-somethings have made more than a few small-business owners grumble.

Call it a millennial mindset.

The complaints are across the age spectrum, but younger workers seem more inclined to give human resource consultants and others fits.

The lackadaisical attitude of some applicants compounds a difficulty finding skilled employees that owners have reported for several years. In a 2013 survey of 1,200 local employers by St. Louis Community College, 56 percent cited applicants' poor work ethic as a problem.

In a survey last year by the nonprofit Seattle Jobs Initiative, nearly 35 percent of employers said most applicants for entry-level positions weren't reliable.

Part of the problem may be many young people don't fancy having to work their way up. Blame it on misconceptions about Internet billionaires under 40 who make being successful look easy, Fort Wayne job experts say.

“A lot of them don't want to start from the bottom,” said Daniel Stephens, a vocational rehabilitation specialist for the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System. “Some young persons feel with their skills and education, they should instantly have good-paying jobs right away. When they find out that is not reality, they get discouraged.”

At Vacasa, a vacation home management company, chief strategy officer Scott Breon asked applicants for a marketing position to perform a simple task: Design a sales flier showing why they're the best one for the job. He got three emails. After he posted the job again without the assignment, applications poured in.

“If you have very few requirements, you get flooded with generic responses, the same letter they sent to 100 other companies,” says Breon, chief strategy officer for the company in Portland, Oregon.

Stephens said young veterans, because of their training and experience, approach the job search with more discipline and humility.

Manpower area manager Joel Daas said he hates to use the word “entitlement” when referring to the millennial set, but there's some truth to the notion they feel opportunities should be handed to them.

And another problem involves jobseekers trying to get the best-paying positions, he said.

“They have a lot of irons in the fire,” Daas said, adding that candidates who receive multiple offers may take the best one without notifying their other prospects.

“We're working on that with them,” he said of the staffing company. “They have to realize that in order to remain in good standing, they have to let us know if they have applied at other companies.”

Oh, and attire can be a problem.

“The most common faux pas are flip-flops, wearing hats backward or baggy pants,” Daas said. “They think when they come to us that they don't need to dress appropriately because we're a job agency and not the actual employer.”

Ted Williams Jr. owns a pair of McDonald's restaurants in Fort Wayne. The businessman said younger applicants often have low expectations for advancement, so their attitude reflects that.

“What a lot of them don't know is that the CEO of McDonald's started out flipping burgers,” Williams said. “The growth potential is there, but I don't think kids believe that.”

Brian Schutt is one of the frustrated bosses. His company, Homesense Heating, got about 300 applications for an administrative position, and the office manager interviewed 25 candidates. Schutt expected to meet with a dozen people in the second round of interviews, but only one showed up.

Younger applicants in particular seem to have a different work ethic, says Schutt, whose company is in Indianapolis.

“They just want to play and have fun and smoke,” Schutt says. “I've gotten a very cynical view of what I've seen of folks under 25 that we've tried to bring on board.”

Employers may be partly to blame for applicants' uncaring attitudes, says James McCoy, a vice president at Manpower. Many hiring managers never acknowledge applications. Job hunters are following their example, McCoy says.

Three-quarters of candidates surveyed last year said they never heard back from an employer after applying for a position, according to job search company CareerBuilder. Sixty percent said they went on interviews but weren't informed afterward they hadn't gotten the job.

Becky Cole has skipped second interviews or canceled when a would-be employer wasted her time or was condescending during an initial meeting. She has been looking for a job as a technical writer in St. Paul, Minnesota, since January.

“How I respond depends on the person,” Cole said. “If they have made an effort to be a human being during the interview, I will email to cancel and let them know why I don't plan to show up.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.