05/12/2017  //  By tracy kelly  //  Campus Recruiting

When candidates receive competing job offers, conventional wisdom says the higher offer will always win. A candidate will choose the highest salary, and companies that can’t match will be forced to resume the search… right?

Maybe not.

The Millennial and Gen Z workforce is turning conventional wisdom on its head. New data finds that for these groups, career growth and learning opportunities are the most important factors when accepting a job — not salary. The 2017 Yello Recruiting Study*, now in its second year, surveyed 1,400 current college students and recent graduates to learn about job preferences. Their answers reveal insights crucial to recruiting and retaining Millennials and Gen Z.

What do first time job seekers really want? It may surprise you to learn the answer is everything from professional advancement and ongoing development to pet insurance.

The Essentials: Learning Opportunities and Career Growth 

Learning Opportunities

For Millennials and Gen Z, learning opportunities are the most important factor when deciding whether to accept a job. Forty-eight percent of respondents in The 2017 Yello Recruiting Study said learning opportunities are their top factor, while only 27 percent said salary was. Members of these generations want to learn, gain new skills and continue to grow their careers. If employers don’t offer professional advancement opportunities, it may result in lost candidates or employee turnover.

To help entry-level employees hone their skills, continually provide new tasks and assignments that require employees to push themselves. Talent management expert Dr. John Sullivan suggests stretch assignments, which encourage employees “to dramatically rethink every assumption and approach.” Stretch assignments empower Millennials and Gen Z employees to think outside the box, reinvent processes and create new ways to accomplish goals. A stretch assignment might be turning around a failing project or organizing a company event. Through online resources like, Udemy or Coursera, companies can also offer employees the opportunity to learn something new each month and apply it to their work.

Career Growth

Career growth is the second most important factor for Millennials and Gen Z, with 43 percent of study respondents selecting it as their top must-have. Millennials and Gen Z want to know their work and ambition will be rewarded; they don’t want to stall or plateau. When new hires come on board, connect them with colleagues who started in their position and progressed through the company. Discuss career goals and encourage entry-level employees to create a plan to achieve these goals, with specific objectives and measurable metrics. If growth is limited in a department, be transparent about open positions across the company and offer employees the opportunity to explore other openings within the organization.

The Extras: Home-Buying Assistance, Pet Insurance and More

Out-of-the-box perks can also excite and appeal to Millennials and Gen Z, sometimes more than money. If you’re struggling to attract these new members of the workforce, consider offering extras that can make your company stand out.

Home-Buying Assistance

Tim Sackett, executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, writes that home-buying mortgage assistance is a great way to attract entry-level talent. Sackett asserts that employees who own a home stay with the company longer and are more productive. As many new members of the workforce are saddled with student loan debt, home-buying assistance may be the benefit that drives a candidate to choose your company. “Long story, short: Help your employees buy homes. You’ll never regret it,” writes Sackett.

Pet Insurance

According to Chris Ashton, co-founder of Petplan, pet insurance, which reimburses pet owners for veterinary bills, “signals to employees that their priorities are the company’s priorities.” Offering pet insurance as part of a voluntary benefits package can also appeal to entry-level employees who may have limited savings compared to their older peers.

Reduce the Red Tape

Let recent grads get to work and quickly make an impact by cutting down on slow processes and red tape. “This generation is exceedingly ready to do something but less tolerant of needless meetings, long processes or slow decision-making,” writes William Vanderbloemen, president and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

He suggests leaders speed up the company’s ability to act, and delegate authority to more entry-level team members, to let these employees see the results of their work.

Wellness Programs

Career and workplace expert Dan Schawbel believes employee wellness benefits have become essential to attracting top talent. “Companies are using wellness programs to lower absenteeism, attract talent and save on healthcare costs,” writes Schawbel.

Unique employee wellness benefits can be a deciding factor to recruiting Millennials and Gen Z, so consider enhancing your benefits package with perks that promote well-being, incentivize healthy lifestyles or reduce stress.


While there is no secret formula for recruiting and retaining members of the Millennial and Gen Z generation, The 2017 Yello Recruiting Study suggests that more money may not be the answer. Instead, what Millennials really want at work is the opportunity to gain new skills and climb the career ladder. Employers can also make their company more desirable, and appeal to new members of the workforce, by providing unique and helpful perks.

*In February 2017, Yello surveyed 1,461 collegiate or recently post-collegiate students on their interviewing and hiring experiences. All individuals were either currently employed or had accepted full-time or internship offers.

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