Millennials and the communication paradox


It’s been said that the art of conversation is dying. That people just don’t talk to each other like they used to. That in time the eloquence and nuances of the spoken word will wither and decay, giving way to a world of e-communication, and an evolution of mankind that will see us born without the need for a larynx.

Admittedly, it was my grandma who said this. And, whilst her interpretation of the long-term effects of modern day technologies on the human species is somewhat over exaggerated, it did get me thinking – how has the evolution of communication technology impacted the world of recruitment? And specifically, graduate recruitment?

Here at Ad Idem Consulting, just shy of a quarter of the recruitment done within the Operations Division is targeted at the graduate market. You would think that keeping in touch with young, enthusiastic, and ambitious go-getters who are eager to get their first financial services role in the Big City, having dedicated a large portion of their young lives to education in pursuit of their dreams, would be a doddle. Especially given that you can’t turn a corner without seeing them glued to their mobile phones, obliviously walking into roads and each other.

But herein lies the Communication Paradox.

The fact is that millennials are, on the whole, far more difficult to contact via the phone. It’s almost as if they have a phobia of answering these glowing electronic play-things and actually speaking with another human being. In a day and age where we can speak with people on the other side of the globe just by pressing a few buttons, why is it then that we should have lost conversational ease over the phone?

Why should we care, though, if we can contact candidates by email, text, or WhatsApp? The unavoidable truth is that this initial contact – phone contact – is absolutely pivotal in the consultant/candidate relationship. We need to be able to build rapport over the phone. Gain their trust. Organise the first meeting. And make sure that they seem to be the person that they claim to be in writing. All of these are recruitment basics – anyone in the industry will tell you this.

Yes, we can follow up with emails and ask them to call us back. But even this is becoming less effective these days with a lot of graduates seemingly not checking their inbox for days, sometimes weeks. By then, in the world of graduate financial services recruitment, the role is long gone! What do they say – you snooze, you lose?!

Oh, and even if they do read that email , more often than not you’ll get an email back asking for more information, and what then plays out is a game of cat and mouse. The recruiter will ask to speak to them on the phone in more detail about the role. The candidate doesn’t respond. The recruiter calls. The candidate ignores the call. The recruiter emails a follow-up email on initial said email. The candidate responds asking for more information. And thus, an infinite loop of frustration begins again.

Social media and various messaging apps do yield some positive response from graduate candidates but even this has its limitations. You can build rapport to a point, and yes, it’s nice to appear hip and trendy – a modern day recruiter, who can speak the lingo and send memes – but is it really a substitute for an actual conversation? No. Relationships like this are not built on solid foundations and cannot last. You need to have that personal interaction. You have to talk. You have to meet. You have to stay in touch. And you will never, as a recruiter, be confident in having candidate control unless you’ve hit those critical benchmarks. The initial telephone conversation. The follow up ‘thank you for your time’ email. The face-to-face meeting.

This shouldn’t even need to be a discussion. After all, you wouldn’t enter a relationship outside of work with someone that you’ve never spoken to or met outside of electronic communication (acceptations do exist, and for the purposes of political correctness I shall say no more on the matter!) It’s absolutely vital that, in a world that now seems to be tailored towards the avoidance of actual speech, we recruiters do not adhere to this laziness and keep choosing to engage candidates on a personal and intellectual level.

Now please don’t get me wrong, supporting contact methods are, of course, a useful addition to any recruiter’s arsenal and I’m not for one moment ruling them out in their entirety. They are quick, convenient, and at times, a comment can be better served via sending a quick message as opposed to having a lengthy conversation. At 30 years old, I’m not what you would call ‘technically inept’ and I use all forms of communication in order to build and then maintain candidate relationships. That’s not the argument here.

The point is that initially engaging in conversation is a must. I challenge any recruiter in this city to prove they have placed any candidate without having spoken to them (ideally at length) at least once. And even if they can turn around to me and say “Well I placed someone after only speaking to them once”, I’d suggest that it was a one-off and not a practice that they would adhere to on a daily basis. Not if they’re any good. The days of the look-and-book are, for the most part, long gone.

These people – and I use that word deliberately – have to become your friends. And we all like talking to our friends outside of the odd email, Facebook comment, or WhatsApp message!

It’s no surprise to us that the graduates we have placed in various entry level roles have all broken this stereotype. They pick up the phone when we call and they get back to us asap when they miss a call. And I applaud them all. It’s hard enough getting a job in financial services in this city as a graduate, without alienating themselves from and ignoring those trying to help them.

And yes, as recruiters we can sometimes get a bad rap (that age old adage that we’re all a bunch of sharks just out for a quick buck). And to be honest, there are still recruiters like that out there. But here at Ad Idem, we are most certainly not that. We try to break recruiter stereotypes, and offer a service to both candidate and client alike that is lightyears away from those well-known clichés. The process of finding a new job or hiring new personnel can be arduous at times, we know that. Our goal is to streamline the service to all parties through rigorous professionalism; never taking shortcuts and, most importantly of all, listening to what people say.

So help us help you. Keep an eye on the phone. A great opportunity might just be calling.


Whether you’re looking for a new role in Financial Services or are looking to hire into your team, please get in touch with us for more information on the areas we cover:

Jim Gervaise-Brazier: Managing Partner and Head of Financial Services Recruitment:

Sam Barrett: Consultant (and author):

Henry Lenehan: Candidate Manager: