Hiring Young Adults: Good or Bad for Business?

If you understand the pros and cons of hiring students, deciding to do so can be a win-win for everyone.
Chief Ideation Officer, CODA Concepts, LLC
July 27, 2012

We all know that you need experience to get experience. It’s a conundrum many of us faced in our early years as professionals. But, thanks to some trusting and brave business owners, young adults are forging their way into business settings, once reserved for entry-level college graduates. They're learning valuable lessons and often teaching their mentors a thing or two along the way.

For Ian Aronovich, CEO and co-founder of GovermentAuctions.org, hiring college students has been a core strategy for his HR department. But, this year, for the first time, Aronovich decided to hire a 17-year-old high school student, in part due to his “keen interest in business and affability.”

Aronovich’s overall experience with the young man has been above expectations. “He’s actually willing to learn. He also brings fresh perspective to our office. His contributions during brainstorming are valued because he’s living in a different social sphere than the rest of us,” he says.

Young and Inexperienced

Hiring a minor has some drawbacks as well, Aronovich said. His team has had to spend more time training the student, consuming time and resources. Since they cannot offer him a full time job after the summer, they lose a great worker.

Aronovich also says that the social aspect of the job is a little difficult for the young man. Since he is only 17, he is unable to join the team in after-hours events, which has been used by GovernmentAuctions.org as a way to build morale.

As with anything, there are pros and cons of hiring a young adult. Here are some of the unique perspectives from business veterans who’ve entrusted both high school and college students to help sustain and grow their businesses.

Pros of Hiring Young Professionals

Insatiable desire to learn. Many business owners who’ve had the experience of hiring a young adult are impressed by their yearning to learn and grow. They are a blank slate and can be trained the way management wants them to be trained.

According to Jonathan Wasserstrum, co-founder of TheSquareFoot, a company which helps locate commercial real estate, hiring college students has proved very positive. Despite his lack of experience, his current intern has been eager to learn and Wasserstrum’s team has been eager to teach. “We view his lack of experience as a total positive. He doesn’t have any baggage and we are able to teach him the way we want,” he says.

Innovative thinking. With fresh perspectives and eagerness, many young employees can think outside the box with ease. “Their enthusiasm and fresh ideas are wonderful,” says Chris Tobias, director of educational excitement at SchoolSkills.net, a company that provides resources for educational success.

Tobias recounted one former employee who worked on a website mock-up. The project was beneficial to the company because it provided significant insight into the images and words that appeal to their target demographic. Tobias said they often hire students to do market research. After all, who better to do market research than the people they are hoping to reach.

Financial savings. Many young employees come with a lower price tag than seasoned vets. “Younger employees don’t command as much from a salary perspective,” said Wasserstrum. They are working for the experience, which in many cases is greater than any paycheck can provide.

Cons of Hiring Young Professionals

Relationship struggles. According to Dave Hilton, a conflict engagement specialist who works with managers to better understand generational conflict, says Millennials often work well with Baby Boomers and other Millennials, but are more likely to encounter conflict when working with Gen Xers. This can pose to be a problem with young teams primarily made of individuals in their 30s and early 40s.

Increased training. For some young adults, these jobs are the first “real” jobs they’ve ever had. They lack institutional knowledge. “I liken it to a rookie in the NBA or NFL. The first year is about learning the game and taking a few hard knocks,” says Maria Ochoa, co-owner of San Antonio PR firm Sammis & Ochoa. “By year three, you’re a veteran of the industry and you begin reacting to situations rather than thinking about them.”

Some young employees may need training in business basics such as use of common office equipment like a fax machine or photo copier, and the rules of business etiquette (don’t interrupt phone calls, refresh the coffee if you take the last cup).

Patience and hand-holding. For some, abstract tasks are hard to comprehend. For others repetitive work and mundane tasks are boring, sometimes making it difficult for business owners to depend upon them for important tasks.

Many inexperienced workers need a clear and varied task list in order to complete the project at hand successfully. Additionally, there may be a lot of hand-holding and additional training as the project progresses.

Tobias has found that this can be overcome by establishing well-defined assignments with clear, tangible and deliverable goals completed in a specific time frame.

Hiring a young adult, whether they are a college student or a high school student, paid or unpaid, can prove to be beneficial to your business. It may not be as easy as hiring a seasoned and experienced business professional, but the opportunity to mentor a young professional can pay off not only for the student, but for the mentor as well.

Have you ever hired a student? What did you learn from the experience?

Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.

Photo credit: Thinkstock