Joachim Jake Layes, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Jlayes Consulting Ltd

“Millennials Look for Purpose” – Joachim Jake Layes, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Jlayes Consulting Ltd, Hong Kong

As the millennial generation has begun joining the workforce with new, different sets of preferences, talent acquisition is facing new, more significant challenges for HR departments worldwide. Remuneration no longer is a dominant reason for candidates when applying for job opportunities. Instead, new talent is seeking to identify with a company’s vision, mission, and yes: its purpose and culture, before deciding to apply. A company’s culture is not only shaped by individual employees, their unique resumes, or different personalities. Instead, the style of collaboratively going about tasks and solving challenges is a clear indicator of how a company’s workforce as a whole perceives and lives its mission. Talent managers, tasked with building future managers and company leaders, have to ensure a strong match of company culture with the candidate’s experiences and talents.

One way to identify such cultural fit is to probe for challenges the candidate had in previous roles, to find out about her/his innovative ideas of solving them, and what key learnings s/he gained along the way. Here are a few points to consider when evaluating a candidate’s match:

Two-Step Probing
The age-old classic interviewer’s opening question, “So tell me about yourself,” still holds as an indicator to understand a candidate’s self-confidence and self-representation. Useful to follow up is trying to understand the candidate’s vision: where does s/he see herself in the next 5 years.

The second step is to learn about the candidate’s behavioral tendencies when facing a challenge by probing for past experiences of confronting challenges, approaches to solutions, and successes or failures. The experience of having failed in a problem situation can be as valuable as a success if the candidate demonstrates gained relevant learning from it. The interviewing committee follows these two steps with all candidates and then compare notes to select the one that matches best the company’s approach to challenges, success, and learning.

Candidate Match
Matching a candidate for a specific role in a company is hard to accomplish in just one face-to-face (in-person or video) interview. That is why most companies stress on having multiple rounds of interviews. The numerous interviews are an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of a candidate’s track record of performance. The first step here is for the hiring manager to define a list of desired behavioral traits and approaches to challenges and learning that are critical to the role. So, don’t ask for factual points from the resume (for which the candidate can easily rehearse and prepare). Instead, each interview conversation checks the candidate’s different past experiences for a match with that list – not by asking for them directly but by deducing those characteristics from the responses of overcoming challenges or executing responsibilities.

Cultural Match
An essential prerequisite of hiring talent for cultural fit is for the company to be clear about its own culture and its values, and for the employees and the hiring manager to be able to articulate them. The Millennial generation is keen to understand what a brand stands for. A company needs to know how well its company culture and values resonate with these expectations; this is what goes beyond financial incentives to join a company. “Millennials today aren’t only focused on getting a high income while applying for jobs but are searching for environments where they can learn and grow, and where they see a match of their preferences for fulfillment with the purpose of the role or company.”

Engaging Talent
Nowadays, candidates can quickly connect with other opportunities; It can be a clear-tell sign of incoherent engagement when a candidate has a change of heart the day after accepting an offer. It is vital to continue the conversation with candidates through the job offer and job onboarding. Having an engagement strategy at the ready is helpful for regular and consistent talent engagement. Such a plan needs to layout the engagement path, starting with attracting talent and continuing with retaining talent (because employees can quickly take their learning and apply it to their next workplace for better growth opportunities).

Future of HR: AI and Automation
Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) have recently shown impressive capabilities of making sense of large data sets and recognizing trends and patterns. Algorithms already help legal departments to examine pages-long contracts or agreements for potential red flags, and, by doing so, free up lawyers’ time for more productive work and increasing overall productivity. Similar benefits also become accessible to the field of HR. For example, algorithms can provide automation for what otherwise can be time-consuming, cumbersome, and repetitive tasks, such as reading large quantities of resumes and cover letters and scanning them for keywords.

However, it is essential to approach the application of AI carefully, especially in the fields of HR and talent acquisition, because it is, by its very nature, a brand’s direct touchpoint. Deep learning algorithms often are like black boxes, not revealing how the algorithm is doing what it is doing, leaving open the possibility of built-in, if unintended biases. Using AI to understand the behavior and mindset of candidates is controversial and potentially infringing on privacy protection. Revealing personal preferences, likes and dislikes, by scanning social media posting, is intrusive and provides grounds for discrimination. It can end up doing more harm than good.



Corporate culture is increasingly becoming a critical area for companies. The talent pool of the Millennial generation quickly recognizes empty words, shiny surfaces, and greenwashing. So the corporate culture must be strong and built on solid foundation. HR and talent managers have a crucial role here since they offer a first glimpse at a company’s inner style of working. When they provide the human face of the company to candidates, and potential future leaders, they need to ensure that the company gives its very best first impression. Let the company’s real vision, mission, and purpose shine through.

About Jake

Jake passion is driving business transformation through strategy development, sustainability, and innovation. He has been leading cross-disciplinary teams, developing executing on growth strategies, making sustainability and innovation a priority in organizations, serving a number of industries and companies from start-up to multinational corporations, leading a global entrepreneur support program for clean technology, social environmental start-ups and entrepreneurs in AsiaPacific, North South America, Africa, Europe, India, and China.

Jake has also been speaking at various conferences (such as during COP21 and COP23) and contribute articles on topics such as sustainability, climate change, social environmental impact, clean-tech, and innovation. Jake is an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Industrial design from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, US.


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