In my work with clients and in conversations with colleagues, I hear a lot of complaints about employees, but one of the most common ones is that Millennial workers have poor work ethic, lack initiative, and struggle to communicate effectively.

And perhaps surprisingly, this frustration is often expressed by business owners and managers who are themselves Millennials. I’ve worked with and teach many Millennials — from scientists to entrepreneurs — and I can tell you that no single generation can be defined by a series of buzzwords. But unfortunately, perception is reality, and many of these stereotypes can spook potential employers.

When you consider the cost of a bad hire, it’s easy to see why. According to a CareerBuilder survey, a single dud hire can cost companies of 500 or fewer employees $11,000. And if a company has more than 500 employees, that number quickly jumps to $22,000. Hiring managers are, therefore, keen to reduce their risk and maximize their ROI through rigorous interview processes.

As a Millennial seeking gainful employment, here’s how you can stand out from the masses, dispel stereotypes, and reinforce a potential employer’s confidence in you — even before your first day on the job.

  1. Respond to emails within one business day. General email etiquette dictates that you should respond to business emails by the end of the business day — if possible — or within 24 hours. Once you’re on the job, this will be an expectation, so you may as well follow this best practice during your job search. If you plan on being gone for a few days, set an “out of office” autoreply. This way, recruiters won’t worry about why you’re not responding to their emails, which is a huge red flag.
  2. Meet deadlines. When a hiring manager requests information, ask for a specific deadline if one isn’t provided. This will demonstrate that you’re a responsible candidate. Then, make sure you actually meet the deadline — bonus points if you beat it.
  3. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Before you ever meet potential employers in person, hiring managers are forming opinions about you based on your email correspondence. Don’t give them reason to shelve your application by writing sloppy, error-filled emails. Also, avoid text message abbreviations. Instead, keep emails concise, professional, and clear. Use a proper salutation (e.g., “Hi, Bob.”) and close (e.g., “Thank you for your time.”) to project warmth. The same principles apply to your cover letter and résumé.
  4. Do your homework. Once you get the job, demonstrate your initiative by emailing the hiring manager several weeks prior to your start date to ask for reading material so you’re prepared for your first day. For instance, you might request an organizational chart to get a head start on memorizing your co-workers’ names. Look them up on LinkedIn to put a face to a name and find some common ground. Finally, read up on the company website and set up a Google Alert so you can keep up with the latest news on the company and the industry.

Young professionals are up against a lot of obstacles. Not only is the very nature of work changing, but they must also contend with hurtful stereotypes about their generation. Using these four tips, Millennial job seekers can show potential employers that they’re ready to be team players and hit the ground running from day one.

  • To improve your results: Subscribe to our exclusive quarterly newsletter to get the latest leadership expertise, engagement know-how, and more.

    Receive expert insights and advice from BONSAI Founder and President Loriana Sekarski as she introduces new ways to capitalize on your strengths — improving your organization’s performance as well as your satisfaction and personal effectiveness. Loriana’s how-to articles spotlight solutions to problems leaders like you face. Don’t miss out; sign up today.

    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.