The millennials are coming! The millennials are coming!

Have you heard the cry? No doubt you have; economic observers have been trumpeting it for years. The emergence in the workforce of the largest generation of people since the baby boom has long been forewarned as a generational shift unlike any before. Many industry professionals have been slow in heeding this warning, but they can no longer afford to ignore it.

As millennials continue to make themselves known to the world, it has become increasingly clear they are not only one of the most sizable generations, but also one of the most disruptive. Coming of age in an era of unprecedented technological advancement and connectivity, millennials no longer look to connect with employers using the traditional means their parents used. So, what are they using instead? The answer may be unsurprising: social media.

As of 2015, millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and according to a recent study, many millennials use social media to search for jobs. In 2014, 72.1 percent of college graduates and current college seniors indicated they use online profiles to showcase their experience and search for work. The closer a student is to graduation, the more likely they are to be professionally active online: 47.9 percent of freshman in 2014 indicated they had a professional social media account, compared to 80 percent of seniors, and 89.6 percent of graduate students who did.

This progressive trend in social media use underscores its importance in securing a job, as those who are closest to entering the workforce are the most likely to have a profile. And there is good reason to believe it will help. According to a recent study, 73 percent of 18-34 year olds reported finding their last job through a social network.

Among the top three social media websites used in 2013, over 18 million respondents indicated finding their job on Facebook, 10 million on LinkedIn, and over 8 million on Twitter — and this trend is not expected to slow anytime soon. Not only are millennials going to continually increase their presence in the job market, but those following them, so dubbed Generation Z, are expected to continue, and build upon, the digital communication habits of their predecessors. Because of the increased usage of social media in job searching for the current and future workforces, employers who have been slow to social media need to quickly retool their recruitment strategies to keep up with the rapidly changing world.

Many employers are taking notice of these trends, and responding by taking action. In 2013,only 39 percent of employers said they used social media to research job candidates. In 2015, that number was up to 52 percent. Employers are actually becoming suspicious of candidates without an online presence, with 35 percent saying they were less likely to interview someone if they did not have a digital footprint.

Using social media to screen applicants only partially maximizes its potential. In fact, 82 percent of recruiters recently said they believed their “social recruiting skills to be proficient or less,” and only 18 percent considered themselves experts. Part of this lack of confidence may be derived from not knowing how to utilize social media beyond scanning an applicant’s photos for evidence of poor decision-making habits. Some of the other ways employers can leverage social networks are: posting open positions, searching for and contacting potential candidates, showcasing a company’s brand, and generating employee referrals.

Like it or not, it can no longer be denied: it is the millennials’ world, and everyone is living in it. With 93 percent of recruiters saying they use or plan to use social media in the coming years, employers cannot afford to overlook the power of social media and consequently be left behind.

This blog post was developed with data and research compiled by Trevor Leatzow, a project assistant at WIN.

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