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Are Companies Taking Advantage of the Millennial Job Market?

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It's no secret; the American job market is awful, and the Millennial job market is even worse. So today, when I was sent a job posting for a "PR Account Coordinator" I decided to probe the hiring manager who sent it to me for more information.

The company's post said the job required a minimum 2 years experience in Marketing and PR, a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, and a "rolodex" of press contacts. Despite not having much interest in a company that still uses rolodexes, I decided to keep probing the hiring manager anyway. His response wasn't surprising as it wasn't the first time I've had this happen...

He said the job was actually "entry-level" and therefore someone with any substantial experience, such as myself, may be over-qualified. He then asked for my salary requirements and if I'd be willing to take around entry-level pay to work for such a great company as his. At this point I let him fade into the oblivion of my Gmail trash folder along with a collection notice from the Sallie Mae Department of Education.

I double-checked the job posting thinking I must have made a mistake; I hadn't. This company was seriously looking for a candidate with a college degree, acquired press relationships, and 2 years of related experience while labeling the position "entry-level."

Entry-level... It's a pretty straightforward term. I went to college, but maybe I had just missed a linguistic business memo or something. Luckily, there is this thing called the Internet where I can find pretty much any new information I need. And, just as I had suspected, according to Merriam Webster, "entry-level" is still defined as "at the lowest level" or "at the level of someone who is just starting a job or career." In other words, someone with little to no experience.

Surely no one thinks Millennials are this ignorant... and they don't. The truth, in my opinion, is companies don't want an entry-level candidate. They want an experienced candidate that they can pay at an entry-level salary. This was what I call a case of bait and switch recruiting, and this is just one of the realities facing today's Millennial job market.

It's effective too. In a hostile job market where just 6 in 10 Millennials have a job, half of which are part-time, this type of recruiting is easy. Companies are constantly flooded with job applications from a large pool of talented experienced Millennials who are already underpaid or working part-time. No wonder Generation Y's median net worth fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010.

It's an easy sell. These Millennials are begrudgingly happy to find a stable "underpaying-but-still-better-than-the-job-they-have job" to fend off student loan collectors and just get by until one day their experience translates into a higher paycheck. Maybe this contributes to the fact that the average 25-year-old has already worked 6.3 jobs.

But surely most companies don't use this sort of recruiting tactic to find hiring candidates? I decided to take to LinkedIn to explore other job postings and find out if this was a common practice.

After a quick keyword search of "entry-level," the first few pages of job postings that popped up... were spam, but then, after finding some legitimate postings a few scrolls down, nearly all listed: 1-2 years of relevant experience "preferred". It seems that, unless Millennials want to be sales associates giving demonstrations like a vacuum salesman in Sam's, recent college grads are out of luck. (That is unless Mom and Dad have some connections.)

It's a pretty hard reality facing the Millennial Generation, but it's also a smart short-term business strategy for today's tight-budgeted businesses. Can you blame them? Given how the supply of qualified candidates has almost never been larger, it's simple supply and demand.

Companies cannot only pay as little as possible for talented new hires, but they can also ask for certain targeted "preferences" when writing job postings. This allows them to cut through the overwhelming growing pile of applications, often filtering out new graduates, to focus on those candidates that have a few of those concrete preferences they thought might be a bonus... or better yet, help them hire an overqualified candidate for a bargain.

Whatever the case, Millennials need to be aware of these types of bait and switch job postings. My advice to combat this actuality: If you didn't take advantage of internships in college, freelance and volunteer. Find a way to learn new "in demand" skills and develop relevant experience while looking for a job. You need to face the reality that recruiters get 250 applications per posting and you aren't special in the eyes of HR recruiters who spend an average of 6 seconds reviewing a single résumé. The only way to really set yourself apart is with concrete skills and expertise.