02/21/2012 06:28 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2012

Wooing Top Talent: What Matters To Millennials

Recently, there's been a lot of talk, including this story in the Atlantic, on how the recession has impacted the Millennial Generation, particularly in terms of employment, finances, and work ethic. While it's true that this generation is earning less and staying at home longer -- Zach and Melissa, if you're reading this, this is not an invitation -- bright and ambitious Millennials are more in the driver's seat when it comes to their future employment than any generation before them.

Consider this from CNBC that shows graduates aren't flocking to the trading floor as they once were, even through Wall Street is still paying out the big bucks. More and more, graduates of top schools are flocking to start-ups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. With role models like Mark Zuckerberg, it's easy to think this has something to do with the promise of a shiny IPO down the line. That may have a little something to do with it ... but I think author Bruce Tulgan got it right in this Washington Post blog about managing Millennials:

"...They want to hit the ground running on day one. They want to identify problems that nobody else has identified, solve problems that nobody else has solved, make existing things better, invent new things. They want to make an impact."

Now, I run a PR agency and am surrounded by young people and their passion to make a difference every day. So it's easier for me to integrate these ideas into our hiring, recruitment, and professional development strategies.

But it's even more important for industries that aren't particularly relevant or sexy to young applicants. Because even in this economy, there aren't enough high-skilled workers to fill the jobs that need filling. It's a really interesting paradox.

And it means it's even more important that a company is relevant to the interests and the aspirations of the young workforce.

That doesn't mean getting bean bag chairs for the board room or golf carts. You don't have to be Google or Facebook to attract top talent. But you do have to be relevant. You have to embrace and understand what this generation is looking for in their next job, and the ways they're going about finding it.

And this isn't just an issue for your HR department. It's just as much about marketing as it is about recruiting. This is about the culture you're building and the reputation you have among all of your stakeholders.

Here are three ways to make sure your company isn't going the way of Wall Street:

The old rules no longer apply. It used to be that to land a job, you had to go through a headhunter, get recruited, or hope your resume was passed into the right hands. That's not just the case anymore. And don't think just posting online is all you have to do: Millennials are no longer content sending their resume into the black hole of an online application form. They'll email the CEO directly. They'll hunt down long lost friends on LinkedIn and ask for a recommendation. What was once the way of the bold is now just ... the way.

CSR is Just the Beginning. Millennials care what a company cares about -- how involved the company is in the community, its environmental practices and policies, and how it treats and develops its employees. Wall Street's bad rap is finally catching up with the banks, and big bonuses are finding it harder to overpower the image the industry has earned as not serving a social good. The banks and other industries like it will need to genuinely change that perception.

Remember: your internal culture is now external. In addition to spreading news about job openings, social media is making it easier for people outside your organization to learn about your internal culture. If people aren't happy at their jobs, they'll reflect that in their social media presence. Even if they aren't flat out ripping on their boss or quitting via YouTube, people will complain about bad days at work or the pressures of tough work environments. Build a culture where your employees are your best ambassadors, and where word of mouth is a good thing.

At the end of the day, transparency is no longer a choice. Just as hiring managers can learn more about applicants than ever before -- applicants can and are learning more about our companies. To recruit the best young players, we'll all need to rethink our game.