'Generation Text' baffles employers

Employers say they see the problem a lot these days: school and university leavers stepping into the job market - too casually. They're members of 'Generation Text'.

Blame texting. Blame tweeting. Blame the relaxation of social norms that has left some members of this laid-back generation apt to say "hey dude" in just about any setting.

Regardless of the cause, some experts say many of today's young adults are thin on the skills and etiquette required for interviewing.

"We call them 'Generation Text'," says Mary Milla, a US communications consultant and media trainer.

"Voicemail is out, email is too slow, so now they're texting, and their spelling is awful."

Rookie job seekers have always been known for an unpolished mix of bravado and naivete. Now their shortcomings extend beyond basic mistakes of etiquette, recruiters say, and include faux pas punctuated by some modern twists.

In other words, wear the nose ring at the nightclub, not the interview. And when you write a resume, don't use the same style and spelling that would be found in a sloppy 140-character tweet.

Melissa Kjolsing, communications manager at the US-based BioBusiness Alliance, has noticed a few things about recent internship candidates at the medical technology industry group. "They don't review their documents," she says.

Sometimes, she gets letters addressed to someone else. Other times, the date is old, the result of a careless cut-and-paste job. Candidates sometimes have trouble answering questions about previous challenges or future goals.

Impressed by one application from a journalism student, Kjolsing called and left a voicemail. Three weeks went by before the student finally got back to Kjolsing - in an email time stamped at 3 am.

Kjolsing found herself wondering: "Is this somebody I can trust to come in for work on time at 7.30 or 8am?"

The student didn't get the internship.

Generation Y, loosely defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s, has its defenders.

Their very familiarity with social media mores and trends can make them attractive hires for companies looking to market to young people, says Ryan Paugh, the 27-year-old co-founder of Brazen Careerist, a web-based community for business networking.

It's not that young adults can't communicate, Paugh says, "we follow different rules".

Marketers understand that if you email a young person, they don't want something formal, he says. "It can be sweet and simple."

He notes that of the many topics discussed on the his site, "how to write a stellar resume", is an issue every generation grapples with.

Milla's business partner Marta Rhyner says it's not that the kids aren't bright enough. They have just spent most of their lives under the direction of others, including parents who took them from one organised activity to another when they were younger.

"They don't see things that can be potentially negative, like a nose ring, because everyone told them they were great," Rhyner says.