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on December 10, 2015 Employment Background Screening

Background Checks: Generation X vs. Millennials


Starting at the turn of the century, employers found that they could be held responsible for the negligent or violent actions of their employees. With their responsibility to provide a safe workplace for other employees and customers, employers and business owners became greatly interested in making more informed hiring decisions. Thus the background check was born. 

With every generation, more screens and regulations are developed to create a safer environment and keep organizations out of litigation. There are, however, factors to acknowledge as the baby boomer generation retires, and generation X and millennials enter (and move about) the workforce. 

What are the background check differences in screening Generation X versus Millennials?

Employment in the 21st Century

Baby boomers grew up with parents who had survived the Great Depression. They expected to go to work after school and retire with a pension, as their parents had, after many years at the same company. As Boomers retire, the economy and national employment has changed over the past 20 years. Employers are looking to Generation X to fill the gap, even as organizations reexamine and reorganize their own future prospects. With a lack of particular skills, refusal to take a lower salary or the inability to be flexible in their job descriptions, many Gen X-ers may not always fill the talent gap. Millennials are willing to meet employers where they are, even if only briefly, to learn and grow and possibly move into positions at other companies. Employers may need a combination of both - Gen X depth and maturity plus Millennial adaptability and new skills -  to be successful in the coming years. Either way, recruiters and hiring managers have quite the challenge to appeal to both generations.

The Hiring Process

Generation X has been referred to as America's neglected middle child. With the Boomers as parents and Millennials taking many of the newest available jobs, Gen X has had no choice but to try to adapt. Recruiters are scouring the internet for job candidates and if they want to be employed, long gone are the days of sending resumes in the mail. During interviews, a Gen X-er may show up in a business suit and briefcase, printed resume in hand, while a Millennial may be more casual, expecting that you've already viewed their LinkedIn profile. Then, when it comes to background screening, the differences may be even more dramatic.

The Background Check

Generation X grew up without the internet. Their news source was the nightly news or the morning paper. What happened in their homes, stayed in their homes. 

Millennials are frequently referred to as "digital natives" and do not recall a time before the internet. Sharing their lives with the world is the norm.

With these two broadly different childhoods, employers may need to prepare themselves for differences in the background screening process.

Job History 

Gen X-ers will more than likely have remained at the same company for 5 to 10 years, or perhaps longer, and may have been cut from a previous position due to downsizing. Millennials may or may not have held a job during college, may have worked as an intern, and may have hopped jobs to gain experience before applying as a candidate.

Driving Records

Research shows that Millennials are driving less than previous generations and in many cases, not even getting their drivers license. Perhaps this trend is due to youth and moving closer to their jobs. Another theory is because of the social interactions online, they don't have to drive to meet friends. Whatever the reason, the driving record of a Millennial may be nonexistent, which could be a hindrance, depending on the job description.

Social Media

Because of their comfort level with the internet and social media, Millennials may have shared a wealth of photos or other personal information that would make employers uncomfortable. Most of Generation X is tapped into social media networking to stay in touch with friends and, perhaps, look for a job. Gen X-ers, however, have a different idea of privacy compared to their counterparts simply because of how they were raised. Either way, hiring managers need to examine if a social media background check is necessary as part of the job description


Millennials would rather pay with cash or debit cards than credit cards. Looking at a credit report, as part of the job responsibility, may be another challenge when screening millennials. Generation X, much like their parents, rely on credit cards to pay for nearly everything. With the downturn of the economy and unemployment, Gen X-ers may not have had much choice. Hiring managers must keep this in mind when screening applicants. 

Online or Paper Application

Another question for human resources departments is whether to move their job applications and forms online. While in general, the online process reduces paperwork and the probability of data entry mistakes, Gen X-ers are used to paper while Millennials would rather go online. Generation X may be concerned with online privacy and identity theft. Millennials have a deeper sense of trust with the internet.

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Where do we go now

As the workforce changes over the next 20 years, hiring managers and employers are challenged with adapting to the ever-changing labor pool. Internet recruiting, social media, telecommuting and online portals are becoming an expectation to this and future generations. Understanding the generational differences with regards to background screening can be a solid step in hiring the right person for the job.


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Ryan Howard

Vice President, Business Development at VeriFirst, a BYL Company

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