2020 Millennial Job Seeker Report

Multiracial millennials enjoying coffee working on gadgets, KCC Future Insights Blog

A Generation That Wants More, But Settles For Less

Millennials job seekers no longer the youngest workers in the office. In fact, the oldest Millennials are nearly 40. Many are now balancing work with the demands of a growing family.

In 2020, Millennials make up an estimated 50% of the workforce. As Millennials age and advance in their careers, how have their priorities and expectations from their employer changed?

Just as important, how do companies attract- and retain- the largest segment in the workforce?

We conducted a survey of 1,000 American job seekers to uncover what Millennials are looking for- and what they aren’t. The results?

From rejecting lengthy commutes, seeking remote work, and prioritizing PTO more than other generations, Millennials are a generation striving for work-life-balance and flexibility at work. However, the realities of the job market often leave them coming up short.

Specific detail about the methodology and survey questions can be found in the methodology section at the end of this report.

Key Findings and Fast Facts

  • Millennials three most desired benefits are health insurance (41%), remote work (31%), and 401k/retirement benefits(30%).
  • Millennials desire health insurance more than any other generation
  • 61% of Millennials prefer to work remotely, rather than in traditional office spaces
  • Only 13% of Millennials say they prefer to work in cubicles
  • Millennial workers are most likely to turn down a job due to a long commute, unpleasant office, or inflexible work environment.
  • 28% of Millennials say poor work-life-balance is a deal breaker when it comes to accepting a job.
  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to turn down a job offer due to poor PTO.
  • 61% of Millennials believe “good PTO” is more than 2 weeks
  • Millennials rely heavily on job sites for job hunting, but rely on social media more than any generation other than Gen Z
  • 62% of Millennials would consider turning down a job offer after an unwelcoming interview
  • Millennials leave jobs sooner than desired due to poor pay and lack of advancement opportunities
  • Millennials experience more stress from organization and job changes than every other generation
  • 20% of Millennials believe staying at a job for less than a year is acceptable, compared to only 14% of Gen X
  • 1-in-2 Millennials have quit their job for mental health, including anxiety. The biggest stressor? Long hours

What Millennials Job Seekers want: Most Desirable Benefits, Deal Breakers and Dream Office Environment

Benefits are no substitute for competitive pay when recruiting workers. In fact, according to our survey, 30% of Millennials left their last job due to pay— not because their office was missing a foosball table.

However, a strong benefit package (consisting of benefits job seekers value) can make attracting talented workers easier.

There is a perception that Millennials are attracted to flashy benefits, such as free food, fun offices, and other atypical benefits. However, when surveyed, Millennial’s most desired benefits are healthcare, remote work, and 401k/retirement benefits. Overwhelmingly, these are the most desired benefits of workers of all ages.

Ultimately, to drawn in the majority of Millennial candidates, HR’s best tool is a strong portfolio of benefits that appeal to all workers.

However, there are some distinct generational differences. According to a study conducted by Health Affairs, Millennials have the greatest amount of medical debt. It is no surprise with medical debt keeping many Millennials from achieving life goals, 40% of Millennials cited health insurance as a most desired benefit- more than any other generation.

As Millennials continue to age, good health insurance is likely to remain a priority in the job hunt.

One of Millennials biggest deal-breakers when it comes to selecting a job is a long commute. 45% of Millennials say a long commute would keep them from accepting a job.

Other deal breakers? Unpleasant offices, inflexible work environments, and poor work-life balance.

Many companies align “unpleasant offices” with cubicles, old furniture, and other trappings of the traditional office. This perspective has accelerated the move to open-office to attract talented, young workers, despite compelling research they lower face-to-face collaboration and are disliked by employees.

However, while Millennials do prefer open offices to cubicles it is not their most ideal work environment. 61% of Millennials prefer to work remotely, followed by private office as their most desirable office environment.

Millennials struggle to maintain a work-life balance, no doubt influencing their desire for short commutes and to work remotely. Since nearly half of Millennials would turn down a job offer over commute and only slightly less find unpleasant offices a deal breaker, this represents a great opportunity for companies seeking to attract top talent.

Not only does remote work, increase the geographic circle from which to recruit making commute insignificant, it also is offering workers a benefit they deeply desire above almost all others. Companies that create pleasant environments aligned with job seekers core values, will see a recruitment benefit.

Millennials want more PTO, but are often willing to settle for less

28% of Millennials say poor work-life-balance is a deal breaker when it comes to accepting a job. Similarly, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to turn down a job offer due to poor PTO.

Millennials value work life balance than previous generations. However a large chunk of Millennials do have relatively low expectations of PTO. 9% of Millennials consider 1 week of PTO a “good” amount, 30% (the most common answer) would be happy with just 2 weeks.

While a not insignificant number of Millennials find relatively low amounts of PTO acceptable, 61% (the majority of Millennials) are only satisfied with more than 2 weeks of paid time off.

Millennials value and want PTO to help maintain their work life balance. Yet, often in the job market Millennials are willing to accept far less PTO than they deem “good.” 41% of Millennials would accept a job offering 1 week of PTO or less, compared to only 35% of Gen X and 24% of Baby Boomers.

Ultimately, there is a separation between Millennials desires for paid time off and what they are willing to accept from the job market. Since Millennials came of age in a world rocked by recession, it is unsurprising they often find themselves on the losing ends of job negotiations and settling for less in pay and benefits than desired.

Job Hunting: Millennial Job Seekers Expect Friendly, Open Interviews and Rely Less on Networking

An estimated 1-in-2 workers is a Millennial. What interview behavior can turn off half of your potential applicants?

Since Millennials value pleasant work environments, it is no surprise that 62% of Millennial workers are turned off by an unfriendly interviewer. The next biggest turn-off is discrepancies in the job listing and the interview itself, followed by workers losing enthusiasm for a role due to long, complicated interview processes. The majority of Millennial workers say these turn-offs could lead to them rejecting a job offer.

Of course, companies can only interview who applies. Where are Millennial workers looking for jobs?

The vast majority of every generation now primarily use job search sites to find their next job, including 85% of Millennials. However, Millennials are more likely than prior generations to make use of social media and personal connections in the job hunt.

Companies can utilize this trend by establishing a strong, positive social media presence that will appeal to Gen Z. Similarly, they can encourage current employees to act as ambassadors using referral bonuses. Of course, creating a great place to work will organically spread much of the word! Happy employees will naturally share the love.

Bonus, the up-coming Gen Z is even more likely than Millennials to use social media and friends and family on the job hunt.

Are Millennials Flaky Job Hoppers?

There is no denying that Millennials do believe it is okay to stay at a job for less time than previous generations. 20% believe staying at a job for less than a year is all that is needed, compared to only 14% of Gen X finding it acceptable.

However, it is worth noting, the vast majority of Millennials do still believe in staying with companies for more than a year. 22% even believe workers should stay at a company for the longest amount of time option available, 4+ years.

While only 20% of Millennials say staying at a job for a year or less is fine, 27% plan to be at their current or next job for less than a year.

However, when asked, Millennials stated their biggest reason for leaving their last job was lack of advancement opportunity and poor pay. Companies looking to retain workers can mitigate workers leaving soon than desired by developing mentorship programs to improve employee retention and focus on internal candidates when filling new positions.

Following lack of advancement opportunities and pay, workers cited Work-life balance as the next biggest reason for job hopping. Ultimately, while Millennials are temporarily willing to accept jobs that do no meet their standards (both in pay, PTO, and other benefits) it can lead to an early exit from jobs with inferior offerings.

Increasing benefits and improving work-life balance can help employers increase retention and cut down on hiring costs.

Millennials Struggle with Stress and Anxiety at Work

Half of Millennials have left a job for mental health reasons, including stress and anxiety. That stress does not stay at home and can be magnified or even caused by the work environment.

What are Millennials’ biggest workplace stressors? 24% say long hours are their biggest stress on the job. Long hours is followed by overwork (22%), job insecurity (11%), and organization/job changes (11%). Since Millennials highly value work life balance- to the extent many have left their job to restore order- it is no surprise it is a cause of tension.

Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z all report long hours as their biggest workplace stressor. Only baby boomers’ are immune to the strain of long hours, finding their coworkers more stressful.

Uniquely, Millennials report far more stress from organization and job changes than every other generation. As a generation that has now been racked by two recessions, Millennials are used to- and dread- rapid company shifts


The data in this report were gathered through an online survey commissioned by Zippia. We surveyed 1,000 American job seekers to uncover what Millennial job seekers are looking for in the workplace.

Our survey respondents were recruited through ClickWorker and the survey hosted on their online platform. Each respondent was asked the same 13 questions, about their job hunting behavior and desires. You can see the full set of questions asked below. The questions- and their answers- are shown above in the data visualizations created using Infogram.

Questions Asked

  • Which of the following are the most desirable benefits that influence your job choices?
  • Which of the following would be considered deal breakers when it comes to accepting a job?
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?What’s the least PTO you would accept with a job?
  • What do you consider to be good PTO?
  • What is the maximum amount of hours that can be worked in a week while still having a work life balance?
  • What interview behavior might lead you to turn down a job?
  • How do you primarily search for jobs?
  • How long SHOULD someone stay in a job before moving on to the next job?
  • How long were you personally at your last job?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What is your biggest source of workplace stress?
  • How much time do you spend independently learning new job skills?

This article was originally published by Kathy Morris for Zippia | Image Credit: Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy Stock Photo

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