From the Desk of Brad Smart: How to Hire the Right, Ambitious, Hard-Working “Young People”

Are you tired of hiring – that is, mis-hiring — young people who insist on working:

  • As much as they want (“Work is boring and travel is exciting”).
  • When they want (“If I don’t feel like working it’s my right to not go to work”).
  • Where they work (in-person, virtual, or hybrid – and demand their preference).
  • For as much, or as little, money as they want (“Happiness is more important than profit, so I turned down a promotion to manager”).
  • In jobs that really, really help customers (“I want to make a difference, to save the world”).

If their defense, good for them for living fuller, richer lives and NOT chasing dollars to, someday, retire more comfortably. But, if you’re running a business you know how difficult it is to accommodate so many restrictions.

When the pandemic subsided, the “Great Resignation” spread like a virus. Many employees showed no loyalty by walking across the street for $3 more per hour, and usually did not “serve” customers better. Then came “Quiet Quitting,” with astounding statistics saying, bottom line, that most people hated their job.

In our experience, with hundreds of clients in dozens of countries, the reality is not that bad.  Watch Shark Tank (CNBC nightly) and you’ll see amazing young entrepreneurs who are sincerely passionate about growing their business that truly helps customers. They are extremely dedicated, hard-working, smart, and resourceful – they figure out how to overcome obstacles. My son Geoff (ghSmart.com) interviewed 400 new recent MBAs, and was pleasantly surprised that the majority valued:

  • Making an impact over making money.
  • Positive cultures over top-down authoritarian leadership.
  • Flexible work hours (not fewer hours but more freedom to work when they want).
  • Being held accountable to high performance standards over performing repeat activities.

Geoff concluded his blog (link) with: “I was impressed with this vintage of tier-one business school students. I have confidence they will lead us well in business, government, and non-profits, and they will not only make a positive impact but also fill their lives with more meaning, enjoyment, and happiness than generations past.”

How to NOT hire selfish and lazy people that have low ambition.

We’ve paid attention to how a lot of Topgrading clients hired high performers who fit their culture despite “the problems with young people today.” Here are the major lessons:

  1. Create a positive, dynamic culture. Conduct simple, short, anonymous employee surveys annually to measure if employees really see that the top team exhibits the stated values.
  2. Make your Careers section exciting. When we look at the hiring methods of companies, almost always we see descriptions of jobs in Career sections and in job boards that are … boring and dry. Highlight how your business DOES make a difference. Even if people generally don’t think so (“we just make soap”, “we manufacture small parts for cars”). Ask for customer testimonials, for example:

“Thank you – I have dry skin and your soap really does contain a lotion that works!”

“Hats off to Acme Manufacturing! We’ve tried eight seat belts and yours is by far the easiest to click in and out of.”

  1. Recruit more applicants. Hiring depends on using the best selection method, but it’s also a numbers game. If 20 out of 30 applicants fit that negative mold, recruit 60 applicants, so you can pick the best of 20 who do not fit that mold.
  2. If the job is virtual, only hire people who have had at least one three-year virtual job (and got high performance ratings). That way you can be sure they can work virtually.
  3. If you insist on work in-person, in the office, consider a hybrid option with at least one day virtual. Don’t bend over backwards to accommodate every “young person”whim, but show some flexibility.
  4. Use the Topgrading Truth Motivator. Only hire people who, in your first contact with them, agree to arrange reference calls with their most recent managers. One-third will agree and they are the honest, high performers to put through the rest of your hiring methods.

Over the decades, we at Topgrading, Inc. have experienced eight serious downturns in the economy. Clients who buckled down and fought to hire high performers always succeeded, or at least did better than their competitors.


Dr. Brad Smart is Founder and CEO of Topgrading, Inc. Topgrading is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes maximize the hiring of high performers. Topgrading assesses candidates for senior positions (where the costs of mis-hires are high) and trains all managers to create teams of almost all high performers.

Brad has seven published books on hiring; the most recent three (the first, second, and third editions of Topgrading) were all best sellers. Brad, and President Chris Mursau’s new book, Foolproof Hiring (Forbes Books), is available for purchase by clicking here. After just six weeks, Foolproof Hiring, achieved Amazon Best Seller status.

Brad can be reached at www.Topgrading.com

To learn more, download our free eGuide or attend our next Topgrading Webinar. Our webinar explains the most effective recruitment methods, how to immediately identify the most honest, high performing applicants, and how to (finally!) verify what candidates tell you (since reference calls are usually worthless).

Contact us to learn more.


Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results across all industries, including hiring HR professionals.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

Scroll to Top