I got a crash course on how young people hunt for jobs these days when my oldest son, a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, set out on a job search in the investment field. Here are a few things I learned from his job hunt.

Your online image really matters

I wasn't surprised that my son's search was 90% Internet-based, or at the amount of information you can find on any company on the Web. What did shock me was how little some of the companies he was researching seem to care about how they are portrayed on the Internet. What does your website say about your company? You don't need to redesign your website just to appeal to a 20-something potential job applicant. But your website should give visitors a clear picture of what your company does, and offer a sense of what it's like to work there.

Find out what employees really think about you

Social media offers job hunters all sorts of opportunities to learn about potential employers. One job-hunting website that's popular with this generation of college graduates is www.glassdoor.com. The founders started the business because they were frustrated with how hard it was to get inside information about potential employers when they were job hunting, so they launched a website that offered information about companies from the people who worked there.

Glassdoor.com is loaded with postings by employees about where they work. Sure, some of these postings might be bogus complaints from disgruntled employees, but you still should know what employees might be saying about your company if it's mentioned in an open online forum like www.glassdoor.com.

Lead with green

I was talking with a distributor earlier this month about his growing business in energy retrofits and he told me it was helping him hire environmentally conscious young talent, because they really wanted to work for a business that had good green credentials. “It's finally cool to be in the electrical market,” he said.

While researching one of this month's feature articles, “A Walk Through the DOE” (p. 21), I learned about an interesting program at the Department of Energy that I believe could be a terrific source of technically minded future employees who might find working in the electrical wholesaling industry to be cool. For the past 22 years, the DOE has funded more than 20 Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) at leading universities across the United States that have trained more than 3,000 students to conduct energy audits at industrial facilities. These students are pursuing degrees in mechanical engineering, industrial technology and other technical fields, and would seem to be great entry-level candidates if you have job openings that require this level of technical training. You can find the IAC in your region at www1.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/tech_deployment/iacs_locations.

Challenge younger employees

Younger employees want to do work they feel really matters and that challenges them. The traditional job training route through the warehouse, counter area, inside sales desk and field sales positions has worked for decades in the electrical wholesaling industry. But maybe it's time to add something to the mix. For example, maybe a job candidate has some experience in web design or in developing apps for mobile devices. Perhaps you can figure out a way to incentivize him or her work on a pilot project on the side to tap into these talents.

Bank on the advantages of working for a small business

The stability and team atmosphere that many family-owned businesses offer are one of their biggest advantages. While many 20-somethings are still graduating from college with dollar signs in their eyes and big plans of working for a Fortune 500 company right out of school, the recession and mass layoffs at big companies also introduced this generation to the downside of Corporate America. Small businesses have an awful lot to offer college graduates but it's a challenge to get your story to them.

Oh, and by the way. My son landed a nice job, and he did it the old-fashioned way. Researching companies, preparing a list of questions for the interviews, and sending hand-written “thank you” notes to everyone he spoke with on the interviews.