Over the last year or so, the latest generation of workers have started to enter the employment world, bringing a wealth of ‘tech-savy’, ‘digitally native’ candidates into the working world, Business Insider cited in an article. Jason Dorsey, an Author and Keynote Speaker, explained in a TEDx Talk: “This generation think email is snail mail and Facebook is what their grandparents look like. Every parent, employer, marketer, neighbour needs to understand this generation that is poised to change everything.” This cohort of workers, born between 1995 and 2012, and poised to succeed millennials are known as Generation Z.
“Provide Gen Z with enough skin in the game and enough interest
in the role and the opportunity to make them want to go through the recruitment process”
Like their Millennial predecessors – stereotyped as frivolous individuals who top everything with smashed avocado and “fritter away [their] pay checks”, according to The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell – Gen Z have other societal stereotypes to contend with. This demographic is renowned for ‘sliding’ into people’s DM’s (direct messages) – a phrase often used to describe those taking a public social media conversation to the private space of direct messaging - and catching up with the latest wave of “on fleek” trends whilst sipping on their vanilla bean crème flat white coffees. Despite there only being a slight age difference between Millennials and Gen Z, these two cohorts have been shaped by entirely different upbringings, cultural and generational experiences. Subsequently, their generational differences beget distinct behavioural traits which set them apart from their predecessors, which suggests that it could make them very different candidates for recruiters to deal with. However, an increasing amount of social media exposure regards the differences that set this generation apart. But what does this mean for recruitment?
Rob Blythe, Director and Co-Founder of Instant Impact – who specialises in early career talent recruitment – told Recruitment Grapevine that every generation poses their own set of challenges. “[Gen Z] are no different in that respect,” he adds. Yet, Blythe explains that because the candidates are born between 1995 and 2012, they are “one of the socially and online-attuned generations”. He adds: “If you have a good and compelling offering and know how to communicate that online, it has never been easier to find the right talent.” For recruiters, Blythe says that this means working out how to attract Gen Z’s by being aware of their digital nativism. According to research from Mediakix, 98% of Gen Z own a smart phone with their average daily screen time equating to a staggering ten hours. Simultaneously, social media plays a large part in the day-to-day lives of this generation. According to a 2016 study from The Center for Generational Kinetics, 42% of Gen Z say that social media directly impacts their self-worth, 37% explained that it regularly contributes to their happiness, and 39% cite social media as something that impacts their self-esteem. So, social media yields a huge amount of influence over this generation. For this reason, Blythe urges recruiters to stretch themselves across a plethora of social media platforms in order to reach these candidates. Despite this, he does recommend that recruiters consider using the social platforms that best align to an employer’s brand when trying to attract them. Particularly when it comes to promoting job vacancies, Blythe says it is important to “provide [Gen Z] with enough skin in the game and enough interest in the role and the opportunity to make them want to go through [the recruitment process]”. This, he says, starts with the job description itself.
Zac Williams, Co-Founder at graduate jobsite GradTouch agrees, adding that for a job ad to be successful with this generation it must spell out what working life is like at that firm. As this generation are ‘digitally native’ and “have grown up with smart phones, information is always just a thumb click away,” Williams explains. As a result, he encourages recruiters to focus on the presentation of the job description, or advertisement, with especial care given to directing candidates towards extra information about the company. He adds: “If [Gen Z] are going to apply for a job, they are going to check [their potential employer] out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and social media channels to see what you are doing before they even check out the website.” This holistic approach is what, William explains, is considered a top priority by Gen Z. They are interested in being able to find out if there is a mutual alignment between their own values and the company’s values. “[For them] it’s not necessarily about going to huge corporates, I think it’s about finding somewhere where Gen Z feel that they can make a difference,” he explains.
“Looking through your actual procedures and the forms that candidates have to fill in and stripping that down is
one response to that”
Yet, information is only one strand of the recruitment process. Tom Hadley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) notes that lengthy application processes requiring candidates to “write realms of stuff” could also impact recruiters’ ability to attract this younger cohort. “Looking through [your] actual procedures and the forms that [candidates] have to fill in and stripping that down is one response to that,” he explains. With stats from software company Vision Critical suggesting that the average attention span of Gen Z when concentrating on a task lasts around eight seconds – four seconds lower than Millennials – this could be crucial. Hadley also suggests that innovation, in terms of the operation of recruitment processes aimed at Gen Z, could also improve candidate attraction. He said: “Some recent examples that we have picked up on – if you’ve got an interview coming up, sending some questions to the candidates in advance, sending them a map on the day and saying that you look forward to meeting them” are little things that “make a difference”.
“Help Generation Z to visualise themselves working at your company by sharing videos that highlight the company culture, the people that work there, the physical workspace, and even the surrounding city”
Hadley’s tips on tailoring communication tally with those made by Ryan Jenkins, a Generation Z expert. Whilst the REC’s Policy Director focuses on the points in the recruitment process whereby this generation might want more contact, Jenkins suggests the manner in which this communication can be most effective. He explains that YouTube and Instagram are the social media platforms that Gen Z use when researching what it looks like to work at the company. He notes that a key priority for these candidates is to be able to envision themselves fitting in a company’s culture before proceeding with the application process. And this is something that recruiters and employers would be wise to remember when liaising with these candidates. “Help Generation Z to visualise themselves working at your company by sharing videos that highlight the company culture, the people that work there, the physical workspace, and even the surrounding city,” he says. But this is what many recruiters are doing already so it’s not too big a departure from usual hiring trends.
But what do the candidates think themselves? Sophia Cassan, a 19-year-old English Literature Student from the University of Liverpool, explains that using social media is one way in which she has won work in the past; using Instagram and Facebook to secure employment. Despite also using more traditional avenues, like job boards, she uses social media platforms for convenience and ease of access. She adds that she would be unlikely to use a traditional recruiter, because she “can access a similar breadth of jobs online, which is a far easier and quicker process and can be done on the go or from home”.
But that’s not to say that all Gen Z candidates utilise social media when jobseeking. Jenkins adds that a common trait of Gen Z is turning to friends and family already working within a company to help them find a job. Nick Simon, a Music student from the University of Cardiff, has found work this way - utilising his parents’ contacts network. He tells Recruitment Grapevine: “Personally, I don’t use social media – I usually get my Mum and Dad to help me [secure] a job.” And this plays into a generational stereotype. Last year, a Cohesion survey found that half of young candidates are being advised by their parents when it comes to accepting or declining a job and are actively influencing the graduate recruitment process.
And whilst recruiters are being cut out of the supply chain if candidates are using parental networks to find work, Cassan’s comments on the importance of job advertisements should leave recruiters with food for thought. She said that, for her, the most crucial part of the attraction comes from the job description itself. “It’s important that a job description is to the point and outlines elements such as pay, flexibility and contracted hours.” She says that the presentation of these job details would underpin her decision to proceed with the job application. While a quick application process is preferable, Cassan says that if a job ticks all the boxes, she wouldn’t mind undertaking a more intense application process.
“It’s important that a job description is to the point and outlines elements such as pay, flexibility and contracted hours”
We could go on and on. It seems that there are many differences that set Gen Z apart from their predecessors. Their digitally savvy nature, constant social media presence, and not to mention their incessant desire to keep up with the latest wave of “on fleek” trends. And their generational differences even transcend to their job expectations too. Gen Z’s focus is more so set on company culture and how they can contribute to a business and this needs to be properly conveyed early on in the recruitment process. It seems that a good salary alone will not attract this generation because of the nature of this generation. If recruiters stand any chance of attracting Gen Z then they will need to consider their existing recruitment strategies. With this in mind, recruiters should unleash a strong focus on promoting jobs via numerous social media platforms – that best align to the company’s culture - to give them the best chance of attracting them. Additionally, recruiters should consider showing candidates a company’s culture rather than just describing it in the job description; use various types of media such as videos and photos to illustrate why candidates should want to work there. Yet, while Gen Z have only just begun filtering into the world of work, it won’t be too long before the next cohort of candidates come onto the scene. Generation Alpha – the generation succeeding Gen Z and who will be born between 2015 and 2025 - may pose as a greater threat to recruiters. And they will be forced to come to terms with future technologies and generational traits to heighten their chances of attracting them.