Gen Z Is Here: 4 Things You Should Know In Order to Recruit Them

June 21, 2017

Millennials, Generation Z, tomAYto, tomAHto...right?

Turns out, not so much - there’s actually a pretty big difference between the two generations and what they want in work. The oldest Gen Z-er’s (the generation with those born somewhere between 1995 and 2014) are now 22 years old —walking off the graduation stage and into the workforce.

And that means recruiters must ready themselves for this new wave of workers and understand the difference between them and the millennials that came right before. For example, early research suggests that Generation Z is more pragmatic, more money-conscious, and more entrepreneurial than their millennial counterparts.

If you’re rolling your eyes thinking “oh great...another generation to figure out” we feel you. That’s why we put together four simple facts you should know about Gen Z and how to change your recruiting strategy accordingly:  

1. They value independence over collaboration in the workplace (unlike millennials)

It’s been common workplace wisdom for years now that millennials value collaboration in the office, and 88% of them really do claim to prefer a collaborative work environment. This thinking has led to the rise of open offices and workplace messaging systems like Slack, while entire workflows have been re-designed based on data that shows millennials are more likely to use online collaboration apps and prefer text and email communication to one-on-one meetings.

But it’s a mistake to extend this same logic to Gen Z. In fact, according to research conducted by Gen Z Gurus David Stillman and his seventeen-year-old son Jonah, Gen Z is actually more independent than the generations that preceded them.

“Our biggest difference will be our independent and competitive nature. Workplaces have become so used to Millennials' collaborative style that this will throw them off,” says Jonah. “Take something as simple as office space. Collaborative Millennials have pushed for the open office concept where they can all work together. Gen Z's independent nature doesn't work in an open office.”

In fact, according to the Stillmans, 35% of Generation Z “would rather share socks than an office space.” Similar research suggests that Gen Z actually prefers face-to-face meetings—although that would include video streaming options, like Skype.

Unlike with millennials, when it comes to attracting Generation Z, recruiters may find more success touting private offices (and competitive salaries) than teamwork and constant collaboration.

2. You need to meet them where they are (like on Snapchat), but stay on top of changing trends

Major corporations like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Goldman Sachs have already begun using Snapchat, Generation Z’s favorite social media platform, to up their recruiting game with young people just entering the workforce. It’s a clever strategy that has helped big brands get ahead of the curve in recruiting future leaders.

But recruiters must also keep in mind that the digital landscape changes quickly and constantly. Just four years ago, Facebook was king, with 94% of teenagers maintaining a profile on the site. One year later, Instagram had become teenagers’ favorite app, with Facebook’s popularity declining, and by 2017, Snapchat had opened up a huge lead over its competition.

Also, a strategy that works today may not work in six months or a year, and though the big social networks will likely stick around, their uses and nuances can change on a dime. For example, while Snapchat is high schoolers’ preference for communicating with friends, they see Facebook as more of a necessity for school. As this group ages, they may look for job information there and see Snapchat or Instagram recruiting as intrusive.

When it comes to social media and apps overall, recruiters must be agile, adapting quickly to new and changing trends.

3. Make sure the right information about your company is out there, and tailor it for 8-second attention spans

With Generation Z, sometimes also referred to as the true “digital natives,” technology is often the story. In their book Gen Z @ Work, the Stillmans note that Generation Z is so acclimated to technology that they often “don’t see the line between the physical and digital anymore… They are one and the same.”

Compared to previous generations—even millennials—Generation Z also possesses excellent online research skills. Even before entering college, they’re likely to turn to the Internet first to answer their questions, with 52% leveraging social media as a research tool in school. And this is a generation whose members were mostly born somewhere between the invention of the smartphone and the debut of the iPad, so mobile connectivity is in their bloodstreams.

For recruiters, that means that it may be difficult to hide anything unfavorable, but it also provides a chance to highlight your employer brand and differentiators across channels. In this context, employer branding will matter more than ever, because Generation Z will find any marketing material that your team puts out.

Although Gen Z’s digital intuition can make employer branding and messaging easier, there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind. First of all, their average attention span is only eight seconds, even shorter than the 12 seconds attributed to millennials. They’re also far more visual in nature, having grown up in a post-newspaper, Netflix-ready world.

In other words, recruiters should avoid trying to reach Generation Z with lengthy job descriptions and content, while videos, animations, and even emojis are more likely to get the message across.

“Having a beautiful careers site with a lot of content is frankly a waste a time in trying to recruit this generation,” says Melissa Murray Bailey of Universum, a global employer branding firm. “They won’t read it. They prefer visual platforms, especially YouTube.”

4. When it comes to employer branding and messaging, be authentic and consistent everywhere

Recruiters already know that authentic employer branding, including employee-created content and testimonials, is one of the most effective tools for attracting modern candidates. The good news for those ahead of the curve is that this trend should continue with Gen Z, who tend to respond and engage with memorable online messaging.

For Generation Z, employer branding needs to be not just authentic, but consistent and across different platforms. According to the Monster Multi-Generational Study, Gen Z uses “several different sources to get their information.” In other words, if your Facebook posts feature very different branding from your job listing, these digital natives will probably sniff that out—and may be turned away.

Your branding will also benefit from being in more places online—not necessarily because Gen Z won’t see it on just one platform, but because the regular messaging will keep your company top of mind. After all, Gen Z is multi-tasking the Internet more than anyone—while we once thought that millennials used an excessive number of devices, Gen Z actually uses five screens on average, making millennials’ three-screen average sound almost old school by comparison.

Overall, it’s clear that some of the investments recruiters are making now, like better and more authentic employer branding, will keep paying dividends with the incoming generation. But as this group enters the workforce, the employers who work to understand its nuances will also benefit most from its unique skills and perspectives.

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