4 Tips for Recruiting Generation Z

By Roy Maurer Mar 1, 2016
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It’s not too early to begin thinking about how to reach out to the next generation of talent—Generation Z.

While understanding and accommodating Millennials as they move through the workforce is still a fevered topic in HR circles, the first wave of the next generation is beginning to consider its employment opportunities. Born beginning in 1995, Generation Z is on the cusp of entering the workforce and research has shown that they differ in surprising ways from their Millennial predecessors. Understanding this group’s attitudes toward work and life is a must for companies preparing to recruit the next generation.

This group makes up the largest segment of the U.S. population (26 percent), and is characterized as being the most diverse U.S. generation in history, having the shortest attention span (8 seconds) and being the world’s first true digital natives.​

Start Early

Employer branding needs to begin sooner than usual with this group, according to new research from Universum, a global research and advisory firm headquartered in Stockholm. Universum surveyed approximately 50,000 respondents born between 1996 and 2000 across 46 countries.

“This generation is thinking about entering the workforce earlier,” said Melissa Murray Bailey, president for the Americas at Universum. Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said they would consider entering the workforce straight from high school and 60 percent said they would welcome employers offering education in their field in lieu of a college degree. “Waiting until the traditional cycle of recruiting people through internships or when they are 20 or 21 years old might be too late, because they’ve probably already begun doing research on companies,” Bailey said.

Communicate Value and Meaning

Employers will have to use a different recruiting strategy with Generation Z than what they may have done before, said Raghav Singh, a talent management expert based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. “First, you need to get a good handle on their expectations. Work/life balance is critical, and they would rather have part-time work than work long hours and make more money.”

More than half (51 percent) of Generation Z respondents in North America chose flexible work as the career goal most important to them, according to the Universum study.

Employers will want to highlight value and meaning in their messaging, Singh said. Areas to focus on include long-term career growth and how the work will impact Generation Z’s priorities.

“The focus is not on the current job but on where it will lead. What can they expect?” Singh said.

“They are concerned that the priorities they have are actively supported by the employers they work for,” he added. “If you’re planning to recruit from Gen Z, be aware that your work environment is going to be a major factor in attracting them. Salary and financial security are important, but they’re interested in working for companies that demonstrate a positive impact on society. That needs to be reflected in the employer branding.”

Singh recommended that employers highlight any social causes they support. But take care, because this generation places a high value on integrity in finding an employer, he said. “Gen Z is a group that does an enormous amount of research on everything under the sun. If you are not committed to a social cause, don’t claim that you are because they will find out.”

Tap Entrepreneurial Spirit

Just over half of all respondents said they were interested in starting their own companies.

“Given that so many young, talented people could be tempted to start or join a small company with large ambitions, it’s important to consider what you need to highlight or improve to capture the attention and consideration of Generation Z,” Bailey said. “Three initial areas to focus on are [having] a clear sense of purpose and meaningful impact on the wider world, scope for personal initiative, and more-flexible working conditions. Although these are aspirations for many organizations, our results suggest an urgent need to turn these aspirations into reality.”

And don’t neglect to listen to this generation. “They want their ideas to be heard, even in the recruiting process,” Singh said.

Keep Communications Visual

Understanding how best to reach and begin cultivating a relationship with Generation Z will be a critical consideration for employers.

For starters, this generation doesn’t like employers pursuing them on their social media accounts.

“You don’t necessarily want to start talking about jobs and recruiting them, you want to start building your brand and messaging to engage them,” Bailey said. “Snackable content is much more resonant for them than big ad campaigns.”

The Universum research suggests that employers should focus more on sharing personal forms of communication like individual employee profiles and stories of what it’s like to work at the organization.

Singh advised keeping messages short, and making use of emojis and visual content.

“The idea is to get the message across in the shortest possible time,” he said. “Having a beautiful careers site with a lot of content is frankly a waste a time in trying to recruit this generation. They won’t read it. They prefer visual platforms, especially YouTube.”

Even though Generation Z has an effortless ability with digital devices, they prefer face-to-face interactions, which include streaming platforms like FaceTime or Skype, Singh said.

Recruiters should consider live streaming when reaching out to this generation. “That personal connection, being able to see who is on the other end, is a critical part to get through to this group,” he added.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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