Even the most practised professionals will agree – putting yourself out there and applying for a new job is nerve-wracking. For the youngest members of our workforce, it’s an anxiety-inducing process, which compounds already shocking mental health statistics.

You remember what it was like being young, trying to find your way in the world, right? Throw a global pandemic and the added pressure of job hunting in the mix, and it’s no wonder younger generations are already exhibiting higher-than-usual stress levels for their age.

Gen Zs are feeling anxious about applying for work, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. It’s not because they don’t think they’re good enough or are afraid of rejection. They’re worried because they’re young, inexperienced and lack general employee know-how – and we think that’s something many employers have forgotten.

A quick dive into the numbers

According to research by the American Psychological Association, 91% of Gen Z globally have experienced mental health illnesses like depression or anxiety associated with stress. That’s a staggeringly high number of stressed-out 20-somethings.

Closer to home, that number is slightly better. When we asked young people in Australia and New Zealand about their future job prospects compared to other generations, over 80% view their prospects for work as equal to or better than other generational groups.

But despite this more optimistic outlook, anxiety is still a major challenge, with 90% of Australian and NZ candidates expressing some level of anxiety related to looking for work, and 21% indicating extreme anxiety when job hunting. General mental health has also been a barrier – almost a third of young people report that mental health has impacted a job application over the past year.

While these statistics could, in part, be due to Gen Zs’ willingness to talk about their mental health (that’s a good thing!), it’s a reality that many employers are still grappling with.

So, what does this all mean for recruiters, and why does it matter?

While Gen Zs generally view themselves as resilient, a recent DHL group study found that almost all Gen-Zs were ‘anxious’ or ‘very anxious’ about their chances of landing a job post-pandemic.

Their fears aren’t unfounded either, with the OECD showing that younger candidates are twice as likely to be unemployed during the pandemic compared to workers from other age groups. Since it’s predicted Gen Z will make up at least one-quarter of the global workforce by 2025, that’s a teeny tiny bit alarming.

When we asked our Discord community of Gen-Z job hunters about what could minimise levels of anxiety during the recruitment process, here’s what they had to say:

1. Remove ambiguity with better, more frequent communication

As the most connected generation, it should come as no surprise that Gen Z candidates have high expectations when it comes to communication – good or bad. Interestingly, we found that most Gen Z candidates felt fine with rejection letters – 43% indicated they didn’t feel bad about them and 36% were neutral.

It’s not hearing anything at all that bothers them.

Over 72% said that ‘lots of communication from the employer’ would help them feel less anxious about applying for a job, and 65% said ‘regular updates on my application status’ would also do the trick.

Often, the simplest things get overlooked. Remember, many young candidates don’t have the work or corporate vernacular to navigate these early parts of their work-life – we’ve heard young people ask what ‘onboarding’ means, for example. So, explaining each step will go a long way.

2. Welcome all Identities

Another big contributor to Gen Zs’ overall job hunting anxiety is how their performance and identity might affect their success at work.

Here’s an example – during a coaching session with one Gen Z candidate, they asked how they should approach managing their ADHD and transgender status with prospective employers.

While these are subjects that previous generations may have shied away from, diversity and inclusion rank near the top of what’s important to Gen Z candidates, but they know many employers are still playing catch-up.

The solution? Here are a few tips for making candidates feel confident about bringing their whole selves to an interview:

Shine a light on your diversity in your job ads

Make explicit reference to how your company approaches diversity in your recruitment material. And if you’re lacking diversity in your team, here’s how to make your workplace more welcoming to different kinds of people.

Get rid of resumes

This is a big reason why Weirdly got started in the first place. Resumes tend to replicate and reinforce unconscious bias, meaning you inadvertently continue to hire the same people. If the thought of ditching resumes altogether is too big a change (for now), at least find ways to screen them differently to avoid bias, with pre-employment software.

Use tech to remove any bias in your process

Resumes aren’t the only place where bias towards a certain type of candidate could be hiding. Beyond gender, age, sexual orientation and ethnicity biases, think also about the way you engage with candidates, and whether you’re unintentionally marginalising any communities. Using a platform like Weirdly gives your recruitment team the tools to make more diverse hiring choices by streamlining the candidate screening process.

3. Support mental health at work in less formal ways

While Gen Zs are known for being masters of online communication, studies have found that 90% of Gen Z workers value human connection at work. And though we don’t yet know the full impact of remote working on mental health in the workplace, we do know this need for social interaction is top of mind for Gen Z.

Navigating remote work with little experience to fall back on has proved challenging for Gen Z employees, and 47% report working from home has a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, compared to 34% of older employees.

When asked about supporting mental health at work, the overwhelming indicator from the Gen Z community was informal social interaction with colleagues.

71% of respondents said that ‘breaktime chats with colleagues’ were beneficial in helping their mental health at work. So while more formal corporate-level actions like team meetings, wellness policies and mentor programmes look good on paper, in practice, they may be lacking the authenticity of more informal social activities.

Simple changes to help alleviate anxiety

Some will argue that Gen-Zs are ‘fresh to stress’ in work environments – and unlike older generations, they don’t have a lot of experience with workplace stress. But put the last two years in context, and that statement underestimates the challenges our young people have faced. They’ve had to adapt to different ways of learning (and, to an extent, working too), so they do have some experience being productive under pressure. Gen Zs are anxious and for good reason. But it’s the simplest of changes that will make all the difference – and get them started on the best foot.

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