They’re entrepreneurial, financially focused and will take to tech like ducks to water. Generation Z is the latest generation to hit the workforce and represents a whole new breed of candidates. Even though most Gen Zs are under 20, they are, in many ways, far more skilled, agile and self-aware than their older counterparts (arguably, even millennials). They’re comfortable in a world of unprecedented access to information and influences, and breezily integrate virtual and offline experiences. That means when it comes to attracting and recruiting candidates from this new talent pool, the ‘old-school’ way of doing things just won’t cut it.
According to William Strauss and Neil Howe’s generational theory, generations with similar early-life experiences will often develop similar collective personas and life trajectories. Here's what the research tells us about Gen Z.
Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2015, is said to be most like the ‘silent generation’, born from 1925 to 1942.
As with the silent generation, who grew up during the Great Depression, under-20s have already lived through turbulent times and experienced insecurity in their relatively short lives. They’ve watched as their parents lost jobs during the 2007 GFC and navigated rocky waters of economic uncertainty.
This has had a significant impact on their views of financial security, tertiary education and career progression.
Gen Z is one of the most educated generations we’ve seen – 81% believe a college education is critical to achieving career goals. But, they’re more hesitant to go into debt for it, and many look for ways to enter the workforce quickly.
They’re keenly aware of job stability, preferring full or part-time work over casual positions, and the need to save for their future (or an unexpected turn of events).
For hiring managers who need access to a large pool of candidates, under-20s are ripe for the picking. But while Gen Z candidates might be keen to get into work quickly, they’re not just looking for a job – they’re on the hunt for security and opportunity.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that 62% of Gen Zs prioritise flexible work, but this generation measures flexibility in more than just hours.
They prioritise independence over collaboration, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to work in a team. They simply crave a higher level of flexibility in their jobs and thrive on taking independent responsibility for their work.
Gen Zs want to know how their jobs will contribute to the bigger picture, and how that fits with their identity. 70% of Gen Zs say it’s important to defend causes related to identity – human rights, race, ethnicity, feminism – and they expect their employers to take a similar stance.
Born into tech, Gen Zs have grown up connected to everything. They innately understand the value of new technologies both in and out of the workplace.
66% of Gen Zs use technology to create with communities based on causes and interests, rather than economic backgrounds or educational levels as millennials, Gen X and baby boomers do.
Keeping this in mind, it’s more important than ever that a company practises what it preaches – because it’s all too easy for Gen Zs to find out if it doesn’t. They know how to access information and develop a point of view quickly. They can spot an insincere attempt at diversity or inclusion a mile away, and they won’t hesitate to point it out.
Alongside job security and independence, Gen Zs also want access to professional growth opportunities as soon as they step into the workforce. Because of the increasing cost of education, under-20s are looking for ways to develop their capabilities – while working.
They look for mentoring and training opportunities that will support them to carve out a career path, and they want leaders who model honesty, are accessible and invite participation beyond what’s stated in the job description.
Understanding what motivates Gen Z is just the beginning. Successfully recruiting this next generation of workers requires a fresh and maybe a little weird take on things.
Hiring managers – here’s what to keep in mind:
54% won’t apply if they feel recruitment is dated – ie paper-based and with long timelines.
82% of Gen Zs expect the hiring process to take two weeks, so use screening assessments that sort candidates by location, availability and values-fit to speed things up.
65% of Gen Zs value knowing what’s going on around them and being in control. Use automated communications to keep candidates informed and engaged.
Just as you are evaluating the candidates, they will be assessing you. They’ll also be ready and willing to offer their points of view, so be prepared.
Despite their technological competence, if given the choice, Gen Zs will gravitate towards face-to-face interactions. While that may not be feasible when you’re dealing with hundreds of candidates, consider interviewing in person where possible.
Under-20s have learned not to blindly trust what they see on the internet. Consider using any Gen Z employees when attracting new candidates.
Point out benefits
While under-20s might not be so interested in childcare or health insurance, they will want to hear about professional development opportunities and wellbeing initiatives. Educate candidates about your values and culture as they move through the application process.
Don’t talk down
Gen Zs know their worth, and despite their age, if they don’t feel respected and valued through the candidate experience, they will explore other options. Keep them in the loop and respond to their queries.
Gen Zs are here, and they’ve come in with a bang. They bring energy and affordability but, more importantly, they offer new points of view and specialised skills that have been proven to be assets on the frontline. Understanding what motivates them at work and modifying the candidate experience accordingly will be essential to successfully recruit and retain Gen Zs.