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Penny Queller


SVP & GM, Enterprise Talent Solutions

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Recruitment tips: Three things you should know about hiring generation Z


If you thought generation Z were just mini-millennials, you were wrong. Recruiting from this talent pool requires a different set of tactics altogether. 

As the mother of two university students who have been applying for summer jobs and internships, I’ve recently been getting an earful about the recruiting process for entry-level work. 

My son Jacob, a second year student at University of Richmond, secured a summer internship at a power and energy company. Of the 32 applications he put in, he got five responses (only five!) and two offers. 

 “Mum,” he told me, “your industry sucks. It makes people feel so bad.” 

I cannot stand hearing that, but Jacob has a point. 

Managing expectations

Born after 1997, gen Z-ers are true digital natives. They’ve grown up with texting and Snapchat and being socially connected. They’re accustomed to having 24/7 access to information from the palm of their hands. They expect immediate feedback in all things, even job hunting. 

Recruiters need to think differently about this cohort, which we’re increasingly learning isn’t just ‘millennial lite’. 

We’d better start on these efforts, stat! More than 11 million entry-level jobs are currently available, according to a Monster analysis of data from CEB Talent Neuron, up 5% over 2017. 

According to NACE’s Job Outlook 2018 survey, US employers plan to hire 4% more 2018 graduates this year. 

To better understand how gen Z is approaching its very first job search, Monster partnered with Research Now SSI, the global leader in digital market research data, to survey more than 350 university students expected to graduate in 2018

What we learned said a lot about how we need to engage this highly connected generation. 

Gen Z are nervous about presenting themselves

CVs are central to the work of recruiters, but for the Class of 2018, they’re a source of anxiety. 

Nearly 75% of respondents recognise that CVs are important to employers, yet nearly 37% fear that their CV isn’t good enough. One possible explanation for their nervousness – they don’t know what to put in it. Survey results reveal only 44% have previous work experience. 

Smart employers will be conscious of this anxiety and find additional ways to assess candidates’ potential. 

For example, companies like Deloitte and KPMG are focusing on ‘early identification efforts’, and are connecting with students on campus via externships, hackathons, leadership programmes, and even extracurricular activities (sponsoring clubs or events, or simply sending speakers to campus). 

Perhaps even more than their millennial elders, gen Z is demanding about the brands they choose. 

The best students will be encouraged to apply for valuable internships. Meanwhile, companies are turning passive student talent into a pipeline. (One savvy company inserted a Starbucks card into a holiday greeting to help my son through his final exams.) 

In 2018, NACE projects that 1.7% of interns will go on to be hired, a drop from last year, but an improvement from 2016. 

Of course, CVs will continue to hold weight, so another part of engaging this audience is helping them build a document that represents them well and bolsters their confidence. 

Gen Z will throw off your university hiring timeline

My son started looking for internships for this summer back in October. As a parent, I hope that puts him on track to graduate with a job…no pressure, Jacob! 

In reality though, only 25% of university graduates had jobs at the time our survey was conducted in mid-April. 

Even more surprising, while 35% of 2018 graduates started their job search more than a year ago, a similar number (37%) just started searching in April or planned to start after finals/graduation. 

Based on those figures you may want to reconsider how you allocate your campus recruiting efforts, and you might want to think about dividing your marketing recruitment into two different segments: one for information gathering (second and third year students) and another for immediate hiring (final year students), or as the marketers would say, awareness versus decision. 

Several surveys have pointed to their desires for professional development and career growth from potential employers, so you can expect that theme among the interview questions they’ll ask.

Don’t have budget to double your visits? Fortunately, technology has alleviated some of the need to recruit in person on campus. 

Spring can be a very good time to use social media job ads to target entry-level job ads at 2018 graduates from universities whose programmes you’ve typically hired from. It’s also a great time to initiate employer brand ads to target go-getter third year students.

Gen Z needs you to convince them to apply

Perhaps even more than their millennial elders, gen Z is demanding about the brands they choose. 

In our survey, 29% of respondents (the largest segment for this question) applied for just one to five jobs. The members of gen Z seem to be approaching employers as consumers, looking for the right match. 

Several surveys have pointed to their desires for professional development and career growth from potential employers, so you can expect that theme among the interview questions they’ll ask. A solid salary is another big expectation.

Communicating your values

How does your brand line up to gen Z’s requirements? Figuring that out and how to deliver that message will be key. 

As the conduit between the seekers and our clients, we recruiters can begin to engage the gen Z audience with job ads that tell a relevant story about each company’s values, culture and diversity. 

Companies like Johnson & Johnson and General Motors have taken this a step further by featuring employees in videos on their company career site.

Meanwhile, 32% of respondents say they don’t know what job they want. This being the case, you may also have to do some occupational branding alongside your employer branding to show some of the typical roles your company hires for. 

Twitter, for example, has reorganised its career site, translating typical departments and job descriptions like ‘product development’ into more heroic language, e.g. ‘build the product’.

No doubt, we’ll learn way more about gen Z in the coming years, as we have with their millennial elders. In the meantime, those of us in recruitment have to wake up to the unique needs of tomorrow’s leaders. 

Hopefully, they’ll push us to deliver a better candidate experience and launch new ways to find talent. 

As my gen Z kids would undoubtedly tell me, “make it happen, Mum!” 

Looking for more recruitment advice and inspiration? Read ‘Hire’ ambitions: recruitment in the modern world.

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Penny Queller

SVP & GM, Enterprise Talent Solutions

Read more from Penny Queller

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