Just When You Thought You Had Millennials Figured Out: Meet Gen Z

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working with Gen Z

It was probably helpful to read a ton of authoritative research a couple of years ago and learn how to attract and hire millennials. But today they’re already in their 30s and moving into leadership positions within their jobs. Sorry, Sport, time to attenuate your efforts toward reaching, influencing and recruiting talent from Gen Z.

I’m sorry, who?

Generation Z is the generation born between 1997 and 2010, the generation whose buying power is now estimated at $44 billion[1]. Some call them iGen or Net Gen. Or even, given their affinity for electronic media, ScreenAgers. Whatever you call them, there are 65 million of them in the U.S. alone, perhaps 2 billion worldwide. By 2020, Generation Z will account for 40% of all consumers in the U.S. And the oldest of this generation are now graduating college and entering the workforce.

A new (work)force to be reckoned with? A breed apart? You bet.

Are you ready for them? Some things to keep in mind:

They are not at all like millennials

It may be hard to believe that they were just one year old when mp3 players came out, four when 9/11 happened and six when Facebook, myspace and Skype debuted. But growing up surrounded by technology, they’re now as comfortable with immediate-response, interactive tools and touch screens as Baby Boomers were with transistor radios and Slinkies. That older generation grew up with fuzzy-screened, bulbous TVs, assembled Cooties for a brain-teaser, and created “art” on an Etch-a-Sketch. Gen Zers grew up using up to eight screens on a daily basis, typically operating multiple screens simultaneously, and absorbing data from every corner of the world, produced in real time.

They reputedly have an eight-second attention span—a second less than goldfish, who are probably not looking for work. It’s said they’re more pragmatic than millennials. They are health conscious to the degree that no burger chain appears on their top 5 list of favorite restaurants (that’ll leave an economic mark on some well-known clowns). They’re probably going to be the last generation that’s predominantly white, are very accepting of same-sex unions, and have grown up to see that people of either gender or any racial background can become President of the United States.

According to a recent article in Forbes, “They highly value success, with professional and academic achievement ranking as most important. Generation Z is perhaps even more success-oriented than any other generation, due to the shifting demographics over the years.”

Candidate Experience in the 21st Century: Go Mobile, Think Global

So they’ll be job hoppers like millenials?

It was predicted that millennials would change jobs often. In fact, 21% of Millennials in 2016 switched employers within the previous year, compared to roughly 7% of gen Xers and other non-millennials. On the other hand, according to a survey by Indeed, Generation Z is anticipated to be more stable—don’t forget, they grew up during the Great Recession—and more interested in sticking with future-proof jobs, including:

  • iOS developer
  • Computer vision engineer
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Audio engineer
  • Daycare assistant
  • Beauty consultant
  • Junior software engineer
  • Bridal consultant
  • Photojournalist
  • Bookseller
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Game master
  • Entry level developer
  • Veterinary assistant
  • Associate dentist

A fascinating and somewhat contradictory mix of technological and very traditional jobs, isn’t it? But there are smart (if surprising) choices in there. Think Artificial Intelligence can mothball daycare assistants, bridal consultants and veterinarians? Not anytime soon. Also, note that with the exception of anesthesiologist and associate dentist, the majority of jobs don’t require advanced degrees. Perhaps benefitting from watching millennials spend additional years in college—and graduate saddled with significant debt without guaranteed employment prospects—the younger generation is taking a more pragmatic approach toward education and careers and going after jobs they can get after four years or less of college.

Wait, bookseller?! – for a generation that has learned to read by swiping left or right? Well, perhaps since they helped resuscitate vinyl records, Generation Z may be the saviors of the printed word.

To reach them, remember that brevity is the soul of… recruiting

First, make sure everything you do to find, qualify and communicate with Gen Z keeps pace with and adapts the latest technology. Keep up! Mobile connectivity and applications to them are not advanced sci-fi but the absolute norm. One survey found that 25% of Gen Z kids had a smart phone by the age of ten.

I had an Erector set.

Don’t worry about trying to reach them after hours; 44% of Gen Z are on their smartphone after midnight once a week to several times a week, and 29% say they are on their phone after midnight every night.

Oh, and you can forget about trying to reach them on Facebook or even Twitter. Gen Z have seen that the Internet never forgets and are apprehensive about using social media that forever save everything they post. Besides, their patently-uncool parents and even—horrors!—grandparents use such old-fashioned contrivances. Snapchat, which deletes messages quickly, is their preferred social platform.

Also, don’t bother trying to recruit using college bulletin boards; a great many, having seen a dearth of benefit for millennials who obtained standard or advanced degrees, and are completely foregoing secondary education. In fact, 75% of Generation Z say there are other ways of getting the education they need than going to college.

Keep in mind that somewhat-cynical attention span stat above. They prefer video messages over written ones, and enjoy YouTube and Instagram even more than millennials. But if you’re going to create any kind of video to attract a Gen Z candidate, keep the length to 10-15 seconds. You’ll notice the ads that precede many videos on YouTube are less than 15 seconds long, and front-load the main message within the first five seconds—before the “Skip Ad” option appears. Those advertisers know their audience.

Attracting them

Here’s where you may have work to do. A lot of work.

Since they’re really really good at using the Internet, they’ll likely be researching your company extensively if a career with your organization looks appealing. It may be prudent to review your website, social media presence, Glassdoor and similar reviews, and all other accessible information to ensure it’s as positive as possible and speaks to their aspirations. Make absolutely certain your “Careers” page looks and functions well on iPhones and Androids.

As we’ll cover in a moment, candidate experience for Gen Z is more critical than ever. The process must be fast, smooth, adapted to mobile, and take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accelerate and help ensure the highest degree of accuracy through as few steps as possible. And we’re talking to you, SMBs. Take a look at Google Hire, the recruiting app that takes advantage of bias-free AI to identify and attract candidates and build relationships. As we’ve written about in an earlier blog, AI-powered conversational chatbots offered by Mya (no, not the singer) can expedite the process, immediately responding to questions related to the job and the employer. If it doesn’t know something, Mya will contact the recruiter to learn the correct answer, respond to the candidate, and retain that answer for the next time the question is asked. Remember, this generation is used to getting answers from Google in fractions of seconds. They’re not waiting for a laggy response from yo

As noted, they’re all about personal success. They’re more optimistic than millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in their goals of owning a house, buying whatever they want (within reason), bequeathing their estate, and traveling the world. It may be a good idea to emphasize opportunities your job opening has for visibility by senior leadership, as well as advancement.

A survey of 5,000 Gen Z college students conducted by Medium revealed a very surprising tidbit. When asked what would make them stay at a job for more than three years, the top response wasn’t money but an empowering work culture (29 %). A high salary and raises came in at a surprisingly-low  15%. Maybe due to their unfortunate post-graduate debt, a 2016 report found that millennials (29%) said that a higher salary was the biggest contributor to their loyalty.

Take a look around and note how diverse your workforce is, because it’s critical for Gen Z. According to a Forbes poll, 77% say a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there. As noted, this generation will be the most diverse workforce in history, and they’ll want to work somewhere that looks like them.

Offering mentoring may also significantly appeal to this new generation. In the Medium survey, 33% said mentorship programs were one of the most important benefits. Only healthcare benefits were more popular at 37%. Offering mentoring may be critical in not only attracting Gen Z talent but retaining it.

As mentioned, Gen Zers live on their phones. They spend a whopping 15.4 hours a week using them for communication, education, recreation, job hunting and buying. 53% of Generation Z polled said they bought something using their mobile device in the last six months, compare to 37% of millennials and 27% of Gen X. They depend on mobile platforms. If you need them to fill out a form, ensure it’s mobile-friendly. If you need to communicate with them, keep the message brief as it’ll probably be read on a mobile device.

Got an opening that involves travel? Gen Zers may offer a perfect fit. They consider themselves part of a global village and want to be both locally and globally rooted. Among 14 to 18 year olds, 42% say they need to travel in order to feel that life is complete. This should inspire multi-national organizations seeking employees who would feel comfortable being stationed overseas or hit the road frequently.

It’s a new day, and the future of hiring is about to get a whole lot more interesting.


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[1] Their parents have given them influence over household spending of $600 billion/year

Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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