Millennials, now mostly in their 30s, have been struggling in the workforce for most of their adult lives. With recessions and a lack of traditional career openings, they’ve come to be known as the job-hopping generation. As Gen Z starts to enter the workforce, they too will have unique challenges to face.
These challenges mirror the challenges faced by companies looking to recruit talent in these generations, but they also present an opportunity. Millennials and, to a lesser extent, the oncoming Gen Z graduates want to have stability and careers with progression, and companies that can offer them what they want can recruit awesome candidates from within those age groups. The key is in knowing what they want and how to give it to them, within your existing business framework.
These strategies below are a mixture of things to do, things to avoid, and ways you can capture the interest of both generations.
1. Know the Differences
Millennials and Gen Z are both young, technologically inclined, and generally skeptical of the world around them. While millennials grew up during an economic boom and graduated into a recession, Gen Z grew up in the recession watching their parents and friends struggle. This has shaped the outlooks of both generations in a distinct way.
It’s important for any business looking to recruit these generations to recognize that they are, in fact, different generations, with different experiences, outlooks, and desires. Treating them the same, as a broad pool of “young people”, will significantly dampen the effectiveness of recruiting efforts. Some key differences:
- Millennials have an inherent optimism, while Gen Z candidates tend to be more pragmatic and realistic.
- Millennials tend to be more collaborative, while Gen Z candidates feel more self-reliant and independent.
- Millennials saw the rise of social media and are more forthcoming with personal information, while Gen Z candidates saw how this has been abused and tend to be more private.
It’s important to know the differences between these generations, to more appropriately target them with messaging and recruiting initiatives.
2. Start Recruiting Gen Z Now
The oldest of Gen Z candidates are 23 today, while the youngest are around 16-18, depending on which definition you want to look at. This means they are ripe for recruitment messaging throughout the end of their high school and throughout their college careers. Now is the time to start experimenting with recruitment messaging through various channels, from in-person meetings to social media via the platforms they actually use, like Snapchat and Instagram. Remember; strategies need to be developed and evolve over time, they can’t change overnight. Start testing now and be prepared to weather failure before finding success.
3. Offer Career Growth
Millennials have experienced a decade of working in an environment where job security is scarce and the chances of retirement feel slim to none. Gen Z is entering the workforce with the same feeling, which is why nearly half of the entire working generation works in the gig economy or as a freelancer:
“Nearly half (46%) of Generation Z workers are freelancers, a number that is only projected to grow in the next five years”
As a recruiter, if you can offer job security, upward mobility, a defined career path, and the promise of retirement, you can become very attractive to members of these generations. This means more than just promises; if a candidate works for you for a year with no sign of potential improvement, they’ll be highly likely to start looking for alternatives.
4. Be Tech-Savvy
One of the biggest defining traits of millennials and Gen Z is technology. Millennials saw it grow and evolve into what it is today, and are adept at navigating changing technology and adapting to new standards. Gen Z has been inundated with technology since they were born, and are equally at home with it.
This means that in order to successfully recruit these generations, you need to know their technology. This extended to every part of the process, from making sure your job application process is mobile-friendly to utilizing modern tech in your workplace. Nothing turns off a young candidate from either generation more than learning that they’ll be required to use software older than they are.
5. Maintain Your Brand Reputation
In the past, when someone considered applying to a company, they might think about that company’s reputation among their community. They could ask friends and family about their experiences with the company, but exposure may be limited, and it was easier to control negativity. These days, with the prevalence of online reviews everywhere from Yelp to Glassdoor, it’s very easy for a young digital candidate to learn about your company’s reputation.
This means more than just the truth; if a few disgruntled ex-employees decide to review-bomb your company, your candidates will see it. You need to be aggressive with reputation management, in a way that presents not just the truth of the matter, but a good faith effort to improve where your company falters.
6. Streamline the Process
Millennials can be impatient, but no one looks for instant feedback quite as much as Gen Z. In a world of always-online support, direct webchat at the drop of a hat, and instantaneous reactions, it’s important that your company is agile enough to recruit, analyze, and extend offers as quickly as possible.
There are a lot of different ways you can work to streamline the recruiting process. In part, it might mean working with a third-party recruiter to access already-developed candidate pools. It might also mean using a modern, high-quality applicant tracking system with AI-driven analysis. It also means making sure your HR department is fast to respond, offer interviews, and make decisions. Remember; the longer it takes between an interview and a job offer – or an application and interview – the more likely it is for a candidate to look elsewhere.
7. Offer Modern Perks
Gen Z in particular is interested in the flexibility of a freelance (or gig-focused) lifestyle, and many of them don’t want to feel tied down by the stringent requirements of a traditional 9-5 full of meetings and overbearing bosses. Fluidity, flexibility, and an individual management style are all requirements for recruiting this generation.
One powerful perk for Gen Z employees is a flexible mentorship program. By allowing interested Gen Z employees to shadow others and learn more than just a single role within a company, you can both train a valuable and flexible employee and keep a traditionally bored young person engaged with the company. This can be bolstered by offering a “job mosaic” of both lateral and vertical mobility.
8. Strongly Consider Remote Work
The global pandemic has highlighted one thing: many jobs traditionally thought of as office work can be successfully done remotely with little or no issues. As long as the technology is in place to support remote work, it can be greatly beneficial to both employees and employers.
Offering flexibility with remote work is more than just a temporary necessity; it’s a hugely beneficial perk that can attract both younger millennials and Gen Z candidates. Millennials love the flexibility it gives them, though they will often continue to attend in-office shifts for the collaboration and in-person interaction. Gen Z will love the independence it gives them, as a chance to work at their own pace and prove their value on their own terms.
9. Work for the Greater Good
Older generations often want careers for their own benefit; to support their families, to save up for luxury purchases, and so on. Younger generations, by contrast, tend to have higher-level goals in mind. They don’t just want to support themselves, they want to make the world around them a better place, both for their local communities and for the world as a whole.
You can utilize this as part of your recruitment and outreach messaging. Think about your role in your community and both nationally and globally. Determine ways that your company is making the world a better place, and emphasize that by working for your company, these young candidates will be helping to make that dream come true.
“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.”
It’s important that your company actually does work towards your stated goal. Gen Z in particular loves to dig into their causes, and if you promise that you’re working for the greater good but you aren’t, they will find out and they will call you out on it.
10. Be Open to Listen
Millennials and Gen Z have both been forced by circumstance to be entrepreneurs and self-motivated individuals, and while not all business ventures succeed, they have their own experiences and their own ideas that can prove to be valuable feedback for any company.
Be prepared to listen to ideas from your younger recruits, and consider that feedback seriously. If you have reasons why their feedback won’t work, learn how to express those reasons. Employees from these generations who feel like they’re being ignored will be more likely to jump ship, or worse, leave to found a more agile competitor.
11. Put Yourself in Front of Them
There’s an interesting trend amongst Gen Z in particular, where some don’t like to be recruited. They may not want you intruding in on their spaces and actively prodding them in your direction. Rather, many of them want to be the ones to come to you.
That doesn’t mean you have to be passive, however. You can be present and available in their spaces, so long as you’re working to be part of their communities, not trying to poach from them. Outreach to older generations means direct messaging and contact, while connecting with younger generations can be accomplished by building your brand reputation and positioning yourself where they can see and approach you.
12. Focus on Visual, Snack-Sized Content
Over the years, you’ve probably invested a lot into a large, beautiful careers page. Unfortunately, Gen Z would much rather watch a three-minute rundown of your company on YouTube than spend half an hour reading your career portal.
Time and again, you’ll find that recruiting these generations requires bite-sized content, typically produced in a visual medium, particularly video. A quick, to-the-point recruitment video can thus be a hugely beneficial investment.
13. Fine Tune Your Work-Life Balance
Decades ago, a job was a 9-5. Work stayed at work, and home life stayed at home. Over time, more and more exploitation of workers led to longer hours, more time spent working at home without pay to meet deadlines, and less time for family and friends. In reaction to this, younger generations have aimed for more flexible work and benefits, to work on their own terms.
“Generation Z see less segregation between work and life — they’re more about balancing that and making it seamless so work gets done anywhere, anytime; without sacrificing either one”
Millennials and Gen Z are extremely sensitive to work-life balance concerns and are much more likely to choose their personal lives over their jobs. This is further reinforced by their habitual lack of long-term prospects and the general attitude that mobility only occurs when changing jobs.
For Gen Z in particular, flexibility is crucial. They don’t care about the hours, they care about the tasks. As long as they can get their tasks done and meet their deadlines, why should it matter when they work? If you can meet this attitude, you’ll be an ideal haven for Gen Z candidates.
14. Pay Attention to Culture
For millennials, a good culture fit can be a reason to accept an offer that otherwise has fewer perks and benefits or lower pay than other offers they receive. They are particularly sensitive to mismatched culture and tend to be vocal about calling out injustices, both locally and on a larger scale.
To successfully recruit millennials and Gen Z, you need to emphasize your culture in your brand marketing, both in what your intended culture is and what your actual culture is. They will definitely be turned off by a mismatch between what you say and what they see.
15. Change Yourself, Not Your Candidates
Gen Z in particular is highly individual. They will be very resistant to the idea that they can be hired on for a role and then be molded to fit that role. They are who they are, and they aren’t going to change just for a job they (likely) only figure will stick around for a year or two. They will want to pick a role that suits them or shapes their role to better fit who they are. Resisting that kind of matching will make it much, much harder to recruit and retain Gen Z candidates.
Gen Z is the next big wave of young employees, and they bring with them a new paradigm in work and in recruiting. Now is the time to adapt to that paradigm.