How to Start Planning for Recruiting Gen Z

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.57.22 PMDigital Generation. Gen Z. Silent Generation. Second generation in the Millennial cohort. The “coming demographic tsunami.”

However you refer to them, Generation Z (born 1995-2010) is the young, fresh round of talent you’ll be recruiting very soon, which will be a different experience than generations before them.

Gen Z was born into a digitized economy and, according to a study by New York-based marketing agency Sparks & Honey, 37.8 percent hope to “invent something that will change the world.”

The connected quality of the older Millennial generation will only be amplified by Gen Z, so be prepared to adjust your recruiting strategy as you begin to connect and communicate in new ways when you start recruiting Gen Z:

The Generation of Leaders

Once Gen Z enters the workforce, they will quickly evolve into leaders, likely as a result of the world they grew up in: conflict, economic downturn, school violence. The opportunity for improvement is obvious to them, and they will do something about it.

The study by Sparks & Honey found 61 percent of high school students want to be entrepreneurs rather than employees, compared to 43 percent of college students, which makes up the generational divide between Gen Y and Z. Additionally, Gen Z grew up with more people in the house and thus have been forced to learn humility and sharing from an early age.

What this means for recruiters: As this generation naturally turns to entrepreneurial roles, it will become challenging to find high-quality candidates who want to work for someone else. Money will also be less important; turning a passion or hobby into a business or career path will be their ultimate goal.

Position your jobs in terms of long-term career paths with visible opportunity to step into leadership and intrapreneurial roles. As a recruiter, your role will ultimately evolve into counseling this driven and digital-native generation to find a career they will truly love and be passionate about.

Communicating in a Whole New Way

Having grown up with technology at their fingertips, Gen Z has developed a new form of communication. They prefer emojis over words and use YouTube like Google; if they have a question about how to do something, they watch a video.

It’s all about quick, intuitive communication without unnecessary precision. However, they understand the importance of privacy, perhaps more so than generations before them. Anonymous communication tools with no trailing news feed, such as SnapChat, Secret, and Whisper, are chosen over Facebook by this generation.

What this means for recruiters: Gen Z will be highly mobile and will demand communication that can support their free and nomadic nature. According to a 2012 Forrester Research study, Gen Z is the second-largest demographic owning an iPhone at 24 percent, with Gen Y ranking highest at 29 percent.

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If you want to recruit this generation, you need to be active in the places they are without being too intrusive. This will be difficult since many of the communication platforms they are migrating to have more of a one-on-one feel, are a little less professional, and are more social.

This will force you to be much more open and honest about why you’re reaching out, and they will appreciate that. Once you reach them, be prepared for a confident and charismatic bunch that has grown up in front of the camera.

Redefining the “Picture Perfect Candidate”

It is quite possible that the 9-to-5 work day as we know it will end with Gen Z. In their minds, they are “always on,” and they have all the tools necessary to get work done from anywhere in the world, so it makes no sense they would have to stick to a rigid schedule and be at the same place every day.

Additionally, college degrees and the large amount of debt that come with them are less desirable and perhaps less important to Gen Z. According to the Sparks & Honey study, 64 percent of Gen Z-ers are considering an advanced college degree, compared to 71 percent of Gen Y.

What this means for recruiters: What the “picture perfect candidate” looks like has already changed dramatically with Gen Y. But as Gen Z enters the workforce, it will change it even more, requiring recruiters to change their own thinking, as well as counsel their employers on what this new employee looks like.

You may also find that your normal routine for reaching out to candidates will have to change as you begin to recruit Gen Z. With their general “hours” up in the air, you may have to be open to taking a call at 8:00 at night instead of 8:00 in the morning.

Gen Z will change the workforce as we know it. As a recruiter, you need to make sure you’re not only preparing yourself for this new workforce generation, but also your clients and supervisors. This “coming demographic tsunami” of 26 million people will take charge, be the change we may desperately need, and revolutionize the workforce in ways we have never experienced before.


7 Comments on “How to Start Planning for Recruiting Gen Z

  1. Yawn – another generalization about an entire generation of human beings like they are all robots. Lazy writing to continue to disrespect the diversity of every individual within every generation and tell recruiters that people can be stereotyped based on their age. BOO.

    1. Well-said, Aimee. While a few very-broad generalizations can be made of a group of tens of millions of people whose only things in common are that they were born in the US over a certain period of years, IMHO, most such “Generation- ?” predictions/recommendations are about as valuable as astrology or fortune-telling and those who make them are about as accurate as astrologers or fortune-tellers.


      Keith “Baby Boomer Libra” Halperin

  2. Stereotypes are blunt, but useful tools or people would not wield them at all times and all places….

  3. Thank you for a well written and thought provoking article. Three things popped right to mind after reading it. First of all, I am really not sure how much of what is often attributed to generational differences is, in fact, more a factor of how most people’s world view changes with age. I recently read an almost 40 year old article (written in 1975) talking about how new college graduates were doing in the workforce (so I suppose this would be for the baby boom generation). The article talks about how money is less important for the “new” generation than making an impact on the world and pursuing their passions. It also talks about how they thrive in less structured environments and prefer flexible work arrangements. I remember similar things being said about my generation when I graduated college in the early 1990s. Secondly, there are real practical things that change with new technologies and ideas. For instance, you talk about ephemeral and anonymous messaging communication tools (like SnapChat) taking hold. I’ve had some interesting conversations about this recently and I definitely agree with you. As you write, the next generation will certainly bring these tools to the corporate world if the corporate doesn’t adopt them before then. It makes no sense for businesses to adopt a standard of every and all communication being stored forever (that is quickly becoming the only other option to ephemeral communication). I also agree with you that more “one-on-one” communication tools are inevitable in the corporate world (email is great but also 40+ years old, surely there’s room for improvement). Lastly, my advice to companies seeking to target their recruiting at a particular generation (or if their recruiting results are lagging for a particular generation) is to hire a recruiter from that generation. It is easier for a 22-year old candidate to relate to a 22-year old recruiter just like it is easier for a 62-year old candidate to relate to a 62-year old recruiter. Of course, there are lots of exceptions to this. But, compliance issues aside (and these are actually minimal for several reasons), I think it is the simplest, most straightforward solution to generational “problems” (the same goes for management problems, etc.) Anyway, workforces should be generationally diverse for many reasons, talent acquisition being just one of them. Thanks again.

    Doug Friedman

  4. “Money will also be less important; turning a passion or hobby into a business or career path will be their ultimate goal.”

    Yet another article trying to convince corporate leadership that they don’t actually have to pay people a market wage. Every generation is ‘less interested in money’ so long as mommy and daddy are paying the bills. Once rent or a mortgage is due, and especially when a kid comes into the mix, all of a sudden money magically means more. And if anything Generation Z will be less tolerant of perpetually low paying positions. For them, information flows and they’re used to that. They will be more likely to discuss salaries, more able to access the data, and more able to do something about it.

    I predict greater, not lesser conflict in the future between employees and employers as the former tries to actually realize the dream they’ve been sold, and the former steadfastly refuses to change their 19th century Dickensian workouse approach to managing their employees.

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