Generations are a funny thing and a concept that we have yet to define in concrete terms. No, seriously. By most accounts, it means something nebulous like “all of the people born and living at about the same time, taken collectively.” Doesn’t exactly give you a lot to work with, and yet, when millennials rolled into the workforce, the whole corporate world reacted with surprise (to say the least): “Who are these people, and what are we supposed to do with them?”
Recruiters know this better than anyone. Millennials changed the proverbial ball game, with their supposed online expertise and interest in unheard-of things like transparency and feedback. It took years for recruiters to figure out how to hire them, and amid all that learning, millennials went and grew up. No matter which way you categorize them, older millennials are now approaching 40, while the youngest are already out of college. And guess what? Their successors are nothing like them.
Get ready, folks. Gen Z is coming to town and flipping the script once again.
Because let’s face it: when millennials arrived on the scene, recruiters weren't ready. But now it’s time to focus on recruiting Gen Z, and luckily, there’s still time to prepare.
Who is Gen Z?
Here’s the rundown. The majority of researchers and demographers start Gen Z sometime around mid- to late 1990s running through the aughts. For the sake of argument, we’ll say 2010-ish. At this moment, they range in age from 9 to 24 years old, and with that, it’s safe to say that we don’t know as much about them as we do about other generations.
What we do know is that Gen Z is the first generation of digital natives. They straight up don’t remember life without the internet. They’ve had things like mobile devices, touch screens, voice computing and apps since childhood. As a result, they’re hypervisual, with strong technical skills, the ability to multitask effectively and a demand for custom, personalized experiences.
What are the differences?
So as Gen Z comes of age, it's time to focus on them as job seekers. Since everyone involved is still figuring out who they are, it’s probably easier to explain who they’re not. Cough — that means millennials — and the differences between these two generations run the gamut from favorite social media platform to attention span. And these differences can have real implications on how companies should attract these younger workers and keep them satisfied post-hire. It also reflects that Gen Z doesn’t see previously distinct lines between work and home or physical and digital.
Despite their tech-informed view of the world, Gen Z reportedly craves connection and prefers person-to-person contact, unlike text-happy millennials. They understand both sides of the internet, seeing the impact of memes and cyberbullying first-hand and questioning everything they encounter. They’re also said to be reasonably risk-averse, having witnessed the effects of the Great Recession on their parents. The theme of stability appears again and again with Gen Z. The result is a generation that’s great with tech, skeptical in a good way and wildly independent (with the World Wide Web at their fingertips, they’ve always had room to explore).
So how about recruiting Gen Z?
Knowing all of this, Gen Z might wind up being a more significant disruptor than millennials. They’re digital natives who want human interaction, hard to engage but always connected, cautious skeptics with an entrepreneurial spirit and so on. Last year’s look at popular Gen Z job searches turned up everything from developer to bookseller, reinforcing the need for a wholly new approach.
Recruiting Gen Z means throwing the rule book out the window. The only lesson learned from millennials that stands the test of time is to expect the unexpected. As Gen Z streams into the workforce, recruiting will undergo a test, pushing the boundaries on personalization and dynamic functionality. Recruiters will need to bend to their audience and meet Gen Z where they are in life. These workers want to know that they can iterate and experiment, and it’s up to recruiters to support that every step of the way.
Included in that should be an exceptional, almost custom candidate experience and an environment that challenges and rewards Gen Z while offering a highly flexible approach to work plus opportunities for training and career development. With this population, the sky’s the limit, and we’re all (Siri and Alexa included) just along for the ride.
William Tincup is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.