Recruiting GenZ: A GenXers Guide

I had the opportunity to present at the AIM Conference in May 2024. The topic was ‘Ok Boomer, Let’s Recruit GenZ’ and was designed to help any employer better compete for GenZ talent and learn to meet talent where they are to remain competitive in today’s labor market. Estimates by the Department of Labor (DOL) show that by 2030, about 70% of the US workforce will be Millennials (GenY) or GenZ. Boomers will be fewer than 10% at that time with GenX – the coolest generation (voted by me) – will make up the difference at about 20%. We may be small, but we won’t really care what you think about it!  

GenZ is often described as ‘digital natives’ – the first generation to never know life without remote controls, cell phones, and Google. In the old days, my friends and I could debate all night about the name of the artist of that one song from that one movie. Now, it’s Googled, and everyone quickly moves on to a new topic or gets lost in their phones after pulling them out of their pocket to look up the fun fact. For the workforce, this means that information is readily available, and employees can work more quickly. Don’t even get me started on how AI will transform our companies and jobs over the coming years. Add remote work to the mix and we are facing a mix of unprecedented changes in culture and communication dynamics within today’s workplace.  

Here’s the cliff notes version of what you need to know if you want to recruit GenZ talent more effectively: 

  1. Shorten your job descriptions. Studies show that the average GenZ human has an 8-second attention span and they’re reading it from their phone. You have about 2 sentences to catch their attention and keep it assuming you want to attract someone through a traditional job advertisement. While you’re at it, rewrite those JDs into compelling job listings sharing WHY someone would want to work for you. WIIFM – What’s in it for me? This is the quintessential element GenZ will be looking for. And PS – a study by Deloitte in 2023 said that social impact and mission were more important than compensation to this particular demographic.
  2. Your employment application is too long. Optimize it for mobile. Stop reading for a moment and apply to your own job. From your phone. If you can’t do it in fewer than 5 minutes (ideally 3 minutes or less), it’s too long! Stop collecting info you don’t need at this stage – you can always get it later. The abandonment rate for online applications of more than 5 minutes is over 70% – don’t lose interested candidates before they even apply! 
  3. Name your Bias. Everyone has bias. You are everyone. You have bias. If you know how you are biased positively or negatively about GenZ (or any) candidates, you can avoid it. If you don’t believe you have bias, ask yourself who is better qualified for your Engineering job: an IU or a Purdue grad? Did your mind say Purdue before you fully thought about the question? Probably. With more information, you might find that a Purdue grad who studied Journalism is likely not as good a fit as an IU grad who studied Computer Science.  If you’re not a Hoosier, insert any 2 well known schools here – same outcome! 
  4. Check your pop culture references. Think about what references someone born between 1995 and 2012 would understand. Your Office Space and Seinfeld jokes will be lost. Ask your GenZ teammates to help you come up with compelling marketing recruitment communication and new phrases – thank them later! 
  5. Feedback Matters. Once you recruit GenZ to your workplace, keep them with regular feedback and recognition. A study in 2022 of over 100,000 GenZ workers said that they expect regular feedback, ideally from their manager, multiple times a week. And, they expect to be promoted within 18 months at the most. Show a clear career path and communicate monthly about how the teammate is progressing on core job responsibilities and the growth path. 
  6. Transparency. In everything. Share compensation ranges, interview processes, selection criteria, and performance expectations. GenZ has a strong expectation of authenticity and will select another employer if they feel you are not upfront and genuine. Represent your employer brand well and ensure it’s being lived at your organization. An employer brand defines why someone would want to work for your company and GenZ seekers are paying attention. Values on a wall are useless. Interviewers who can share an example of how values are demonstrated in practice are priceless. 
  7. Deliver positive candidate experiences. Kelly Services conducted a survey of candidate experience and found 87% of candidates who described having a positive candidate experience during a job interview process, referred that company to their peers 98% more often than those companies who delivered a negative candidate experience. You can measure your candidate experience by sending candidate surveys after the process or interviewing your new hires about the process.  

There’s no secret sauce to always recruiting the right talent in the right ways but all of these ideas will help you to improve the candidate experience. GenZ will be part of your workforce and they are currently the largest generation in the US so you can’t ignore them. Is your team ready to recruit GenZ? I’d love to help you assess your readiness. Reach out on LinkedIn or on our ‘Contact Us’ link. 

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