How to recruit and hire Gen-Z employees

Personnel Matters

When I went to college to study engineering, I solved problems with a slide rule and a calculator. There was no Internet or smart phone to assist me. Later, in graduate school, I conducted my dissertation research in business on the university’s mainframe computer, using punch cards. The computer runs would take place overnight and you could pick up your output the next day (if you had no punch card errors).

That’s not the experience of Generation Z (aka Gen-Z), typically defined as those born between the mid-1990s and 2010. The oldest of this generation will be in their early to mid-20s. One of the most important defining factors of Gen-Z is that they don’t know life without technology — at least technology far superior to what I experienced while gaining my education. They live a life that is totally tech-immersed. From earliest youth, they have been exposed to the Internet, to social networks and to mobile systems. They are the first true “digital natives” to enter the workforce, and they are estimated to become the largest cohort of the U.S. population
by 2025.

As a result of their extensive exposure to, and expertise with, technology, Gen-Z individuals’ expectations for work and life are different. They are frustrated and dissatisfied with delays because they are used to getting instant answers and gratification. They are used to multi-tasking and have difficulty staying focused on one task for too long. They will seek tech-friendly environments in all aspects of work. They are also inclusive and value authenticity.

So, what does all this mean for recruiting and hiring Gen-Z employees?

Authentic, mobile-friendly career website

Gen-Z job seekers value speed and authenticity when it comes to communication. Because Gen-Z lives by the cell phone, ensure your company career website is mobile-friendly. It should present authentic descriptions of the company culture, work expectations and job environment, using lots of visuals; text should be minimized, but don’t limit yourself to your company career website. YouTube videos are also a good medium for presenting your company’s image. Gen-Z prefers honest testimonials from employees and realistic job previews that present the good and the not-so-good aspects of the work situation. Most look for an explanation of how the company and its products affect the environment and people in a positive way. Members of this generation seek to work where they are helping and supporting good causes.

Targeted recruitment strategy

Gen-Z job seekers are different from Gen-Y (or Millennial) job seekers, who are different from Gen-X job seekers. Each grew up in a different technological environment. Each generation is likely to seek out employment opportunities and company information on sources they are most familiar with. For Gen-Z useful media include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Job ads or other promotional materials (e.g., personal employee testimonials, news of company achievements or events) should be short, highlight value and meaning, and include videos wherever possible.

Short, mobile-friendly job applications

According to research conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics, more than 60 percent of Gen-Z survey respondents said that, ideally, a job application should be able to be completed in 15 minutes or less. Many companies are beginning to roll out voice-activated mobile apps that make it easier for people to apply for jobs. McDonald’s, for example, recently launched an “Apply Thru” app for Alexa and Google devices that leverages voice-search technology to let prospective employees easily apply for a position by phone. Once the applicant finishes the call, McDonald’s can text the caller to finish the application and set the stage for future engagement.

Efficient, personalized selection process

Gen-Z job applicants seek the same consideration and efficiency in the selection process that they expect during recruiting. They prefer screening interviews that can be completed by telephone or by using various video platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime. They expect a fast company response regarding employment decisions. Informing the applicant initially of a decision via a personalized text is considered appropriate by this generation. After an offer has been made and accepted, new hires should be kept informed of company news and events through short text messages or video clips until they begin work.

Friendly, efficient onboarding experience

Gen-Z is looking for a friendly and efficient onboarding process. They prefer completing necessary documents online, preferably prior to their first day of employment so that the first day they can focus on meeting colleagues, exploring the company culture and learning more about the expectations of the job. Essentially, the first day of onboarding should be an inclusive, social experience.

Ever-changing technology is redefining our lives and our workplaces. It is essential for business leaders to do more than just observe the changing times — they must also understand and adapt. Clearly, we must recognize the changes in expectations of our latest generation of potential employees and adapt our processes to meet their preferences and needs at work. Changing the way that you recruit, select and hire Gen-Z employees will help you meet your staffing needs in a tight labor market.

About Dr. W. J. Heisler 14 Articles
Dr. W. J. Heisler is professor of human resource management and director of the MSHRM program at Troy University. He operates out of TROY’s site based in Chesapeake, Va. He holds Ph.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Syracuse University and worked for more than 20 years in management and executive positions in human resources at Newport News Shipbuilding. Contact:

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