Recruiting Gen Z, from the perspective of a Gen Z’er

The past couple years have been nothing short of a dystopian novel.

We started the new decade off with forest fires in Australia, cases of Covid-19 popping up in China, a presidential impeachment, cases of Covid-19 appearing in the U.S., the tragic death of basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and the UK’s exit from the EU – not to mention Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s exit from the UK.

And that was just in the month of January.

By the time 2021 rolled around, a good chunk of the workforce had a lot of time to sit at home and re-evaluate their lives. Many started seeking a change (and dyeing their hair or getting a tattoo wasn’t going to cut it this time), thus the beginning of “The Great Resignation.”

To this day, formerly established members of the workforce are resigning from their jobs at record rates, leaving many companies struggling to combat labor shortages.

Luckily, this coincides with a new wave of employees joining the workforce: Generation Z. But, to successfully recruit and retain them, companies are going to have to make some systemic and mental shifts to meet them where they are.

Getting to Know Gen Z

If you’re anything like my Gen X father, odds are you’re totally perplexed when it comes to the mindset, habits, and lingo of my generation.

By way of introduction, here are some fast facts to break the ice:

  • Generation Z (also known as Gen Z or iGen) is generally said to include people born between 1997 and 2012
  • We’re the most diverse generation, with at least one in four identifying as Hispanic, 14% as black, 6% as Asian and 5% as some other race or two or more races
  • More than one in five (21%) of our members identify as LGBTQ+
  • We are the first generation that has never known a world without the internet
  • 55% of us use our smartphones for five or more hours a day
  • We have been called the most depressed generation, with just 45% of members reporting that their mental health is very good or excellent
  • We are experiencing the largest increases in student loan debt each year
  • It is said that we have an attention span of 8 seconds

And, by 2030, almost every entry-level role in the U.S. will be filled by a member of our generation –meaning that with older generations exiting the labor force, it’s becoming imperative for companies to focus their attention on hiring Gen Z employees.

How to Successfully Recruit a Gen Z’er

So, how can managers successfully recruit among a generation with an 8 second attention span? Truth is, we’re not that hard to please! So long as you understand what motivates us.

Here are three things to keep in mind when looking to hire a Gen Z’er:

A sense of community is vital

I can confidently say that the first thing I, and many of my peers, looked for in our first post-college company was a sense of community – a fun place that offered us the opportunity to be our true selves.

To convey this, it’s important for companies to utilize social media and include messaging that reflects our generational style:

  • Make posts sound casual and conversational
  • Use emojis and memes
  • Incorporate nods to pop culture
  • Include unique bios for your employees (fun facts are appreciated)
  • Highlight community events/employee accomplishments

Members of Generation Z are “digital natives;” we’ve been scrolling through social media since we were kids. If you want to get our attention, speak our language.

Mental health is a priority

Alongside a sense of community, a lot of us (including myself) were also looking for a place that recognized the importance of our mental wellbeing.

Living in a social media fish bowl, with increased political polarization, racial unrest, school shootings, and climate change to boot, it should come as no surprise that 91 percent of Gen Z members claim to have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom related to anxiety and depression.

Unlike other generations, however, we are more willing to talk about our problems and seek help. Our commitment to ending the stigma surrounding mental health leads us to search for employment that also shares this same value. Companies that put an emphasis on work-life balance, PTO, flexible hours, and mental health awareness are going to draw in Gen Z interest faster than those who don’t.

Feedback is important

Lastly, Gen Z’ers are said to be independent, self-directed, and driven. We’ve grown up our whole lives hearing that it is up to us to fix the mistakes of the generations before us. That’s a lot to live up to. As such, we are hyper conscientious about doing a good job and crave legitimate, meaningful feedback.

It’s important to note, however, that even though Gen Z grew up with texting and direct messages, we prefer to speak face-to-face in the workplace. Written communication can be difficult for us to interpret – even if we were practically born with a phone in our hands.

Face-to-face doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be in the same physical location though. I am someone who strongly appreciates feedback, and, working at an all-virtual company, I find that utilizing technology like Zoom, FaceTime, or Teams does the trick just fine (so long as I can see my manager’s face).

A Snapshot Summary

Gen Z wants to create change in all areas of life. We are community oriented, highly driven, technologically skilled, and massively stressed-out employees who are actively trying to not repeat the mistakes of the generations before us (no offense).

As the workforce continues to shift, companies looking to hire a member of Gen Z would do well to keep these characteristics in mind as they re-evaluate their recruitment and retention plans.