Recruiting Gen Z: How a global pandemic will affect what an entire generation looks for in a job

February 18th, 2021
HireVue Team

In coming years, Generation Z (ages 12-24 or born roughly between 1997 and 2012), will force employers to reexamine the recruiting tactics they’ve been relying on for decades.

Gen Z-ers have experienced a much more volatile world than the one in which their predecessors came of age. For older Gen-Zers, early childhood years meant witnessing events such as 9/11, the Iraq War, and The Great Recession of 2007. Throughout the 2010s, they watched the world become increasingly polarized politically. Now, those same individuals are attempting to build a career amidst a still-raging, deadly coronavirus crisis - the world’s first pandemic in over one hundred years.

So how have those experiences shifted their thinking about careers? Gen-Zers have very different values, preferences, and priorities than those of previous generations when looking for a job. Where members of the The Greatest Generation looked for steadiness, Baby Boomers looked for wealth-building opportunities. Where members of Generation X valued work-life balance, many Millennials looked for jobs that would provide unique life experiences. Enter Gen Z.

So what’s most important to this next wave of job candidates entering the workforce, and how can you compete to attract the best of them?

Here’s a list of the top five characteristics Gen-Zers are looking for.

1. Stable & secure

In contrast to many Millennials, whose cravings for unique experiences led to a generation-wide reputation for excessive job-hopping, Gen-Zers plan on sticking with an employer for longer periods of time. In fact, one study found that nearly half of new graduates name security and stability in their job as a top career goal. This contrasts sharply with compensation and work-life balance concerns of new job seekers just half a decade ago.

And who can blame them? As younger children, many watched their parents and older siblings experience one financial setback after another while struggling through The Great Recession, then record-high unemployment rates in 2020.

2. Diverse, equitable & inclusive

According to Intel, diversity “will be a workplace deal-breaker for Gen Z.” Over ⅓ of Gen-Zers say if given two similar offers, they would undoubtedly choose the company they perceived as more diverse and inclusive.

One reason why is that Gen-Zers themselves are the most diverse generation in the U.S. yet. According to Pew Research, a bare majority, or 52%, of post-Millennials are non-Hispanic whites. In regard to workplace priorities, Gen-Zers view employer values as almost as important as salary when it comes to a potential position, and this includes diversity. 

3. Politically-engaged

The U.S. Census Bureau determined that 55% of registered 18- to 29-year olds voted in the 2020 election - a significant increase from the 46.1% in the same age group that voted in 2016.

Additionally, the values driving the youngest generation to the polls are overwhelmingly more progressive than those of previous generations. Gen-Zers expect both their elected officials and employers to embrace policies with a progressive stance toward issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

4. Digital-first

Gen Z is the first generation considered to be “digital natives.” They grew up on social media and blend the digital and physical worlds like never before. In fact, 58% say they have a hard time going four hours or more without Internet access.

As a result, Gen-Zers now expect more and more advanced uses of technology from the organizations they build relationships with: especially their employer. Those that will succeed will master digital experiences. 

5. Flexible about when & where work gets done

At the end of 2019, 51% of college graduates rated geographic location as a “very important” part of their job search; today, that number has dropped to 39%. Even before the start of the pandemic, many planned to embrace remote work regardless of where they lived. With so many Gen-Zers treating geography as more or less irrelevant in regard to their employment, shouldn’t employers do the same?

The hiring experience has shifted with more remote hiring and it's well-understood by both employers, employees and future candidates that the job market we knew in Feb of 2020 no longer exists. Employers that are serious about finding the best way forward need not only to invest in their candidate experience, but also get to know the candidates of the future.

Want to learn more about hiring Gen Z? Join our webinar on engaging graduates in 2021 - the era of remote recruiting and hiring.

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