Recruiting has become increasingly challenging over the last few years. A number of factors have played into this dynamic, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising popularity of remote work, changing societal values and attitudes, technology that gives job seekers many more options to choose from, and a trend toward vetting potential employers more judiciously, just to name a few.
To make things even more complicated, different age demographics are being impacted by and responding to some of these unprecedented changes in different ways, putting a spotlight on both existing and emerging generational differences in the workforce.
In this article, learn more about the key values, behaviors, and expectations of Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z job seekers, and discover how talent acquisition professionals can adjust their recruitment advertising strategies to appeal to each generation more effectively.
Recruiting Best Practices For Gen Z
Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is the newest group to join the ranks of the workforce. This generation is just leaving high school or college, and the way they operate has already necessitated changes to the way hiring and recruiting is carried out. They also represent the biggest group coming into the workforce, so it's important to know how to attract these candidates – and meeting them on their own terms is key.
Individuals in Gen Z will likely have more limited experience in the workforce due to their age, with many still working to attain degrees and identify potential career paths. This being the case, it is the recruitment professional’s job to sell their role and its potential to become a fulfilling career.
Out of the important aspects in recruiting for Gen Z, two stand out rather prominently:
1. Video is going to be the advertising medium of choice.
2. With regard to their values, Gen Z candidates are very discriminating.
Video And Social Media
While Gens X, Y, and even Baby Boomers do engage with this medium, it’s simply not to the extent that Gen Z does. The mistake that some make in evaluating the Gen Z audience is in thinking that they’re less discriminating than earlier generations because they operate off of 15-second sound bites and video samples, when the reality is that they’re actually more discriminating than Gens X, Y, and Baby Boomers in this sense.
Gen Z’ers may experience initial engagement with a prospective employer via a 15-second video, but they are very adept at leveraging that into a wealth of information amassed via other sources – and one can absolutely count on a Gen Z job seeker to make use of that information, scouring online resources to determine if the employer is worth their time before making any kind of commitment.
Social media has become the networking and information-gathering tool of the age, and the TikTok platform is currently the most popular of these in the Gen Z realm. Gen Z job seekers are far more likely to conduct their job searches starting on TikTok versus Facebook (for example), and they’re far less likely to consult LinkedIn. It also bears mentioning that career-related searches are among the top search terms on TikTok. And according to Google's own search data, nearly half of Gen Z’ers prefer using TikTok and Instagram for their searches (rather than Google).
While change is in the nature of generational values, this is particularly true of Gen Z with respect to prospective employers. Possibly as a result of their own high level of diversity (48% of Gen Z is nonwhite), Gen Z’ers prefer to work for companies that take inclusion seriously. Most Gen Z job seekers surveyed across many venues claim that they want to see brands pursue comprehensive inclusivity initiatives as part of their company policies, more diversity in senior positions, and in the companies with which they do business (e.g., vendors). Corporate responsibility is also highly prioritized among those in Gen Z.
Gen Z candidates have also become quite adept at detecting insincerity. Despite having a shorter attention span owing to the modalities of their media exposure, their ability for discernment remains acute, and they’re able to discern a lot from those short videos and tiny sound bites. For example, if a job seeker is viewing an employee video and it appears too scripted, they’re very likely to quickly lose interest and move on.
Here, it bears mentioning that all of this is happening in seconds – so, for the recruiter/employer, being authentic is of the utmost importance.
To recap best practices for recruiting Gen Z:
Employ video-based content
Keep it short and sweet for a 15-second attention span
Employ day-in-the-life videos, career advice, tips and tricks, etc.
Be authentic and follow through with claims
Leverage the employer brand via candidate/employee networking
Make a connection with the audience by speaking to their values
Remember that Gen Z cares about culture
Favors companies who give back/are sustainable
Likes to join companies with a bigger mission beyond their jobs
Recruiting For Gen Y
Gen Y – also known as “millennials” – includes workers born between 1981 and 1996. This demographic started their careers during one of the worst job markets in history. Thus, many became more pragmatic than idealistic with regard to their career moves. Unlike Gen Z, these workers will have more extensive experience in the workforce.
According to Forbes, the most prominent characteristics of Gen Y that relate to recruitment are:
Health consciousness and work-life balance
Valuing themselves and their experience
There is some crossover with Gen Z regarding the values embraced by the two groups, but millennials tend to be a bit less demanding than those in Gen Z in this respect when it comes to employers. Millennials are also tech-savvy, so social networking remains a high-value proposition for them. According to the Pew Research Center, 86% of millennials use social media, as compared to 76% of Gen X and 59% of Baby Boomers.
In prospecting for Gen Y candidates, recruiters will need to tell a story, relating opportunities that can help these job seekers see how their opportunity can translate into the next step on their career path. Millennials can still be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, so sharing career-related content on these platforms will give candidates an incentive to stay engaged with the company brand.
Since millennials do have prior experience, it’s important to focus on details. Showcasing employee success stories and offering compelling evidence of the company’s commitment to their values are great ways to land Gen Y candidates.
Recruiting For Gen X
Generation X spans from 1965 to 1980, and this group plays a critical role in today’s workforce. Most Gen X’ers will have at least 20 years of work experience, and many are eyeing leadership roles as Baby Boomers retire. Their values shape the way they work and how they work with others.
That said, some Gen Xers were born in the mid-to late-1960s, and some share more values with Baby Boomers, while those who were born closer to 1980 often share more values with those in Gen Y.
According to Indeed, members of Generation X value autonomy, self-improvement, clarity, and flexibility. While they’re not as plugged-in to technology as Gen Z or Gen Y, they are tech-savvy, owing to the necessities of the workplace. In terms of venue, Gen X’ers are more likely to frequent LinkedIn and Facebook during their job searches than Instagram or TikTok. Their experience will factor prominently into what kinds of jobs they’re looking for, and this – as well as their values – can provide the basis for the messaging recruiters craft for them.
Messaging Best Practices For Gen Y And Gen X
Creating the right messaging can make a world of difference when recruiting for Gens Y and X. Once again, it helps to be mindful that the messaging should vary according to job types, as well as between the platforms and media being used.
To recap best practices for recruiting Gen Y and Gen X:
Keep in mind that they often follow established best practices and use more traditional channels when researching employers or looking for jobs.
These groups are significantly more likely to use professional networking and job search platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn.
Remember that professionals with significant work experience in their field tend to have a more concrete understanding of what they’re looking for in a potential employer and future career opportunity, so they will likely expect a higher level of detail and communication.
For all of the demographics discussed here, it remains essential for companies to stay active on social media to showcase the employer brand, and to use programmatic advertising to target these groups with tailored messaging.