Many HR professionals are screaming for talent as they struggle to fill open positions of every kind. One solution to this problem: Know and offer recent college grads more of what they want.
But come this May, recruiters will have a new group of young professionals entering the workforce: college graduates. While some have already been offered and accepted jobs, there is still a large portion of the graduates-to-be actively searching for their first job out of college. An even larger number of employers are desperately searching for, wooing, and trying to connect with this group recent college grads.
Gen Z often represents a segment of the workforce misunderstood by employers, usually because recruiters aren’t from the same generation. Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials – and yes, a few Gen Zers – are currently recruiting Gen Z college grads. And like each generation before them, they are entering the workforce with qualities, values, strengths and weaknesses unique to them.
Research on the Gen Z
Research by McKinsey & Company shares that members of Gen Z are rooted in the search for truth. They value expression, don’t like labels and mobilize themselves for causes in which they believe. They’re more accepting of diverse points of view and are “radically inclusive.”
Gen Z defines “consumption as access” instead of “possession” or “experiences.” For example, Uber rides and bike share programs are often a preferred choice over owning a car or bike.
What they ask
A good way to gain insight into this workforce segment is to understand the questions Gen Zers ask during the interview process.
Here’s what our team has been hearing them ask most frequently during interviews.
How often can we interact with senior leaders at your organization?
Gen Z is accustomed to access and craves it. Because access is how they consume products and services, these candidates want direct contact with senior leaders, and that includes the C-suite.
Monthly meetings with emerging and senior talent in attendance and a quarterly cadence of meetings with the C-suite is important so younger talent can ask questions and learn from executives. During these meetings incorporate themes such as “wear your favorite sports team” to the meeting. This includes participation from the most senior leadership. It opens up lines of communication, a reason to share experiences and opinions, and is a way to build rapport across all levels of the organization.
Transparency and authenticity are important to this generation, so during an online meeting with senior leadership, it’s OK when a CEO’s dog barks in the background, for example. These shared experiences make senior leadership more human, approachable and relatable.
One of the most commonly overlooked strategies in understanding and connecting with recent college grads is reverse mentoring. I have seen many success stories of a Gen Zer who is paired with a CEO for a mentorship. Entry level talent wants the opportunity to teach and train. One client CEO of ours learned how to use Twitter and social media from the Gen Zer. Then the CEO brought him into an executive meeting to observe. When a company encourages this reverse mentoring partnership, it not only benefits both parties but shows the younger talent that the company recognizes they have something to offer.
How many days per week will I be expected to work in the office?
If you’re hoping to one day get everyone back in the office, that may be a losing battle. This generation is looking for flexibility. Over the past several years, they’ve taken college courses online or completed a combination of in-person and online coursework. They have proven they can effectively perform from any location, and they expect to perform equally well at their career, regardless of location.
From our direct experience with Gen Zers, flexible work is without a doubt among the most important options to them. This generation doesn’t like a lot of rigid rules and procedures, either. They already know they can be productive without being micromanaged, and expect this freedom and trust in their employer.
What are you doing to eliminate your global footprint?
This covers everything from the types of cups and straws that are used in the breakroom to how you recycle materials to your opinion on how materials are disposed of in landfills. According to a Deloitte survey, climate change and protecting the environment is the No. 1 concern for Gen Z.
It’s not unusual for college grads to factor a company’s commitment to the community into their job decision. That’s especially true when two opportunities have the same location, responsibilities, and compensation. In fact, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is so important to younger job candidates that companies have made CSR part of their talent acquisition strategy.
Be ready to share what your organization is doing to give back to the community and the planet. Gen Z is active in serving in their communities for a cause, but they want to be paid for it. Another question we get is if companies offer paid time off for community service.
Embrace their passions
Several additional areas also top the list of what’s important to Gen Zers when searching for the right employment fit; be sure to pay attention and act on them.
- Maximize their love of technology. Technology has given Gen Zers a new level of connectivity. As the first generation of true digital natives, Gen Zers can research information and develop opinions on companies, brands, products and issues very quickly. This generation expects certain technology standards because they have been living by those standards their entire lives.
- Remember compensation. Salaries are rising, with companies expecting to pay an average of 3.4% more to workers in 2022. Salary is important to this generation, and social media puts incredible pressure on the Gen Z psyche to compete. They see friends wearing designer clothes and bags, traveling to different and unique places, and attending concerts and other entertainment events. They want to have the means to do these things. So they take a close look at the salary being offered.
Help strengthen Gen Z weaknesses
Every generation has its share of strengths and weaknesses. For Gen Zers, one of their biggest weaknesses is the inability to communicate in written form. They are so used to text talk. So they rarely turn that off in the professional workplace. I receive countless emails that start with “Hey,” and body text that includes “u” in place of ‘you.”
It’s a generation-wide challenge, and you’ll want to address it. Help them communicate more professionally and efficiently to improve their work output. It also builds trust and retention by showing you’re willing to invest in their professional growth.
The full experience
Set reasonable goals for hiring emerging talent and establish partnerships with universities and colleges to help get you there. Are you partnered with student clubs and different organizations at schools? Students are the best ambassadors for your organization, so engage at the student level. Pay them a stipend to talk about your company on campus and at events. Have them wear your swag while doing so. Examine your own corporate culture, and look for universities with a similar cultural mindset. Career management offices can help you understand what that mindset is.
In addition to connecting with this generation and its unique values, remember the entire recruiting process leaves a lasting impression. Gen Zers are accustomed to instant access and quick decisions. So make offers expeditiously, but not rushed. Candidates don’t want seven interviews and a lag time before receiving an offer. Companies that make the connection with Gen Z candidates and have a clearly designed interview process will win the Gen Z talent.