It’s a candidate-hot labor market, giving Gen Z candidates the freedom to pick and choose who they want to work for. If you want to attract early-career top talent, your organization must be ready to transform your candidate experience to meet their needs.
And frankly, sending off a few ad-hoc emails isn’t going to cut it.
Thus far, some companies seem hesitant to meet Gen Z candidates halfway. In fact, according to iCIMS, three in five HR pros state today’s entry-level job seekers have impractical expectations when it comes to salary, office culture, and workplace flexibility.
Which begs the question: Where does this attitude get anyone? By 2025, Gen Z candidates will make up 27% of the U.S. labor force. As of March, there were 5.6 million more job vacancies than there were employees to fill them in the United States. If companies aren’t willing to create a candidate-first recruiting process to meet Gen Z’s expectations, they will fail to attract top talent in today’s competitive labor market.
To help you understand today’s early-career candidates, below we dive into what Gen Z candidates want — and expect — from their future employers.
Understanding Gen Z Top Talent to Create a Candidate-First Experience
At first glance, today’s Gen Z candidates can seem a bit difficult to understand: They’re ambitious, yet non-committal; they value digital communities, yet crave face-to-face interactions; they want instant gratification, yet want to entertain every possibility before making a life-altering career decision.
Gen Zers stem from a dynamic generation with sometimes conflicting needs. If you want to tailor your candidate experience to capture their attention, here’s what you need to know:
1. They Grew Up With Instant Gratification
Gen Zers are the first generation of digital natives, with Google at their fingertips (or in their back pocket) 24/7. Growing up with instant information and notifications, they grew accustomed to — and continue to expect — instant gratification in the workplace.
Translation: They’re not fond of waiting, and untimely drops in communication won’t help attract top talent.
In fact, according to a RippleMatch Survey, the number one factor signaling a positive candidate experience (chosen by 70% of respondents) was timely updates. Gen Zers want to know where they stand within the recruiting process. If they attend an on-campus event or land an interview, they expect to hear back from recruiters in a timely manner.
2. They’re the Most Diverse Generation in the Workforce
Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. In fact, nearly half — 48%, to be exact — are from communities of color.
Therefore, if an employer does not have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in place, it will be increasingly difficult to attract top talent. In fact, according to RippleMatch, 68% of survey respondents said that a company’s DEI efforts have become increasingly important to them. In addition, 43% state they evaluate how a company follows through on its DEI promises during their job search.
As a recruiter, you need to make your DEI initiatives crystal clear to your talent community. Frankly, a one-off email with a blog post-CTA won’t cut it. Instead, use a platform, like Scholars, to record videos from your CEO or other C-level management about your DEI efforts and progress.
3. They’re Value-Driven Yet Financially Conscious
Gen Zers are a financially conscious generation. They grew up witnessing previous generations become crippled from student loan debt and knew they had to demand higher salaries to make a decent living. In addition, research shows that a quarter of Gen Zs are living paycheck-to-paycheck, which has many fighting for higher offers.
And yet, Gen Z candidates are never ones to trade passion for a paycheck and want their career to benefit society for the better.
Therefore, while some companies are choosing to attract top early-career candidates with six-figure salaries, that’s not all Gen Z craves. Instead, Gen Z candidates want to work for employers whose values align with their own, advancing social justice, protecting the environment, or preserving the mental health of their employees. In other words, a job offer isn’t just about the dollar amount — it’s about a well-rounded benefits package, time off for volunteer opportunities, and a clear, corporate stance on current social events.
4. They Expect Flexibility in the Workplace
Many of today’s Gen Z candidates completed their education or started their first job during the COVID-19 pandemic. To them, remote work isn’t a luxury — it’s business as usual. And having the flexibility of a hybrid work environment is on their list of must-haves for future employers.
According to LinkedIn, 63% of job seekers today say work-life balance is a top priority. In addition, a sweeping majority — with 87% — state they would like to remain remote at least half of the time.
So, what does this mean for the recruiting process? Don’t just promise Gen Zers a hybrid or remote work environment on day one. Instead, prove to them that you promote a work-life balance and job flexibility throughout the recruiting process. Offer in-person and virtual interviews and networking experiences, and work around their ever-hectic schedule. Case in point: Most college students these days balance classes, internships, interviews, volunteering, and maintaining some semblance of a social life — so consider allowing interviews and other opportunities outside the hours of 9-5.
5. They Crave Human Interaction
Here’s another lasting impression that COVID-19 left with today’s early-career candidates: They crave face-to-face interactions.
Yes, they still want workplace flexibility; and yes, they still value digital communities. However, the pandemic caused an isolation effect with Gen Z candidates, and they wish to establish meaningful, human connections in the workplace. According to Deloitte, while 63% of Gen Z candidates state they prefer a hybrid or remote working environment, one-in-five candidates state that remote work makes forming connections with colleagues more difficult.
And unfortunately, the status quo candidate experience isn’t helping the situation.
Today, there is very little humanity left within the candidate's journey. Companies rely on automated, impersonal email campaigns to “engage” candidates, which do very little to establish true connections. Instead, use a platform, like Abode, to create opportunities for human connections within your talent community. Schedule meet-ups, create a top-par mentorship program and allow candidates to meet their supervisor prior to day one on the job.
Create a Candidate Experience as Unique as the Talent You Want to Attract
Gen Z candidates are certainly a unique generation. They are the first generation of digital natives, the most diverse generation in U.S. history, and the generation that went through college and/or entered the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many early-career candidate experiences do not reflect the uniqueness of the talent they’re attempting to attract.
Today’s dynamic generation of early-career candidates crave flexibility, timely communication, human connections, and a sense of purpose in the workplace. They also want to ensure their future employer aligns with their values, sets a clear stance on social current events, and pays them what they’re worth.
To create a candidate-first experience that attracts top talent, use Abode. Created by Gen Z candidates for Gen Z candidates, Abode helps companies create personalized journeys at scale to retain top talent. To see Abode in action or to learn more, schedule a demo with us.