Possibly the most judged group over the course of the last 15 years, Millennials are tired of being talked about publicly. Since joining the workforce, they have been bad-mouthed every way imaginable, accused of living off their parents (who funnily enough, raised them), overconsuming their share of avocado toast and eliminating everything from bar soap to the doorbell industry. In the midst of all that, the majority of these people got jobs, took on their responsibilities and grew up. Yet, they’re still the subject of ire and ridicule at conferences, despite making up a decent percent of the attending audience. Even coming from my Gen C corner, another once-maligned population, I can’t say that I envy them.
And so, from my firmly adult perspective, I’m going to do my best to prevent history from repeating itself with Gen Z. That’s right, someone has to defend these kids, and I’m volunteering. Why? Because the last time around, when the Millennials rolled into town, recruiters acted like they didn’t know what hit them. Lest we make that mistake again, I’m going to share some lessons learned from Y so we can collectively avoid the years of ranting, raving and self-sabotage.
Lesson #1 – Don’t Write Them Off Yet
Yes, Generation Z are young (born 1995 – 2015) and inexperienced. We all were at the beginning of our career. Aside from that, Gen Z knows what you said about their predecessors and seem full prepared to fight back. They desire to be taken seriously and expect that you will give them that courtesy. And, why shouldn’t you? Again, we were all entry level once upon a time, and probably still remember the person that gave us our first real break.
Lesson #2 – They Know About the Economy
Yes, everything seems to be going pretty well right now but Generation Z lived through the crash of the Celtic Tiger. Witnessing what it did to their parents’ careers, first-hand. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they know how to prevent another collapse, they may have some thoughts or ideas. You’ll never know until you ask? either way, these candidates are going to demand job security from the get-go, so don’t get any ideas about unpaid internships. There are probably still a few millennials out there thinking that this next one will be their big break.
Lesson #3 – Up Your Tech Game
Remember pagers? Millennials might have, but these candidates definitely don’t. That cool Nokia with Snake loaded on it? Forget about it. We’re discussing true digital natives. Many even skipped over the iPod and went straight to the iPhone. You’re going to need to follow suit and use technology that speaks to their skill set and interests. Maybe that means recruiting over Tinder or TikTok. If you don’t know what those are and how to use them, you need to start googling.
Lesson #4 – Don’t Waste Their Time
Because those that fall under the Generation Z bracket understand technology better than those in Generation Y, they also know how to multi-task and while talking to you they might be making dinner reservations, uploading a pic on Instagram and responding to a group chat or 12, that’s just how they operate. You’re going to have only a few brief seconds to grab their attention and hold it – so recruiters and employers need to plan out what they are going to say in advance. Don’t drag out the process, don’t go back and forth – just a well-defined process that maximizes the opportunity to connect.
Lesson #5 – Call Them by Their Names
The days of one to many strategies are behind us. So are the days of 100 candidates per rec, when millennials were nameless, faceless resumers accumulating somewhere in an ATS. Gen Z wants to see that you know who they are and what you’re about before they’ll consider moving ahead. Think about how Spotify curates playlists based on a user’s listening history. That’s what you’re up against in terms of personalization, better think creatively.
Of course there are a few slight differences between generations Y and Z, and recruiting the new kids on the block won’t look like it did in recent years. At the same time, it is important to recognize how we got this juncture and what, if anything, we can do to learn from our previous approach. In doing so, you’ll come to find out that there is no rule book anymore, just a series of guidelines and best practices. As Gen z continues to flood the workplace, additional themes and patterns are bound to emerge. However, for now I encourage you to ride the wave with them. There’s always a learning curve, but with the lessons learned from the Millennials, it shouldn’t be so steep this time around – at least let’s hope not.