In the same way baby boomers looked upon Generation X with raised eyebrows and slightly aghast mouths, recruiters are now looking to Generation Z - the cohort born from the mid-1990s to now - with the same curiously baffled expressions.
But we’re going to have to start hiking up the learning curve, sharpish. Because the latest thinking is that these multi-deviced, visually-drenched kids are about to change the way we recruit.
What makes them different?
Looking at the stats, Gen Z are an extreme, hyper-connected version of the largely 20-something millennials (technology is in their veins). They think spatially and in 4D; pinching, zooming and swiping their way to get what they want. However, there still remains a world of difference between the two generations.
According to marketing resource MarketingProfs, Gen Z are mature, self-directed and resourceful; growing up in a time of uncertainty (post-9/11, economic recession) and changing norms (shifting gender roles, more racial diversity).
Where millennials are focused on the present, hoping to be discovered and forever optimistic; Gen Z are future-focused and pragmatic: 76% hope for their hobbies to turn into full-time jobs and 60% want to make an impact on the world.
The ‘Z’ filter
They know the internet like the back of their hands (probably better, since the gadgets in the palm of their hands get all the attention), shop online and are highly ambitious.
And with recent studies suggesting the average attention span in 2015 is little more than eight seconds (that’s one second less than a goldfish, by the way), experts are foaming at the mouth trying to suss out what makes them tick.
Call it a short attention span or call it a highly-evolved ‘filter’, the fact remains that recruitment agencies have a minuscule window of opportunity when it comes to talking to this group.
The Zedders have adapted to a world where information is infinite, but time is not. They’re able to whiz through enormous reams of content, picking out the stuff they want and (almost subliminally) discarding the dull stuff.
So, what should recruiters do?
It’s obvious Gen Z presents fresh challenges for the recruitment market, who will (as always) need to evolve their HR strategies to keep up with these multi-channelled digital natives.
Think fast: Marketing beyond the millennial generation is going to require a lot more diversity with formatting; keeping content in short, snackable sizes.
Find a cause: Those born after ‘95 are far more realistic, careful candidates than millennials. They want to know what they’re doing - even if it’s a tiny contribution - is making a difference.
“Offering the opportunity to work for a company that plays an active role in changing people’s lives for the better is a big appeal to applicants,” says Marius Burger, talent acquisition specialist at clinical research organisation ICON plc. “It’s certainly one of the reasons why I joined the company.”
If a position offers any charitable, world-bettering causes they can rally with, emphasising that will perk their interests a lot quicker.
Visual ads: The staunch leaning towards visual media means recruitment campaigns will require more multi-channeled, experiential approaches. Social Talent have some great examples - the handwritten, Instagram format is particularly striking.
Feed curiosity: Though the generation zip through screens quicker than F1 cars round a track, they’re adept researchers. Feed this entrepreneurial fire with content to self-educate and build expertise. Give job seekers something to look at other than just ads - offer useful articles on the company blog and share tips and tricks on social media.
Get real: Show them your human side - the true, weird, quirky or hilarious brand personality - and don’t be afraid to provoke a WTF reaction.
And the most important point of all - fight through the clutter. Though this generation now have access to everything, never has it been so difficult to be seen.