While money and salary continue to play an important role in attracting graduates and junior talent, the class of today is looking for a lot more than just financial gain. Generation Z (aka “Gen-Z” or “Zoomers”) are those born between 1995 and 2010. The first generation of entirely digital natives, they are also considered to be the most diverse generation in history and this is reflected in their priorities when choosing an employer. If they are not yet already in the workforce, they soon will be, and they are already making an impact on campus recruitment strategies.
Unlike the Millennials, who were sometimes called “Generation Me”, Gen-Z is in a constant search for opportunities to create a positive impact in their work and in a way that goes beyond self-fulfilment.
They not only form opinions of a company based on financial performance or product/service quality, but they also look at the company’s ethics and practices both in the workplace and society. They are looking to evaluate just how socially responsible an employer is, and when Zoomers choose their graduate job, it’s the employers that prioritise diversity that are most attractive.
What does diversity mean to Gen-Z?
To Gen Z, diversity isn’t simply a ‘nice to have’, but a strongly held belief. Their definition of diversity isn’t isolated to race, age, or gender, but also spans across many dimensions, including identity, orientation, belief, and so on.
Companies must therefore demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, not simply by photographing a gender balanced team or a disabled employee doing their job, but to uphold diversity throughout the whole employee cycle, from recruitment marketing, onboarding, training & development, and to employee engagement. A different mindset is required for companies to attract and retain the best of this generation.
Here are 4 campus recruitment best practices based on discussions with leading employers across Asia Pacific around how they diversify their candidate pipelines for their internship and graduate programmes:
Hire for the mindset and develop the skills
Gone is the day when a graduate employer looked for an accounting graduate to fill a graduate accountant position and a marketing graduate for a graduate marketing programme.
Students and recent graduates are becoming more versatile in their skillset. They want to develop a variety of skills throughout their career rather than committing to a single career path. Even before they started their careers, many of them might have self-learnt coding when they were completing a business degree or started their e-commerce side hustle as a self-employed entrepreneur. Being digital natives means that many of their skillsets are not limited to the formal qualifications they acquire at university, but the life experience and exposure they create for themselves.
Companies need to fundamentally change how they develop their selection criteria or job descriptions of their graduate programmes, or else they will risk missing out on recruiting a young workforce that holds a diverse skillset.
Be accessible in all forms
Given how today’s generation has superior technology skills, some employers have assumed that all they need to engage students and graduates is through virtual means – having a mobile responsive website, integrating the Easy Apply function with their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), or hosting a series of virtual careers & networking sessions are simply the basics. The evolution should not stop there.
Although virtual interactions are well-received by students and recent graduates, employers should not underestimate the need to maintain some level of face-to-face engagement with candidates. Gen-Z values physical connections just as much as other generations do, even though they can be easily available online. Independence and flexibility are what this generation values, not physical isolation. Therefore 1:1 coffee chats and in-person resume drop-in sessions continue to attract interest from students on campuses. Afterall it’s about creating different touchpoints, both online and virtually, to engage students throughout the academic year and maintain a strong employer brand.
Particularly bearing in mind that this is the generation that never leaves home without their phones, recruiters should aim to be responsive and personable at every level of communication.
Go beyond the usual recruitment channels
Many companies which have been using the same job board for the past 5 years might have received hundreds or thousands of applications every season. However many are still failing to attract the diverse pool of candidates they need to fill their customer demands and longer-term business growth.
Relying on the same channels year after year may save companies a lot of investment and time, but to recruit for diversity, employers must consider channels outside of the norm. While more graduate employers have already moved away from advertising on job boards to channels like LinkedIn, far fewer make use of other social platforms which can lead them to a more diverse candidate base. Have they considered Instagram? What about TikTok, YouTube, or micro-influencers? It’s time to start re-think their traditional recruitment channels to reach a more diverse workforce.
Demonstrate diversity in all candidate interactions
Graduate employers need to do more than talk about their commitment to diversity, this should be evidenced throughout the talent attraction journey. Gather members of the organisation who can bring to life what diversity means to them and to you as a company. They can tell their stories on social media or through their employee profile video, sharing their career path so far and perhaps how they have overcome any obstacles along the way. Basically, never miss an opportunity to show how important diversity is to you and your people. Candidates do a lot of research before applying so it is critical that you use every potential touchpoint as a chance to reinforce your diversity messages.
Transform the recruitment process by making sure not just the hiring manager or HR team are speaking to candidates. Why not form a hiring committee for the graduate and internship programmes? You can invite employees from often-overlooked or underrepresented groups to take part in the interview and selection process, including employees with different gender identity, seniority, age, language, and job function, just to name a few. These different voices will ensure the company is moving one step closer to the workforce composition they want to create for the future.