Recruiting & onboarding: this is the optimal application process for Gen Z and Gen Y

The Gen Z and Gen Y cohorts will continue to work for at least another 30 years and can close the gap left by the baby boomers. This makes them coveted recruiting targets on the labor market. Due to developments such as digitalization, globalization and catastrophes such as climate change, both generations have different values and preferences than previous employees. If companies are aware of these characteristics and take them into account in the application process, they can attract young professionals to their organization and thus have an advantage over other companies. Learn more about the differences between the two generations and how you can adapt your application process in this article.

Steven Knaack

August 24, 2023

 - · 

4 min

Gen-Z, Gen-Y, Millennials, Digital Natives - what do these terms mean?

Gen-Y or Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1995. Their childhood and youth were shaped by the changes brought about by globalization, the Internet or, for example, the terror after 9/11. As a result, many members of this generation develop a desire for a sense of purpose. It's important to them that they use their job to advance a larger goal and positive development. Gen-Y does not separate work and leisure. They want to attend a doctor's appointment during work hours, but also like to make up the time on weekends. They are looking for socially meaningful work with good development prospects and fairly high starting salaries. A strong team and the opportunity for co-determination are important to them, but status symbols are less so. Mentoring programs work for Gen-Y, for example, because they allow them to integrate quickly into the team, provide support on projects and develop themselves.(1) 

Gen-Z, or digital natives, follows with the 1996-2010 cohorts. They seek and demand solutions to the grievances they point out to their parents' generation. They show a pronounced commitment and a critical attitude toward topics such as the environment and climate protection. In contrast to Gen-Y, they make a strong distinction between work and private life. They look for clear structures and stability through set working hours(1). They place high value on their free time, a secure job with meaning and material aspects (2).

Recruiting for Gen-Z and Gen-Y - What matters?

There are generational differences. This is normal and has always been the case. Every generation experiences new events that influence them. Gen-Y is shaped by the simplicity of globalization and digitization. For example, it values flexible working hours, home office and healthcare benefits. The next generation, "Gen-Z," on the other hand, would rather have clear working hours with a fixed start and end. They are looking for security and stability, which they miss in their daily lives due to climate change and pandemics. When it comes to benefits, they prefer social benefits that help them achieve their goals. Wellness programs and social events, on the other hand, do not interest them.

Nevertheless, Gen-Z and Gen-Y also share many similarities. In both generations, a good relationship with the recruiter is important. Instead of merely acting as an intermediary, recruiters also take on an advisory role and help applicants find the right job for them. There is also an increasing desire in both generations for a deeper meaning to work (1). 

Instead of dwelling on the differences, we can take advantage of the similarities and adapt our own recruiting and onboarding to the preferences of the generations. 

Recruiting tips for the target group Gen-Z and Gen-Y

Use the right recruiting channels: What is written in your job ad and, above all, where you place the ad will influence the number of suitable applications. Large portals such as Stepstone or Indeed are convincing simply because of the large number of candidates on their site. Nevertheless, more niche portals can receive more qualified applications. The positioning of job sites such as Goodjobs means that a specific target group is addressed in advance. This avoids "incidental applications" from unsuitable candidates. There are certainly also specialized platforms for your industry or a way to have your jobs advertised by career advisors, chambers of commerce or influencers. With job portals, it is particularly important that your ad is customized and convincing. This is because it will appear right next to your competitors' ads, who also want to attract the attention of skilled workers (3).

If you prefer to stay in control, you can also use your own social media channels and your website for recruiting. In addition to traditional career networks such as LinkedIn, Instagram or TikTok are also suitable for recruiting. The channels are increasingly changing from pure entertainment to entertaining educational and career formats. Viewers are therefore receptive to job advertisements and employer branding measures. When it comes to the website, it is particularly important that you also optimize the career page for mobile viewing. Many applications are still sent from smartphones today. Designing it in the style of your brand image also increases the application and completion rate because there is no "break" in the perception of your candidates. This makes the process more consistent and increases the completion rate of your forms (3).

Direct approaches at universities, schools or trade fairs are also a good way to draw attention to your job advertisements. You have the advantage of being able to narrow down the region, talk directly to the candidates and provide a realistic insight into everyday working life through employees (3).

The job advertisement: For Gen-Z and Gen-Y, a job advertisement must above all be credible and relevant. With concrete information about the company's products and processes, you show what makes your company tick, what the applicant's tasks are and what impact they will have. Avoid buzzwords and irrelevant details. Rather, describe the feeling that prevails in everyday work and what projects you have planned. Sustainability and social commitment are trendy topics and excite many applicants, but they can be off-putting if they are inflated. Not every company has an immediate sustainable impact. Own up to it and give applicants the information they need to make a decision. Transparent information about salary and development opportunities within the company is also now required because it helps professionals form a picture of the job and the company. Because personal ties are becoming increasingly important in the process, it makes sense to link a contact person with contact details who can provide advisory support (4).

The application process: just because a person has decided to send you an application, doesn't mean you'll receive it. That's because for Gen-Y and Gen-Z, the process needs to be simple, digital and time-efficient. That means you need short, fillable forms. Just ask for the relevant info and clarify the rest in the interview or a short phone call. Quick applications with a LinkedIn profile are also very popular. The entire process should be completely digital and preferably also mobile. Keep the candidate up to date, give them regular feedback and an outlook on the next steps. Gen-Z in particular expects a quick response in the application process. For them, an ideal hiring process takes only two weeks. They also want a say in the choice of dates and format and want the process to fit their lives(5). Although more interviews may make sense for the company side, two interviews are sufficient. There is no other way to fill a position quickly. After the interviews, applicants want to hear back as soon as possible. After all, they also have to decide for or against another position and want to consider your offer.

Onboardings for Gen-Z and Gen-Y 

Recruitment and induction: You have decided on an applicant:in and your offer has been accepted. Then you have mastered the first hurdle! Even if you have been accepted, you can make the start even more pleasant and thus increase the loyalty to your company. Digital contracts and documents save you and the applicant time and nerves. At Gen-Z and Gen-Y, a digital application process with digital documents is already expected. Send regular emails and give a glimpse of what the first days in the new job will be like. This gives the new hire an accurate idea of what he or she can look forward to. Onboarding in a buddy or mentoring system is a good way to get the new employee started. This not only makes it easier to get started in the new environment, but also gives them the opportunity to help out with projects. Gen-Z in particular wants to take on meaningful tasks early on and contribute their share to the company's success. Plan plenty of time for appointments with the new team in the first few weeks so that the applicant can get to know his or her colleagues. The better the person knows his or her environment, the more comfortable he or she will feel and the easier the start will be. Regular check-ins give the new team member a structure and a safe space in which to discuss and adjust the induction phase (5).

Increase employee retention among Gen-Z and Gen-Y: Differences between the generations are also evident in everyday work. Gen-Y likes to mix business and pleasure. Attending a doctor's appointment during working hours while finishing a project in the evening or on the weekend. For many of these cohorts, that means freedom. Flexible working hours, wellness and sports offers or team events are therefore popular benefits. It's different for Gen-Z. The younger Generation-Z attaches great importance to a strict separation. They want enough free time, financial compensation and a secure job(2).

What both generations have in common is the desire for flat hierarchies, uncomplicated and open communication on a personal level, and benefits. Employers must communicate benefits clearly and ensure a good mix for both generations. After all, Gen-Z values allowances for education, tuition fees or their private financial goals, and Gen-Y values leisure and team offerings above all. Both generations want their benefits to be updated regularly so they have variety in the offerings they can take advantage of. 

Do not focus on generations, but on the individual characteristics of the applicants.

Yes, there are differences between the generations. And it's also good to know the differences. However, generation-appropriate recruiting is much more difficult than it sounds. After all, there are also major differences within the generations. Among Gen-Z, for example, one-fifth of all respondents (Shell Youth Study) value sufficient free time and fulfillment, i.e., the deeper meaning of their job. They do not believe that social advancement is possible through work. Another third value above all their salary, the development of their own career and the social advancement they achieve through their work(2).

Even though both groups are part of Gen-Z, their goals and values are so different that a job ad would not work for both groups.

The best strategy is to be as transparent as possible about the company, the selection process and the tasks in the job advertisement and the application process and thus attract the right people. If you make it clear what the company's values are and what it stands for, you will be able to attract people with the same values and certain qualifications, regardless of generation (6). 

More important than adapting the job ad to the generations is to consider the preferences of the new professionals in the application process. Through personal relationships with recruiting staff, digital and fast processes, and transparent communication with applicants, you will stand out from the competition and not only receive more applications, but also make a good first impression.



2: 18th Shell Youth Study:






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